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LINGUIST List 18.2457

Tue Aug 21 2007

Diss: Psycholing/Syntax: Lorimor: 'Conjunctions and Grammatical Agr...'

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        1.    Heidi Lorimor, Conjunctions and Grammatical Agreement

Message 1: Conjunctions and Grammatical Agreement
Date: 21-Aug-2007
From: Heidi Lorimor <hlorimorumw.edu>
Subject: Conjunctions and Grammatical Agreement
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Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Heidi Lorimor

Dissertation Title: Conjunctions and Grammatical Agreement

Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics

Subject Language(s): Arabic, North Levantine Spoken (apc)

Dissertation Director:
Elabbas Benmamoun
J Kathryn Bock

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the factors involved in producing agreement,
using evidence from conjoined subjects in English and Lebanese Arabic.
Specifically, the goal was to test psycholinguistic and syntactic theories
of agreement by examining the relative contributions of lexical number,
notional number, adjacency, and linear word order in agreement with
conjoined subjects, and contrasting English agreement patterns with
Lebanese Arabic, which allows closest conjunct agreement with postverbal

Corpus data and sentence production experiments were used to test
hypotheses about the mechanisms involved in producing agreement. A search
of American English sentences from the World Wide Web revealed that
speakers often produce singular verbs with conjoined subjects (28% singular
verbs overall), but less often when the conjunctions involved animate or
plural nouns. To investigate these patterns experimentally,
English-speaking participants heard, repeated, and completed subject noun
phrases as full sentences, thus producing a verb. The experiment produced
results similar to the corpus search, with conjunctions involving singular,
abstract nouns eliciting more singular verbs than plural verbs.

In a second study involving both Lebanese Arabic and English speakers, a
picture description task manipulated the position of the subject relative
to the verb and revealed that singular verbs were much more frequent with
postverbal (versus preverbal) subjects and that lexically plural nouns were
stronger enforcers of plural agreement than conjoined singular subjects in
both Lebanese Arabic and English. Adjacency also played a role, as plural
nouns in furthest conjunct position did not enforce plural agreement in the
same way as plural nouns that were linearly adjacent to the verb. These
results indicate that notional information, lexical plurality, adjacency,
and linear (surface) word order play significant roles in the computation
and production of agreement. The results also shed light on the nature of
closest conjunct agreement and on the number of stages involved in
producing grammatical agreement.

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