[PS-1.20] Effects of world knowledge in the prediction of incoming verbs: an eye-tracking study

Vela Candelas, J. 1 , Demestre Viladevall, J. 1 & Català Torres, N. 2

1 Departament of Psychology, Universitat Rovira i Virgili
2 Departament of Romance Philology, Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Some theories of sentence processing make a distinction between two kinds of meaning: a linguistically relevant and lexically coded meaning (i.e., selectional restrictions), and an extralinguistic and more pragmatic knowledge derived from our everyday experiences (i.e., world knowledge), the former being privileged over the latter in terms of the time-course of its access and influence. In the present study, we examined whether world knowledge can be rapidly accessed and used to make predictions about the incoming words in the sentence even when selectional restrictions are not violated. This research aims to examine whether there exists a psychologically real distinction between two kinds of meaning, and that conceptually-based expectations are quickly accessed during comprehension. In an eye-tracking experiment, we used materials in which the likelihood of a specific verb (entrevistar or secuestrar, the Spanish words for to interview and to kidnap) depended on the agent of the event (periodista or terrorista, journalist and terrorist in Spanish). Results point to an effect of tipicality in total duration times on the verb area, indicating that world knowledge is rapidly accessed and used. The findings are in line with the proposal that holds that selectional restrictions are verb-related coarse-grained abstractions across world knowledge.