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LINGUIST List 20.2753

Wed Aug 12 2009

Diss: Syntax/Text/Corpus Ling: Wu: 'Factors Affecting Relative...'

Editor for this issue: Di Wdzenczny <dilinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Fuyun Wu, Factors Affecting Relative Clause Processing in Mandarin

Message 1: Factors Affecting Relative Clause Processing in Mandarin
Date: 12-Aug-2009
From: Fuyun Wu <flyyunyungmail.com>
Subject: Factors Affecting Relative Clause Processing in Mandarin
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Institution: University of Southern California
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Fuyun Wu

Dissertation Title: Factors Affecting Relative Clause Processing in Mandarin

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)

Dissertation Director:
Elaine Andersen
Elsi Kaiser
Bosco Tjan
Audrey Li
Andrew Simpson

Dissertation Abstract:

Current models of sentence processing make contrasting predictions
regarding the processing of head-final relative clauses (RCs) in Chinese,
but existing research has found mixed results. It is not yet clear (i)
whether subject-extracted RCs are easier to process than object-extracted
RCs; and (ii) whether classifiers in a dislocated position before the RC
can facilitate processing. This dissertation investigates how extraction
site, animacy configuration, and classifier positioning guide real-time
parsing of Chinese RCs. Assuming a correlation between frequency of
occurrence and ease of processing, I analyzed the frequency pattern of
these factors in the Chinese Treebank 5.0 corpus, then formulated and
experimentally tested hypotheses to account for the patterns observed.

Chapter 1 and 2 introduce the issues and review the relevant literature.
Chapter 3 presents a corpus analysis, focusing on extraction type
(subject-extracted vs. object-extracted) and animacy of the head and
embedded nouns. The results show that subject-extracted RCs are more
frequent than object-extracted RCs and suggest three Animacy Preference
Constraints (APCs): (i) head nouns that are RC subjects tend to be animate;
(ii) head nouns that are RC objects tend to be inanimate; (iii) in both
cases, the animacy of the head and embedded nouns tend to contrast.

Chapter 4 presents three self-paced reading experiments to test whether the
hypothesized APCs influence ease of RC parsing. The results show that
animacy configurations modulate the processing load induced by Chinese RCs:
subject-extracted RCs are easier to process than object-extracted RCs when
the animacy configuration is inversely contrastive (i.e., RC subject =
inanimate, RC object = animate).

Chapter 5 focuses on classifiers as possible cues for upcoming RCs. The
corpus reveals an asymmetrical pattern of classifier distribution in
subject-extracted and object-extracted RCs. I propose two processing
principles related to anticipatory processing and lexical access. These
principles are supported by one eye-tracking and two reading-time
experiments. Results suggest that pre-RC classifiers help the human parsing
system identify head-final RC structures efficiently.

I consider the findings in light of four major theoretical accounts, and
suggest that the parsing of Chinese RCs best fits the probabilistic,
expectation-based constraint-satisfaction model.

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