Experiment 3: Referential and Non-Referential Wh-Dependencies
The problem of assessing how Wh-constructions are analyzed is a central one in the study of human language processing. It is not difficult to see why the problem is so important. In wh-constructions, where the wh-phrase is a noun phrase (such as who/what/which-N) the parser has to engage in the following tasks: (1) determine that there is a constituent that is not in an argument position (the wh itself); (2) determine that there is a position in the sentence where a noun phrase may (or must) occur; (3) determine that no (overt) noun phrase is present at that position; (4) if a noun phrase is optional at the position, determine that no obligatorily empty NP (such as the subject of an infinitival) occurs at that position. These three latter operations are the same ones that the parser has to perform to recover constituent structure relations in the processing of declarative sentences in Italian.
KeywordsNoun Phrase Comprehension Sentence Thematic Role Argument Position Measure Phrase
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