1887
Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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Abstract

Abstract

N Prep N constructions such as Sp. ‘mountain bike’ are very productive and frequent in Romance languages. They commonly have been classified as that show no orthographic union and exhibit an internal structure that resembles free syntactic structures, such as Sp. ‘book for children’. There is no consensus on how to best distinguish lexical from syntactic N Prep N constructions. The present paper presents an explorative eye-tracking study on N Prep N constructions, varying both lexical type (lexical vs. syntactic) and preposition across three languages, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The task of the eye-tracking study was a reading aloud paradigm of the constructions in sentence context. Constructions were fixated on less when more frequent, independent of lexical status. There was also modest evidence that a higher construction frequency afforded shorter total fixation durations, but only for lower deciles of the response distribution. The (construction-initial) head noun also received fewer fixations as construction frequency increased, and also when the head noun was more frequent. The second fixation durations on the head noun also revealed an effect of lexical status, with syntactic constructions receiving shorter fixations at the 5th and 7th deciles. The probability of a fixation on the preposition decreased with preposition frequency, but first fixations on the preposition increased with preposition frequency. The prepositions of Portuguese, the language with the richest inventory of prepositions, received more fixations than the prepositions of French and Spanish. The observed pattern of results is consistent with models of lexical processing in which reading is guided by knowledge of both higher-level constructions and knowledge of key constituents such as the head noun and the preposition.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): eye-tracking; N preposition N construction; Romance; syntagmatic compounds
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