Effects of Case Marking and Word Order on Sentence Parsing in Finnish: An Eye Fixation Analysis

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Effects of case marking and word order on syntactic parsing in Finnish were examined by registering readers' eye fixation patterns while they read single sentences for comprehension. Target nouns appearing towards the beginning of the sentence took one of three grammatical roles: subject, object, or adverbial. The subject phrase in the sentence-initial position is the canonical order in Finnish, but the two other word orders are less frequent. In one experimental condition, the grammatical role of the target noun was signalled by a case inflection attached to the preceding adjective modifier; in the second condition this was not the case. The results showed a facilitation effect in sentence parsing due to case marking. Similarly, there was an effect of word order, where the canonical SVO order was associated with greater processing ease than were non-canonical word orders. The two factors interacted so that there was no effect of case marking for the SVO order, but a significant case marking effect for the two marked word orders. The same pattern of results showed up as both immediate and delayed effects. The results speak against the notion of head licensing proposed by Abney (1989) and Prichett (1991).

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/713755738

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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