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Processing of multiple filler-gap dependencies in Japanese

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Item Summary

Title:Processing of multiple filler-gap dependencies in Japanese
Authors:Nakamura, Michiko
Contributors:Schafer, Amy (advisor)
Linguistics (department)
Date Issued:Aug 2003
Publisher:University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract:Numerous studies have shown that in head-initial languages such as English, French, and German, relative clauses with a gap in the subject position (subject-gap relative clauses) are easier to process than relative clauses with a gap in the object position (object-gap relative clauses). One memory-based explanation for this subject object gap asymmetry has been linear distance: a subject gap is linearly closer to the filler than an object gap, and thus fewer words need to be processed between the gap and its filler. This dissertation investigates the subject-object gap asymmetry in the processing of relative clauses in Japanese, a head-final language in which a relative clause precedes its head noun. In Japanese, an object gap is linearly closer than a subject gap to the filler. Therefore, the linear distance model predicts that object-gap relative clauses should be easier to process than subject-gap relative clauses. The results of two self-paced reading experiments showed that native speakers of Japanese found subject-gap relative clauses easier to process than object-gap relative clauses. At the head noun, this effect was modulated by the grammatical relation of the head noun. In following regions, however, the interaction disappeared and a consistent subject gap advantage emerged. A gap asymmetry was also found in relative clauses with two filler-gap dependencies. This construction involves global structural ambiguity in the dependencies between gaps and fillers. When semantic/pragmatic information strongly constrained the plausible thematic roles of fillers, the results of an offline survey and two self-paced reading experiments revealed a clear subject-object asymmetry: the distant filler was preferably associated with a subject gap over an object gap. When semantic/pragmatic information was weaker, processing became extremely difficult and showed no gap asymmetry. These findings are inconsistent with a linear distance account. It is proposed that the asymmetry is better accounted for by the structural distance between gap and filler: a subject gap is structurally closer to the filler, and thus it is computationally easier to form a dependency with. Structural distance as an alternative to account for both Japanese findings and the role of pragmatic information during processing is discussed.
Description:xv, 274 leaves
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Linguistics

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