2. Grammatical voice and illocutionary meaning in an aural concept formation task.

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A conjunctive concept formation experiment randomly presented, as aural stimuli, sentences which were systematically varied in Voice (active or passive), Mood (declarative or interrogative), Modality (affirmative or negative), tensel aspect, and lexical content. The target classes were the eight sentence types defined by all combinations of the first three syntactic variables. Compared to an earlier finding (Baker, Prideaux, & Derwing, 1973), aural processing was more difficult than visual, but higher education level facilitated concept acquisition, for males and females equally. The 64 undergraduate subjects tended to avoid syntactic analysis in depth, categorizing sentences on as cursory a basis as the task allowed. The simple, unequivocal syntactic signals of the illocutionary meanings associated with Mood and Modality were readily apparent, but the discrimination of Voice was complicated by multiply ambiguous syntactosemantic associations and lack of discourse context. Voice is thus not seen as a determinant of locution type, but as a context- and contentdependent realization of agent or object focus in transitive messages.


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