Applying Cognitive Linguistics
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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Ellis, O’Donnell, and Römer (2014) used free-association tasks to investigate knowledge of Verb-Argument Constructions (VACs). They demonstrated that English speakers have independent implicit knowledge of (i) verb frequency in the VAC, (ii) VAC-verb contingency, and (iii) verb prototypicality in terms of centrality within the VAC semantic network. They concluded that VAC processing involves rich associations, tuned by verb type and token frequencies and their contingencies of usage, which interface syntax, lexis, and semantics. However, the tasks they used, where respondents had a minute to think of the verbs that fitted in VAC frames like ‘he __ across the….’, ‘it __ of the….’, etc., were quite conscious and explicit. The current experiments therefore investigate the effects of these factors in on-line processing for recognition and naming. Experiment 1 tested the recognition of VAC exemplars from very brief, masked, visual presentations. Recognition threshold was affected by overall verb frequency in the language, by the frequency with which verbs appear in the VAC, and by VAC-verb contingency (ΔPcw). Experiment 2 had participants successively name VAC arguments as quickly as possible: first the VAC and then the preposition. Preposition naming latency was a function of verb frequency in the VAC. We consider the implications for the representation and processing of VACs.


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