Data_Sheet_1_Not All Phrases Are Equally Attractive: Experimental Evidence for Selective Agreement Attraction Effects.PDF

2018-08-28T04:20:25Z (GMT) by Dan Parker Adam An

Research on memory retrieval during sentence comprehension suggests that similarity-based interference is mediated by the grammatical function of the distractor. For instance, Van Dyke and McElree (2011) observed interference during retrieval for subject-verb thematic binding when the distractor occurred as an oblique argument inside a prepositional phrase (PP), but not when it occurred as a core argument in direct object position. This contrast motivated the proposal that constituent encodings vary in the distinctiveness of their memory representations based on an argument hierarchy, which makes them differentially susceptible to interference. However, this hypothesis has not been explicitly tested. The present study uses an interference paradigm involving agreement attraction (e.g., Wagers et al., 2009) to test whether the argument status of the distractor determines susceptibility to interference. Results from two self-paced reading experiments show a clear contrast: agreement attraction is observed for oblique arguments (e.g., PP distractors), but attraction is nullified for core arguments (i.e., direct object and subject distractors). A follow-up experiment showed that this contrast cannot be reduced to the syntactic position of the distractor, favoring an account based on the semantic properties of the distractor. These findings support the proposal that interference is mediated by the argument status of the distractor and extend previous results by showing that the effect generalizes to a broader set of syntactic contexts and a wider range of syntactic dependencies. More generally, these results motivate a more nuanced account of real-time agreement processing that depends on both retrieval and encoding mechanisms.