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      Unpacking the blocking effect: Syntactic prominence and perspective-taking in antecedent retrieval in Mandarin Chinese

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      Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
      Open Library of the Humanities

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          Abstract

          In the linguistics literature, it is generally agreed that the non-local use of the bare reflexive ziji in Mandarin Chinese is sensitive to perspective centers. The introduction of a local first-person pronoun encoding the comprehender’s perspective is assumed to make non-local binding unavailable, a phenomenon called the blocking effect. We conducted two sets of offline and online experiments that examine the blocking effect associated with ziji, to better understand whether and how it is affected by the syntactic status of the blocking pronoun (subject vs. object). By comparing the forced-choice judgment results in Experiments 1 and 2, we find that syntactically prominent subject blockers lead to stronger blocking compared to object blockers, and that the strength of the blocking effect can be modulated by verb semantics. Furthermore, only subject blockers caused blocking during incremental real-time processing; object blockers did not. These experimental results have implications for both the linguistic formulation of the blocking effect and for sentence processing models.

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          Lectures on Government and Binding

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            An activation-based model of sentence processing as skilled memory retrieval.

            We present a detailed process theory of the moment-by-moment working-memory retrievals and associated control structure that subserve sentence comprehension. The theory is derived from the application of independently motivated principles of memory and cognitive skill to the specialized task of sentence parsing. The resulting theory construes sentence processing as a series of skilled associative memory retrievals modulated by similarity-based interference and fluctuating activation. The cognitive principles are formalized in computational form in the Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) architecture, and our process model is realized in ACT-R. We present the results of 6 sets of simulations: 5 simulation sets provide quantitative accounts of the effects of length and structural interference on both unambiguous and garden-path structures. A final simulation set provides a graded taxonomy of double center embeddings ranging from relatively easy to extremely difficult. The explanation of center-embedding difficulty is a novel one that derives from the model' complete reliance on discriminating retrieval cues in the absence of an explicit representation of serial order information. All fits were obtained with only 1 free scaling parameter fixed across the simulations; all other parameters were ACT-R defaults. The modeling results support the hypothesis that fluctuating activation and similarity-based interference are the key factors shaping working memory in sentence processing. We contrast the theory and empirical predictions with several related accounts of sentence-processing complexity. 2005 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
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              Effects of noun phrase type on sentence complexity

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Open Library of the Humanities
                2397-1835
                January 4 2021
                December 9 2021
                : 6
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Southern California
                Article
                10.16995/glossa.5781
                eae179a8-d5d2-4e6e-aea8-e4aecb5dabe5
                © 2021

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

                Product
                Self URI (article page): https://www.glossa-journal.org/article/id/5781/

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