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      An interference account of the missing-VP effect


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          Sentences with doubly center-embedded relative clauses in which a verb phrase (VP) is missing are sometimes perceived as grammatical, thus giving rise to an illusion of grammaticality. In this paper, we provide a new account of why missing-VP sentences, which are both complex and ungrammatical, lead to an illusion of grammaticality, the so-called missing-VP effect. We propose that the missing-VP effect in particular, and processing difficulties with multiply center-embedded clauses more generally, are best understood as resulting from interference during cue-based retrieval. When processing a sentence with double center-embedding, a retrieval error due to interference can cause the verb of an embedded clause to be erroneously attached into a higher clause. This can lead to an illusion of grammaticality in the case of missing-VP sentences and to processing complexity in the case of complete sentences with double center-embedding. Evidence for an interference account of the missing-VP effect comes from experiments that have investigated the missing-VP effect in German using a speeded grammaticality judgments procedure. We review this evidence and then present two new experiments that show that the missing-VP effect can be found in German also with less restricting procedures. One experiment was a questionnaire study which required grammaticality judgments from participants without imposing any time constraints. The second experiment used a self-paced reading procedure and did not require any judgments. Both experiments confirm the prior findings of missing-VP effects in German and also show that the missing-VP effect is subject to a primacy effect as known from the memory literature. Based on this evidence, we argue that an account of missing-VP effects in terms of interference during cue-based retrieval is superior to accounts in terms of limited memory resources or in terms of experience with embedded structures.

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          From words to meaning: A semantic illusion

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            Resources--a theoretical soup stone?

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              Reassessing working memory: comment on Just and Carpenter (1992) and Waters and Caplan (1996).

              M. A. Just and P. A. Carpenter's (1992) capacity theory of comprehension posits a linguistic working memory functionally separated from the representation of linguistic knowledge. G. S. Waters and D. Caplan's (1996) critique of this approach retained the notion of a separate working memory. In this article, the authors present an alternative account motivated by a connectionist approach to language comprehension. In their view, processing capacity emerges from network architecture and experience and is not a primitive that can vary independently. Individual differences in comprehension do not stem from variations in a separate working memory capacity; instead they emerge from an interaction of biological factors and language experience. This alternative is argued to provide a superior account of comprehension results previously attributed to a separate working memory capacity.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                16 June 2015
                : 6
                : 766
                [1] 1Department of Linguistics, University of Potsdam Potsdam, Germany
                [2] 2Department of Linguistics, Goethe University Frankfurt Frankfurt, Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: Matthew Wagers, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

                Reviewed by: Clinton L. Johns, Haskins Laboratories, USA; Manuel Gimenes, University of Poitiers, France

                *Correspondence: Jana Häussler, Department of Linguistics, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24–25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany jana.haeussler@ 123456uni-potsdam.de

                This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2015 Häussler and Bader.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 12 January 2015
                : 22 May 2015
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 5, Equations: 0, References: 43, Pages: 16, Words: 13425
                Funded by: Open Access Publication Fund of the University of Potsdam
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                sentence parsing,center embedding,grammatical illusion,missing-vp effect,cue-based retrieval,interference,german


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