[PS-2.75] The impact of coordination on agreement processing: Abstract and surface cues to plurality

Schlueter, Z. , Williams, A. & Lau, E.

University of Maryland, College Park

How is memory navigated to form syntactic dependencies in comprehension? Prior work uses agreement attraction ('The key to the cabinets are...') to support a cue-based retrieval mechanism, which is susceptible to similarity-based interference. Here we ask whether retrieval cues target syntactic or morphological representations and whether they target features that do not grammatically license subject-verb agreement. Results from self-paced reading (N=43) demonstrate attraction with conjoined singular noun-phrase distractors that lack an overt plural morpheme but are syntactically plural ('The advice from the doctor and the nurse...'). This is replicated in speeded-acceptability judgments (N=36), even when the second determiner is removed to ensure NP2 is parsed as part of the PP-modifier. This suggests that retrieval targets an abstract syntactic plural feature. We also find evidence that a surface cue to plurality, which does not license agreement (the morpheme 'and'), contributes to these effects. Follow-up SPR (N=43) and speeded-acceptability (N=18) experiments using conjoined adjectives ('The advice from the diligent and compassionate doctor...') demonstrate smaller but reliable attraction effects, despite attractors being syntactically singular. This is consistent with a memory architecture in which the match between cues and features is not categorical and cues can be associated with multiple features to different extents.