Linguistic Perspectives on Morphological Processing
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Asymmetric number attraction effects have been typically explained via a privative markedness account: plural nouns are more marked than singular ones and thus stronger attractors. However, this account does not explain results from tripartite systems, in which a third number value is available, like paucal. Here we tested whether attraction effects can be driven by specific markedness sub-components, such as frequency/naturalness of use, using Serbian, in which participles can agree with masculine subjects in singular, plural and paucal. We first conducted a naturalness judgment task, finding the following naturalness/frequency pattern: singular,plural<paucal. In a subsequent forced-choice task, we presented participants with preambles containing a singular, a plural or a paucal headnoun (the castle[Sg] /two castles[Pauc] /the castles[Pl]) modified by singular/plural/paucal attractors (with the window[Sg] /with two windows[Pauc] /with the windows[Pl]). Three options were provided to complete the sentence (resembles[Sg] /resemble[Pauc] /resemble[Pl] gothic architecture).Both accuracy and reaction times (RTs) were collected. Accuracy data reflected the naturalness/frequency pattern, with paucal being the strongest attractor, and plural and singular attracting equally. However, reaction times showed a difference between singular and plural, suggesting co-influence of both frequency/naturalness and morphological markedness. We emphasize the necessity of re-defining markedness and testing attraction through different markedness sub-components (i.e. frequency/naturalness) to explain attraction cross-linguistically.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Badecker, W. , & Kuminiak, F
    (2007) Morphology, agreement and working memory retrieval in sentence production: Evidence from gender and case in Slovak. Journal of Memory and Language, 56, 65–85. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2006.08.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2006.08.004 [Google Scholar]
  2. Badecker, W. , & Lewis, R
    (2007) A new theory and computational model of working memory in sentence production: Agreement errors as failures of cue-based retrieval. In20th Annual CUNY Sentence Processing Conference. San Diego, La Jolla, CA: University of California.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Barr, D.J. , Levy, R. , Scheepers, C. , & Tily, H.J
    (2013) Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 255–278. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001 [Google Scholar]
  4. Bates, D. , Maechler, M. , Bolker, B. , & Walker, S
    (2013) Linear mixed-effect models using Eigen and S4. R package version: 1.0-5. cran.rproject.org/package=lme4.
  5. Belić, B
    (2008) Minor paucal in Serbian. In G.Zybatow , L.Szucsich , U.Junghanns , & R.Meyer (Eds.), Formal description of Slavic Languages: The Fifth Conference, Leipzig 2003 (pp.258–269). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bock, K. , & Eberhard, K.M
    (1993) Meaning, sound and syntax in English number agreement. Language and Cognitive Processes, 8, 57–99. doi: 10.1080/01690969308406949
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01690969308406949 [Google Scholar]
  7. Bock, K. , & Miller, C.A
    (1991) Broken agreement. Cognitive Psychology, 23, 45–93. doi: 10.1016/0010‑0285(91)90003‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0285(91)90003-7 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bresnan, J
    (2001) Explaining morphosyntactic competition. Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, 11–44.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Browne, W
    (1993) 7 Serbo-Croat. The Slavonic Languages, 306–387.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Corbett, G.G
    (1983) Hierarchies, targets and controllers: Agreement patterns in slavic.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. (2000) Number. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139164344
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139164344 [Google Scholar]
  12. Eberhard, K.M
    (1997) The marked effect of number on subject–verb agreement. Journal of Memory and Language, 36, 147–164. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1996.2484
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1996.2484 [Google Scholar]
  13. Franck, J. , Cronel-Ohayon, S. , Chillier, L. , Frauenfelder, U.H. , Hamann, C. , Rizzi, L. , & Zesiger, P
    (2004) Normal and pathological development of subject–verb agreement in speech production: A study on French children. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 17, 147–180. doi: 10.1016/S0911‑6044(03)00057‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0911-6044(03)00057-5 [Google Scholar]
  14. Franck, J. , Vigliocco, G. , & Nicol, J
    (2002) Subject-verb agreement errors in French and English: The role of syntactic hierarchy. Language and Cognitive Processes, 17, 371–404. doi: 10.1080/01690960143000254
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01690960143000254 [Google Scholar]
  15. Franks, S
    (1994) Parametric properties of numeral phrases in Slavic. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 12, 597–674. doi: 10.1007/BF00992929
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992929 [Google Scholar]
  16. Greenberg, J.H
    (1966) Language universals: With special reference to feature hierarchies. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Harrison, A.J
    (2009) Production of subject-verb agreement in Slovene and English (Doctoral dissertation). The University of Edinburgh
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Hartsuiker, R.J. , Antón-Méndez, I. , & van Zee, M
    (2001) Object attraction in subject-verb agreement construction. Journal of Memory and Language, 45, 546‑572. doi: 10.1006/jmla.2000.2787
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.2000.2787 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hartsuiker, R.J. , Schriefers, H.J. , Bock, K. , & Kikstra, G.M
    (2003) Morphophonological influences on the construction of subject-verb agreement. Memory & Cognition, 31, 1316–1326. doi: 10.3758/BF03195814
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03195814 [Google Scholar]
  20. Haspelmath, M
    (2006) Against markedness (and what to replace it with). Journal of linguistics, 42, 25–70. doi: 10.1017/S0022226705003683
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226705003683 [Google Scholar]
  21. Häussler, J
    (2009) The emergence of attraction errors during sentence comprehension (Doctoral dissertation).
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Humphreys, K.R. , & Bock, K
    (2005) Notional number agreement in English. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 689–695. doi: 10.3758/BF03196759
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196759 [Google Scholar]
  23. Kager, R. , Qiuwu (马秋武)·Ma , & Jialing (王嘉龄)· Wang
    (1999) Optimality theory (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511812408
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511812408 [Google Scholar]
  24. Klajn, I
    (2005) Gramatika srpskog jezika. Beograd: Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Levelt, W.J
    (1983) Monitoring and self-repair in speech. Cognition, 14, 41–104. London: Croom Helm. doi: 10.1016/0010‑0277(83)90026‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(83)90026-4 [Google Scholar]
  26. Mancini, S. , Molinaro, N. , Rizzi, L. , & Carreiras, M
    (2011) When persons disagree: an ERP study of Unagreement in Spanish. Psychophysiology, 48, 1361–1371. doi: 10.1111/j.1469‑8986.2011.01212.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01212.x [Google Scholar]
  27. McCarthy, J.J
    (2011) Doing optimality theory: Applying theory to data.John Wiley & Sons.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Molinaro, N. , Carreiras, C. , & Duñabeitia, J.A
    (2012) Semantic combinatorial processing of non-anomalous expressions. Neuroimage, 59, 3488–3501. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.009 [Google Scholar]
  29. Molinaro, N. , Vespignani, F. , Canal, P. , Fonda, S. , & Cacciari, C
    (2008) Cloze-probability does not only affect N400 amplitude: The case of complex prepositions. Psychophysiology, 45, 1008–1012. doi: 10.1111/j.1469‑8986.2008.00694.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00694.x [Google Scholar]
  30. Perez, A. , Molinaro, N. , Mancini, S. , Barraza, P. , & Carreiras, M
    (2012) Oscillatory dynamics related to the Unagreement pattern in Spanish. Neuropsychologia, 50, 2584–2597. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.07.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.07.009 [Google Scholar]
  31. Šarić, A
    (2014) Numeral induced agreement mismatches in Serbo-Croatian (Unpublished master dissertation). Utrecht University.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Staub, A
    (2009) On the interpretation of the number attraction effect: Response time evidence. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 308–327. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2008.11.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2008.11.002 [Google Scholar]
  33. Team, R.C
    (2014) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria, 2012.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Tucker, M.A. , Idrissi, A. , & Almeida, D
    (2015) Representing number in the real-time processing of agreement: self-paced reading evidence from Arabic. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Vigliocco, G. , Butterworth, B. , & Semenza, C
    (1995) Constructing subject-verb agreement in speech: the role of semantic and morphological factors. Journal of Memory and Language, 34, 186‑215. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1995.1009
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1995.1009 [Google Scholar]
  36. Vigliocco, G. , Butterworth, B. , & Garrett, M.F
    (1996a) Subject-verb agreement in Spanish and English: Differences in the role of conceptual constraints. Cognition, 61, 261–298. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑0277(96)00713‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(96)00713-5 [Google Scholar]
  37. Vigliocco, G. , Hartsuiker, R.J. , Jarema, G. , & Kolk, H.H.J
    (1996b) One or more labels on the bottles? Notional concord in Dutch and French. Language and Cognitive Processes, 11, 407–442. doi: 10.1080/016909696387169
    https://doi.org/10.1080/016909696387169 [Google Scholar]
  38. Wagers, M.W. , Lau, E.F. , & Phillips, C
    (2009) Agreement attraction in comprehension: Representations and processes. Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 206–237. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2009.04.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2009.04.002 [Google Scholar]
  39. Wechsler, S. , & Zlatić, L
    (2003) The many faces of agreement. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Zlatić, L
    (1997) The structure of the Serbian noun phrase (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Texas, Austin.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): markedness; number attraction; Serbian; subject-verb agreement
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error