Language and Learning Group Seminar: "Processing syntax and information structure: Eye-tracking during reading evidence from a flexible word order language" Dr Marju Kaps
Marju Kaps will be giving a talk titled Processing syntax and information structure: Eye-tracking during reading evidence from a flexible word order language (abstract below).
Organised by: Marta Wesierska
Email for teams link: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sentence comprehension is rapid and seemingly effortless, which has been ascribed to the processor’s use of structural heuristics (Frazier, 1987), argued to be language-universal (e.g. Aguilar & Grillo, 2021). There is accruing evidence that the processor uses semantic, pragmatic, and contextual information in addition to syntactic heuristics during incremental processing, although it often falls back on structural defaults (Hoeks et al., 2006; Carlson et al., 2009; Harris & Carlson, 2018). In this work, I explore classic phenomena from sentence processing research (the processing of ellipsis and structural ambiguity) in Estonian, a flexible word order language that optionally encodes information-structural notions syntactically. I present evidence from eye-tracking during reading that Contrastive Topic marking can rapidly override the processor’s preference for syntactically simpler structure in favour of resolving information-structural dependencies. I also discuss broader challenges (and questions of interest) in teasing apart syntactic, prosodic, and contextual effects in studying the processing of flexible word order languages.