Center Papers

Traxler (2015)

Traxler, M.J. (2015). Priming of early closure: Evidence for the lexical boost. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Two self-paced reading experiments investigated priming in sentences containing earlyvs. late closureambiguities. Early closure sentences impose relatively large processing costs at the point of syntactic disambiguation. The current study investigated a possible way to reduce processing costs. Target sentences were temporarily ambiguous and were disambiguated towards either the preferred lateclosure analysis or the dispreferred earlyclosure analysis. Each target sentence was preceded by a prime that was either structurally identical or that required a different syntactic analysis. In Experiment 1, all the prime sentences shared the same critical verb as the target. In Experiment 2, verb repetition was eliminated by reorganising the stimuli from Experiment 1. In Experiment 1, processing of the disambiguating verb was facilitated when an earlyclosure target sentence followed an earlyclosure prime. In Experiment 2, there were no significant priming effects, although an overall difference in processing time favoured late closuretargets. Combined analyses verified that the pattern of results in Experiment 1 differed significantly from Experiment 2. These experiments provide the first indication that earlyclosure analyses can be primed and that such priming is more robust when a critical verb appears in both the prime and the target sentence. The results add to the body of data indicating a lexical boostfor syntactic priming effects during comprehension. They have implications for theories of syntactic representation and processing.

Keywords: syntax; parsing; syntactic priming; syntactic ambiguity; unification grammar; usage-based grammar; head- driven phrase-structure grammar; lexical boost 

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