Locality in German

Shravan Vasishth, Heiner Drenhaus


Three experiments (self-paced reading, eyetracking and an ERP study) show that in relative clauses, increasing the distance between the relativized noun and the relative-clause verb makes it more dif- ficult to process the relative-clause verb (the so-called locality effect). This result is consistent with the predictions of several theories (Gibson, 2000; Lewis and Vasishth, 2005), and contradicts the recent claim (Levy, 2008) that in relative-clause structures increasing argument-verb distance makes processing easier at the verb. Levy’s expectation-based account predicts that the expectation for a verb becomes sharper as distance is increased and therefore processing becomes easier at the verb. We argue that, in addition to expectation effects (which are seen in the eyetracking study in first-pass regression probability), processing load also increases with increasing distance. This contradicts Levy’s claim that heightened expectation leads to lower processing cost. Dependency- resolution cost and expectation-based facilitation are jointly responsible for determining processing cost.

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www.dialogue-and-discourse.orgISSN: 2152-9620   Journal doi: 10.5087/dad