Addressee Identity and Morphosyntactic Processing in Basque Allocutive Agreement
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Wolpert M, Mancini S and Caffarra S (2017) Addressee Identity and Morphosyntactic Processing in Basque Allocutive Agreement. Front. Psychol. 8:1439. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01439
Information about interlocutor identity is pragmatic in nature and has traditionally been distinguished from explicitly coded linguistic information, including mophosyntax. Study of speaker identity in language processing has questioned this distinction, but addressee identity has been less considered. We used Basque to explore how addressee identity is processed during morphosyntactic analysis. In the familiar register hika, Basque has obligatory allocutive agreement, where verbal morphology represents the gender of a non-argument addressee. We manipulated the gender of the allocutive verb and the congruence of addressee gender in conversations between two interlocutors. Items with person agreement manipulations were included as a control comparison. Basque speakers familiar with hika completed speeded acceptability judgments and unspeeded, offline naturalness ratings for each conversation. Results showed a main effect of addressee identity congruence for naturalness ratings, but there was no main effect for addressee identity congruence for reaction times or accuracy in the acceptability judgment. Interactions and correlations with biographical data showed that the effect of congruence was modulated by the gender of the allocutive verb and that hika proficiency was related to participants' performance for the acceptability judgment. These results show an interaction between morphosyntactic and pragmatic information and are the first experimental data of allocutive processing. In comparison, clear effects were seen for the person agreement condition, indicating that person disagreement is more disruptive to processing than addressee identity incongruence. This study has implications for investigation of the role of extralinguistic information in morphosyntactic processing, and suggests that not all such information plays an equal role.