[PS-1.83] Timing the contribution of morphosyntax and context to sentence comprehension: an eyetracking study

Mancini, S. , Ristic, B. , Carreiras, M. & Molinaro, N.

BCBL, Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language

The relative contribution and timing of morphosyntax and discourse to sentence comprehension is still highly debated. We manipulated agreement and its relation to context in Spanish, using Standard Agreement (SA), with consistent subject-verb features, and Unagreement patterns (UN), where a person mismatch triggers a shift from a 3rd to a 1st person reading, thereby the speaker/reader invoked by 1st-person morphology is integrated in the group invoked by the subject (The journalists/We journalists).
Participants' (N=40) eye movements were tracked during the reading of 1st and 3rd person context fragments (Nosotros hicimos1.pl/Ellos hicieron.3.pl un reportaje meticuloso., We/They made a meticulous report) preceding UN and SA target sentences (Luego los periodistas.3.pl escribimos.1.pl /escribieron.3.pl un artículo interesante, then we/the journalists wrote an interesting article). Agreement reliance on discourse should diminish the mismatch effect in UN conditions, found in previous findings.
Results showed that context supportiveness drove early facilitation for SA but not UN, whose sensitivity to context emerged during second-pass reading of the target verb.
These data show that discourse influence on agreement is modulated by subject-verb morphosyntactic consistency, with feature-consistent SA being more permeable and at earlier stages than feature-inconsistent UN.