[PS-2.33] Frequency and animacy in subject and object relative clause processing in Brazilian and European Portuguese

Cabral, A. F. 1 , Leitão, M. 2 , Lourenço-Gomes, M. d. C. 3 & Kenedy, E. . 4

1 Instituto Federal do Rio Grande do Norte
2 Universidade Federal da Paraíba
3 Universidade do Minho
4 Universidade Federal Fluminense

This study aims to examine the relation between frequency and processing of subject and object relative clauses in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and European Portuguese (EP). It has been proposed that there is a subject-object asymmetry, since subject relative clauses seem to be easier to process than object relative clauses. However, the animacy of the antecedents has not been controlled. Two self-paced reading experiments (BP and EP) were carried out, in which the animacy of the antecedents was controlled (1a-b).Acorpus study was also performed in the two varieties of Portuguese. The data suggested that the subject-object asymmetryobserved in previous studies may not be due to the syntactic complexity of these two structures, but instead to their frequency in the language. Therefore, we propose that both animacy and frequency have some impact over the processing. The results are discussed on the base of Gibson's DLT model (2000), which predicts the access to syntactic and semantic information and to frequency during sentence processing.
1. (a) A moça[+Anim]/A arma[-Anim] que machucou o rapaz...(Subject RC)
(The girl/The gun that hurt the boy...)

(b) A moça[+Anim]/A arma[-Anim] que o rapaz encontrou...(Object RC)
(The girl/The gun that the boy found...)