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Incremental interpretation at verbs: restricting the domain of subsequent reference.


Adult, Semantics, Saccades, Reading, Psycholinguistics, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Male, Humans, Female, Concept Formation, Attention

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      Participants' eye movements were recorded as they inspected a semi-realistic visual scene showing a boy, a cake, and various distractor objects. Whilst viewing this scene, they heard sentences such as 'the boy will move the cake' or 'the boy will eat the cake'. The cake was the only edible object portrayed in the scene. In each of two experiments, the onset of saccadic eye movements to the target object (the cake) was significantly later in the move condition than in the eat condition; saccades to the target were launched after the onset of the spoken word cake in the move condition, but before its onset in the eat condition. The results suggest that information at the verb can be used to restrict the domain within the context to which subsequent reference will be made by the (as yet unencountered) post-verbal grammatical object. The data support a hypothesis in which sentence processing is driven by the predictive relationships between verbs, their syntactic arguments, and the real-world contexts in which they occur.

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