PhD & Post-doc Projects

Understanding of the strategies used by the human language parser in the completion of a dependency in real-time language processing

Postdoc: Leticia Pablos Robles
Supervisors: Lisa Cheng and Jenny Doetjes

My current research focuses on the understanding of the strategies used by the human language parser in the completion of a dependency in real-time language processing. In particular I am currently examining the comprehension of Negative Polarity Item (NPI) and pronoun-antecedent dependencies in Dutch. To that effect, we have recently conducted two ERP experiments.

 

A first experiment evaluated whether there is an active search mechanism started for negation in NPI dependencies. In particular we studied whether an increase in the distance between the NPI and negation had an effect in the processing of negation. We have found a sustained negativity at negation as a result of increasing the distance between the NPI and negation at different positions in the sentence. This shows that there is an active search started for negation, which results in a sustained negativity at the position of negation when its appearance is delayed.

A second experiment investigated how the parser searches for an antecedent in pronoun-antecedent dependencies. In these dependencies a genitive pronoun occurs before its antecedent and there is a mismatch between the gender of the pronoun and that of the antecedent (i.e. a gender mismatch effect). We observed a central anterior negativity at antecedent positions when there was a mismatch between the gender of the pronoun and the gender of the antecedent. This shows that the pronoun tries to be interpreted at the potential antecedent position when the antecedent can be bound by the pronoun.

See:
Pablos Robles L., Doetjes J.S., Ruijgrok B.J. & Cheng L.L. (2015), Active search for antecedents in cataphoric pronoun resolution, Frontiers in Psychology 6: 1-13