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Case marking in the Parsing of Complement Sentences: Evidence from Eye Movements

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An eye-tracking experiment investigated the role of case-marking in parsing. We manipulated the case of pronouns in reduced complement sentences like I recognized you and your family would be unhappy here and I recognized she and her family would be unhappy here , in which the nominative pronoun she immediately disambiguates the sentences, in contrast to the ambiguous you . The nominative pronoun she disambiguates the sentence because I recognised she is ungrammatical, and thus she and her family must be the subject of an embedded sentence and not the NP-object of the preceding verb. Subjects took longer to read she and her family than you and your family during initial processing. The pattern reversed at the disambiguating phrase would be . Unambiguous control sentences containing the complementizer that did not produce case-marking effects. These results demonstrate very rapid effects of case-marking on parsing. Either case information is used immediately, or it is employed after an extremely short delay. We discuss implications for current theories of parsing.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1996


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