Conference presentation
Open access

Digging-in effects in Italian relative clauses

Presented atAMLaP, Lancaster (UK), 7-9 September 2017
Publication date2017

Italian RCs such as La bambina che disegna il pagliaccio ride (The girl that draws the clown smiles) are claimed to be ambiguous between a subject and an object reading (The girl that is drawing the clown is smiling vs. The girl that the clown is drawing is smiling). Since longer dependencies incur a greater processing cost than shorter ones, the parser first engages in a subject analysis, but the object interpretation is claimed to be attainable through reanal-ysis. There are two grammatical devices that can cue the object reading in Italian: i) the word order (i.e. OSV), and ii) the number agreement between the embedded verb and the post verbal subject (e.g. The girl-SG that draw-PL the clowns-PL smiles). However, both cues are available at an early stage of the incremental processing, respectively immediately after the two NPs or right after the first NP, therefore triggering a reanalysis at an early processing stage. Here we tested the effectiveness of a late cue in triggering a reanalysis by testing gender, which can be manipulated in the embedded clause, unlike number, capitalizing on the observation that gender and number are unified in contemporary linguistic theory, being able to trigger comparable syntactic and interpretive effects. Standard syntactic analyses and traditional parsing accounts as the two-stage model predict that compre-henders would be able to re-analyse the subject reading into an object reading as soon as a reanalysis cue is present, regardless of whether the cue is furnished at earlier or later stages of the processing. On the contrary, self-organized parsing accounts assume that the more stable an analysis becomes, the harder to undo (the digging-in effect). Pre-dictions are straightforward: late reanalysis cues are expected to be less efficient in triggering a reanalysis as com-pared to early cues under self-organized parsing accounts, while no effect of cues' timing is predicted under standard syntactic and processing accounts. Results suggest that once that the parser stabilizes on the default subject reading, later cues are ineffec-tive in triggering an object reanalysis, an effect which is in line with digging-in effects in self-organized parsing models but not accounted for by standard syntactic and processing analyses.

  • Italian
  • Relative clauses
  • Ambiguity
  • Reanalysis
  • Digging-in effect
  • Self-paced reading
  • Self-organized sentence processing model
  • Cue-based memory retrieval model
Citation (ISO format)
VILLATA, Sandra, FRANCO, Ludovico, LORUSSO, Paolo. Digging-in effects in Italian relative clauses. In: AMLaP. Lancaster (UK). 2017.
Main files (1)
  • PID : unige:102215

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