On the asymmetry between subject and object relative clauses in discourse context

Renê Forster, Letícia Maria Sicuro Corrêa


Abstract: This paper investigates the possibility of an effect of contextual information during the processing of sentences containing subject relative clauses (SRCs) and object relative clauses (ORCs) in Brazilian Portuguese. The predictions from one-stage models and from syntaxoriented approaches to sentence processing are outlined. An eye-tracking experiment is reported in which SRCs and ORC were presented when preceded by narrative contexts that could either favor a subject or an object relative clause analysis. The results suggest that ORCs are harder to process when compared to SRCs, no matter what discourse contexts they are inserted in. The contextual effect obtained here can be ascribed to a pre-syntactic priming, ie. a priming effect which arises during lexical access. The possibility of pre- and post-syntactic contextual effects in the processing of RCs is discussed.

Keywords: relative clauses; sentence-processing; eye-tracking.

Resumo: Este trabalho investiga, no Português Brasileiro, a possibilidade de um efeito de informação contextual no processamento de sentenças contendo orações relativas de sujeito (RS) e de objeto (RO), considerando os possíveis impactos dessa integração para a assimetria de custo entre RSs e ROs. Previsões de modelos de base estrutural e de modelos interativos são comparadas. Um experimento de rastreamento ocular é relatado em que relativas de sujeito e de objeto foram apresentadas em contextos narrativos que favoreceriam o processamento, ou de uma relativa de sujeito, ou de uma relativa de objeto. Os resultados sugerem que ROs têm maior custo quando comparadas a relativas de sujeito, independentemente do contexto discursivo no qual estão inseridas. O efeito de informação contextual obtido pode ser atribuído a um efeito de priming pré-sintático, ou seja, um efeito de priming durante o acesso lexical. Discute-se a possibilidade de efeitos contextuais pré e póssintáticos no processamento de orações relativas.

Palavras-chave: orações relativas; compreensão da linguagem; rastreamento ocular.


relative clauses; sentence-processing; eye-tracking.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17851/2237-2083.25.3.1225-1254


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