Modifier Attachment in Sentence Parsing: Evidence from Dutch
Abstract:Current theories of parsing suggest a wide variety of mechanisms by which modifiers, such as relative clauses, may be related to constituents that offer more than one potential attachment site. Some, like the tuning hypothesis, are based on the premise that people's parsing performance is shaped by prior exposure to language. Others (e.g. garden-path theory and construal theory) play down any potential role of past linguistic experience, stressing instead the varying influences of structural characteristics of the sentence in question. The two views encourage differing expectations about cross-linguistic variation in parsing preference. A questionnaire study and two on-line experiments were carried out to investigate attachment preferences in Dutch. The results pose a number of problems for the majority of the existing parsing models and are clearly inconsistent with some of the traditional theories. In contrast, the findings are compatible with models incorporating parsing mechanisms that are tuned by language experience. The results highlight the need for further corpus studies to subject these accounts to more searching scrutiny.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: August 1, 1996