Constraining mismatch in grammar and in sentence comprehension

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This chapter presents psycholinguistic evidence for “default correspondences” – canonical mappings between semantic roles and constituent ordering – in the comprehension of two types of noun phrase mismatch: possessive free relatives and quantificational nouns. Experiments showed that possessive free relatives were processed more slowly and comprehended less accurately than normal possessive relatives, whereas quantificational nouns were processed more quickly and understood more accurately than normal binominal noun phrases. Following Townsend & Bever (2001), possessive free relatives cause processing difficulty because the position of the head violates the default, leading to confusion in semantic role assignment. Quantificational nouns do not violate the default in this way. One implication is that default correspondences may help limit mismatch in languages through their role in sentence comprehension.


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