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      The island/non-island distinction in long-distance extraction: Evidence from L2 acceptability

      1 , 2
      Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
      Open Library of the Humanities

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          Abstract

          Experimental studies regularly find that extraction out of an embedded clause (“long-distance extraction”) results in a substantial degradation in acceptability but that the degradation is much greater when the embedded clause is an island structure. We explore these two facts by means of a series of acceptability experiments with L1 and L2 speakers of English. We find that the L2 speakers show greater degradation than L1 speakers for extraction out of non-islands, even though the two groups behave very similarly for extraction out of islands. Moreover, the L2 degradation with non-islands becomes smaller and more L1-like as exposure to the language increases. These initially surprising findings make sense if we assume that speakers must actively construct environments in which extraction out of embedded clauses is possible and that learning how to do this takes time. Evidence for this view comes from cross-linguistic variation in long-distance extraction, long-distance extraction in child English, and lexical restrictions on long-distance extraction. At a broader level, our results suggest that long-distance extraction does not come “for free” once speakers have acquired embedded clauses and extraction.

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              Linguistic complexity: locality of syntactic dependencies.

              This paper proposes a new theory of the relationship between the sentence processing mechanism and the available computational resources. This theory--the Syntactic Prediction Locality Theory (SPLT)--has two components: an integration cost component and a component for the memory cost associated with keeping track of obligatory syntactic requirements. Memory cost is hypothesized to be quantified in terms of the number of syntactic categories that are necessary to complete the current input string as a grammatical sentence. Furthermore, in accordance with results from the working memory literature both memory cost and integration cost are hypothesized to be heavily influenced by locality (1) the longer a predicted category must be kept in memory before the prediction is satisfied, the greater is the cost for maintaining that prediction; and (2) the greater the distance between an incoming word and the most local head or dependent to which it attaches, the greater the integration cost. The SPLT is shown to explain a wide range of processing complexity phenomena not previously accounted for under a single theory, including (1) the lower complexity of subject-extracted relative clauses compared to object-extracted relative clauses, (2) numerous processing overload effects across languages, including the unacceptability of multiply center-embedded structures, (3) the lower complexity of cross-serial dependencies relative to center-embedded dependencies, (4) heaviness effects, such that sentences are easier to understand when larger phrases are placed later and (5) numerous ambiguity effects, such as those which have been argued to be evidence for the Active Filler Hypothesis.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Open Library of the Humanities
                2397-1835
                January 14 2022
                August 3 2022
                : 7
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]KAIST
                [2 ]University of California San Diego
                Article
                10.16995/glossa.5857
                948e223c-04c9-4394-b38e-4d796e4744df
                © 2022

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

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                Self URI (article page): https://www.glossa-journal.org/article/id/5857/

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