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The Processing and Acquisition of Reference$
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Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015127

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015127.001.0001

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It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It

It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It

How Modification Conventions Influence On-Line Referential Processing

(p.219) 9 It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It
The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

Jodi D. Edwards

Craig G. Chambers

The MIT Press

This chapter explores how incremental interpretation of complex noun phrases in spoken language is influenced by factors other than the basic semantics of their constituents, focusing on how certain information is expressed rather than why it is provided. It presents the results of two head-mounted eye-tracking experiments which investigated the use of probabilistic information in resolving noun-phrase reference in spoken language comprehension. The experiments focused on the subjects’ ability to use information about the likelihood of prenominal versus postnominal modification to choose a referent in visual arrays. Comprehenders showed clear sensitivity to the rather subtle property of the relationship between the internal syntactic structure of the referring noun phrase and specific properties of the potential referents in the environment, but not to the relative likelihood of prenominal versus postnominal modification.

Keywords:   noun phrases, spoken language, eye-tracking experiments, probabilistic information, reference, language comprehension, syntactic structure, prenominal, modification, postnominal modification

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