Effects of order of mention and grammatical role on anaphor resolution

Fukumura, Kumiko and van Gompel, Roger P. G. (2015) Effects of order of mention and grammatical role on anaphor resolution. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41 (2). pp. 501-525. ISSN 0278-7393

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Abstract

A controversial issue in anaphoric processing has been whether processing preferences of anaphoric expressions are affected by the antecedent’s grammatical role or surface position. Using eye tracking, Experiment 1 examined the comprehension of pronouns during reading, which revealed shorter reading times in the pronoun region and later regions when the antecedent was the subject than when it was the prepositional object. There was no effect of antecedent position. Experiment 2 showed that the choice between pronouns and repeated names during language production is also primarily affected by the antecedent’s grammatical role. Experiment 3 examined the comprehension of repeated names, showing a clear effect of antecedent position. Reading times in the name region and in later regions were longer when the antecedent was 1st mentioned than 2nd mentioned, whereas the antecedent’s grammatical role only affected regression measures in the name region, showing more processing difficulty with a subject than prepositional-object antecedent. Thus, the processing of pronouns is primarily driven by antecedent grammatical role rather than position, whereas the processing of repeated names is most strongly affected by position, suggesting that different representations and processing constraints underlie the processing of pronouns and names.