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Syntax and its Limits$
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Raffaella Folli, Christina Sevdali, and Robert Truswell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199683239

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199683239.001.0001

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Evidence for the Use of Verb Telicity in Sentence Comprehension *

Evidence for the Use of Verb Telicity in Sentence Comprehension *

(p.80) 5 Evidence for the Use of Verb Telicity in Sentence Comprehension*
Syntax and its Limits

Erin O’Bryan

Raffaella Folli

Heidi Harley

Thomas G. Bever

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents evidence that verb telicity has immediate effects on the comprehension of structurally ambiguous sentences. It investigates the effect of telicity on the processing of reduced relative sentences, as in The actress tripped by the writer left in a hurry. It shows that the reduced relative effect is significantly smaller when the initial verb is telic, such as tripped, compared to when it is atelic, such as applauded. An on-line comprehension experiment adopting the word maze paradigm demonstrated this effect. The chapter also discusses additional support for the effect of telicity, drawing on post-hoc reanalyses of self-paced reading studies and an eye-tracking study. In both cases, the telicity of the ambiguous verb significantly affected processing. Predicate event structure information, which is a kind of semantic information, affects processing during comprehension. The ways in which three extant processing models could incorporate the effect of telicity are also considered.

Keywords:   telicity, event structure, sentence comprehension, reduced relative ambiguity, transitivity

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