[PS-2.16] Competition of linear and structural distance in relative clause processing - Evidence from Mandarin and Cantonese Visual World experiments

Pozniak, C. , Huang, J. & Hemforth, B.

LLF, CNRS, Paris-Diderot University, Labex EFL

RC processing confronts three major theories: linear distance theories versus frequency/structure based theories. Languages such as English don't allow to decide between them since all predict a Subject Relative preference, while linear distance predicts an Object Relative preference for Mandarin.
In three VW-Eye-Tracking experiments we found a slight but not robust SR preference consistent with the proposition that RC processing involves a competition between linear distance and frequency/structure based factors. Cantonese has prenominal RCs as Mandarin but is different in that it has two major RC-types: one similar to Mandarin with a relativizer (ge3), and one without relativizer. It has been argued that linear distance doesn't play a role in structures without relativizer which may be analysed as adjoined. For Cantonese, RCs with relativizer show a slight (marginal) SR preference, however for RCs without relativizer, there is a strong (significant) advantage for SRs. Moreover, RCs without relativizer are generally easier to process than RCs with relativizer. Since for RCs without relativizer only frequency/structure based factors should be at work, the significant SR advantage is predicted, and so is the lack of difference between SRs and ORs in RCs with relativizer, in which the factors are in competition.