Widening agreement processing: a matter of time, features and distance
Luigi Rizzi, Francesco Vespignani
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Nicoletta Biondo, Francesco Vespignani, Luigi Rizzi & Simona Mancini (2018) Widening agreement processing: a matter of time, features and distance, Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 33:7, 890-911, DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2018.1446542
Existing psycholinguistic models typically describe agreement relations as monolithic phenomena amounting to mechanisms that check mere feature consistency. This eye-tracking study aimed at widening this perspective by investigating the time spent reading subject-verb (number, person) and adverb-verb (tense) violations on an inflected verb during sentence comprehension in Spanish. Results suggest that (i) distinct processing mechanisms underlie the analysis of subject-verb and adverb-verb relations, (ii) the parser is sensitive to the different interpretive properties that characterise the person, number and tense features encoded in the verb (i.e. anchoring to discourse for person and tense interpretation, as opposed to anchoring to cardinality information for number), and (iii) the (local, distal) position of the agreement controller with respect to the verb affects the interpretation of these dependencies. An account is proposed that capitalises on the importance of enriching current sentence processing formalizations using a feature and relation-based approach.