Minimal Interference from Possessor Phrases in the Production of Subject-Verb Agreement

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/615107
Title:
Minimal Interference from Possessor Phrases in the Production of Subject-Verb Agreement
Author:
Nicol, Janet L.; Barss, Andrew; Barker, Jason E.
Affiliation:
Univ Arizona, Dept Linguist, Program Cognit Sci; Univ Arizona, Dept Psychol, Program Cognit Sci
Issue Date:
2016-05-02
Publisher:
FRONTIERS MEDIA SA
Citation:
Minimal Interference from Possessor Phrases in the Production of Subject-Verb Agreement 2016, 7 Frontiers in Psychology
Journal:
Frontiers in Psychology
Rights:
Copyright © 2016 Nicol, Barss and Barker. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CCBY).
Collection Information:
This item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at repository@u.library.arizona.edu.
Abstract:
We explore the language production process by eliciting subject-verb agreement errors. Participants were asked to create complete sentences from sentence beginnings such as The elf's/elves' house with the tiny window/windows and The statue in the eirs/elves' gardens. These are subject noun phrases containing a head noun and controller of agreement (statue), and two nonheads, a "local noun" (window(s)/garden(s)), and a possessor noun (elf's/elves'). Past research has shown that a plural nonhead noun (an "attractor") within a subject noun phrase triggers the production of verb agreement errors, and further, that the nearer the attractor to the head noun, the greater the interference. This effect can be interpreted in terms of relative hierarchical distance from the head noun, or via a processing window account, which claims that during production, there is a window in which the head and modifying material may be co-active, and an attractor must be active at the same time as the head to give rise to errors. Using possessors attached at different heights within the same window, we are able to empirically distinguish these accounts. Possessors also allow us to explore two additional issues. First, case marking of local nouns has been shown to reduce agreement errors in languages with "rich" inflectional systems, and we explore whether English speakers attend to case. Secondly, formal syntactic analyses differ regarding the structural position of the possessive marker, and we distinguish them empirically with the relative magnitude of errors produced by possessors and local nouns. Our results show that, across the board, plural possessors are significantly less disruptive to the agreement process than plural local nouns. Proximity to the head noun matters: a possessor directly modifying the head noun induce a significant number of errors, but a possessor within a modifying prepositional phrase did not, though the local noun did. These findings suggest that proximity to a head noun is independent of a "processing window" effect. They also support a noun phrase-internal, case-like analysis of the structural position of the possessive ending and show that even speakers of inflectionally impoverished languages like English are sensitive to morphophonological case-like marking.
ISSN:
1664-1078
DOI:
10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00548
Keywords:
subject-verb agreement; possessive; possessor; genitive; production error; attraction error; case; marking; semantic integration
Version:
Final published version
Additional Links:
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00548

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorNicol, Janet L.en
dc.contributor.authorBarss, Andrewen
dc.contributor.authorBarker, Jason E.en
dc.date.accessioned2016-06-30T01:42:54Z-
dc.date.available2016-06-30T01:42:54Z-
dc.date.issued2016-05-02-
dc.identifier.citationMinimal Interference from Possessor Phrases in the Production of Subject-Verb Agreement 2016, 7 Frontiers in Psychologyen
dc.identifier.issn1664-1078-
dc.identifier.doi10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00548-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10150/615107-
dc.description.abstractWe explore the language production process by eliciting subject-verb agreement errors. Participants were asked to create complete sentences from sentence beginnings such as The elf's/elves' house with the tiny window/windows and The statue in the eirs/elves' gardens. These are subject noun phrases containing a head noun and controller of agreement (statue), and two nonheads, a "local noun" (window(s)/garden(s)), and a possessor noun (elf's/elves'). Past research has shown that a plural nonhead noun (an "attractor") within a subject noun phrase triggers the production of verb agreement errors, and further, that the nearer the attractor to the head noun, the greater the interference. This effect can be interpreted in terms of relative hierarchical distance from the head noun, or via a processing window account, which claims that during production, there is a window in which the head and modifying material may be co-active, and an attractor must be active at the same time as the head to give rise to errors. Using possessors attached at different heights within the same window, we are able to empirically distinguish these accounts. Possessors also allow us to explore two additional issues. First, case marking of local nouns has been shown to reduce agreement errors in languages with "rich" inflectional systems, and we explore whether English speakers attend to case. Secondly, formal syntactic analyses differ regarding the structural position of the possessive marker, and we distinguish them empirically with the relative magnitude of errors produced by possessors and local nouns. Our results show that, across the board, plural possessors are significantly less disruptive to the agreement process than plural local nouns. Proximity to the head noun matters: a possessor directly modifying the head noun induce a significant number of errors, but a possessor within a modifying prepositional phrase did not, though the local noun did. These findings suggest that proximity to a head noun is independent of a "processing window" effect. They also support a noun phrase-internal, case-like analysis of the structural position of the possessive ending and show that even speakers of inflectionally impoverished languages like English are sensitive to morphophonological case-like marking.en
dc.language.isoenen
dc.publisherFRONTIERS MEDIA SAen
dc.relation.urlhttp://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00548en
dc.rightsCopyright © 2016 Nicol, Barss and Barker. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CCBY).en
dc.subjectsubject-verb agreementen
dc.subjectpossessiveen
dc.subjectpossessoren
dc.subjectgenitiveen
dc.subjectproduction erroren
dc.subjectattraction erroren
dc.subjectcaseen
dc.subjectmarkingen
dc.subjectsemantic integrationen
dc.titleMinimal Interference from Possessor Phrases in the Production of Subject-Verb Agreementen
dc.typeArticleen
dc.contributor.departmentUniv Arizona, Dept Linguist, Program Cognit Scien
dc.contributor.departmentUniv Arizona, Dept Psychol, Program Cognit Scien
dc.identifier.journalFrontiers in Psychologyen
dc.description.collectioninformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at repository@u.library.arizona.edu.en
dc.eprint.versionFinal published versionen
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