Preservation of the Initial Analysis in Absence of Pragmatic Inference with Japanese Relative Clause Sentences


Previous studies reported that language comprehenders tend to preserve the initial incorrect analysis with temporarily ambiguous sentences following structural reanalysis (Christianson et al., 2001; van Gompel et al., 2006). One possible criticism is that the sentences tested in previous studies allow comprehenders to pragmatically infer that the initial misanalysis may be true. It is thus unclear whether the tendency can still be observed where such inferences are not possible. The current study therefore tested the relative clause sentences in Japanese, which are temporarily ambiguous between the main clause and relative clause analysis. Crucially, our sentences differed from those in the past studies in that the correct interpretation following reanalysis makes an interpretation for the initial analysis pragmatically incompatible. The results demonstrated that an interpretation for the initial analysis persists even without pragmatic inference and that such incomplete syntactic representations are most likely due to excessive processing load.

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