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Processing passive sentences in English: A cross-methodological study

Paolazzi, Caterina Laura; (2019) Processing passive sentences in English: A cross-methodological study. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Passives are considered more difficult to process than actives. The existing literature presents contrasting findings: passives are read faster than actives in online data, but more errorful in offline ones. A potential source for this contrast was previously overlooked: passivization and predicate semantics interact, in the sense that passivized statives are more difficult to process than actives, while no difference should be found across eventives. Evidence for this interaction was reported in the acquisition and aphasia literature, but not yet explored in healthy adults. Experiments 1-4 coupled self-paced reading with a verification task to compare offline and online measures, while manipulating predicate semantics, and replicated the contrast, additionally showing that variability in working memory is partially responsible for the offline complexity. No evidence for an interaction was found. Experiments 5-7 used acceptability judgments together with a verification task to investigate the causes of the offline difficulty and found that passives are susceptible to characteristics of the offline tasks, which increase memory-base interference. Once these characteristics were controlled for, an interaction emerged in the offline data, in the expected direction. Finally, Experiment 8 investigated the lack of evidence for an interaction in online data. The main causes for the complexity in passivized statives are coercion and revision, whose effects have only been detected in late, and not early, measures of processing. Eye-tracking while reading, which allows to collect early and late measures of processing, was employed. Evidence for an interaction between passivization and predicate semantics was found in the expected direction. Overall, passives are not more difficult to process than active ones. Rather they are susceptible to characteristics of the offline task employed and of the predicate semantics, which do not affect processing of active sentences. Future studies in psycholinguistics (e.g., aphasia, language acquisition) could be informed by these findings.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Processing passive sentences in English: A cross-methodological study
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065519
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