On-line Interactions of Context and Grammatical Aspect


What role does grammatical aspect play in the time course of understanding motion events? Although processing differences between past progressive (was walking) and simple past (walked) aspect suggest differences in prominence of certain semantic properties, details about the temporal dynamics of aspect processing have been largely ignored. The current work uses mouse-tracking (Spivey, Grosjean, & Knoblich, 2005) to explore motor output in response to contextual descriptions and aspectual forms. Participants heard descriptions of terrain (difficult or easy) and motion events described with either the past progressive or simple past while placing a character into a scene to match this description. Overall, terrain descriptions modulated responses to past progressive more than to simple past in the region of the screen corresponding to the path. These results, which suggest that perceptual simulation plays a role in the interpretation of grammatical form, provide new insights into the understanding of event descriptions.

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