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LINGUIST List 20.4286

Sun Dec 13 2009

Diss: Psycholing/Syntax: O'Rourke: 'The Nature of Syntactic Gender...'

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        1.    Polly O'Rourke, The Nature of Syntactic Gender Processing in Spanish: An ERP study

Message 1: The Nature of Syntactic Gender Processing in Spanish: An ERP study
Date: 11-Dec-2009
From: Polly O'Rourke <porourkebinghamton.edu>
Subject: The Nature of Syntactic Gender Processing in Spanish: An ERP study
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Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Polly O'Rourke

Dissertation Title: The Nature of Syntactic Gender Processing in Spanish: An ERP study

Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics

Subject Language(s): Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director:
Cyma Van Petten
LouAnn Gerken
Janet Nicol

Dissertation Abstract:

Syntactic gender as a lexical feature has been studied via picture-word
interference paradigms in many languages. While effects have been found
for noun phrase production in many languages, no effects have been found in
Spanish, despite the fact that articles, nouns, and adjectives have a
syntactic gender. Cubelli et al. (2005) found inhibitory effects in bare
noun production in Italian which led to the hypothesis that such effects
could be found for Spanish. Experiments 1 and 2 represented attempts
replicate Cubelli et al.'s findings (Experiment 1 used an auditory
distractor word and Experiment 2 a visual distractor), however no gender
congruency effects were found. Experiment 3 attempted to generate
congruency effects by requiring subjects to utilize gender-marked
demonstratives and adjectives but still no effects were found. The lack of
effects gave rise to the proposal that gender is not accessed during noun
phrase production in Spanish and that the extreme regularity of the
gender-marking system makes an article-plus-noun phrase more akin to a
single lexical unit that can be accessed without an explicit synthetic
process. Experiment 4 contrasted simple noun phrases that might be
directly retrieved to constructions with long-distance dependencies, for
which access to abstract gender features is relevant to parsing
hierarchical sentence structure and aimed to distinguish these distinct
cognitive processes via event-related potentials. The hypothesis was that
a local gender violation in a sentence like 'la piano' (the-fem piano-masc)
would elicit a LAN as compared to the correct alternative, while a
long-distance violation like 'el piano que compré ayer es antigua'
(the-masc piano-masc that I bought yesterday is antique-fem) would elicit a
P600. All violations elicited a LAN and all violations involving adjacent
segments elicited a P600; critically, the long-distance violation did not
elicit a P600. It was concluded that the P600 reflects a repair process
which occurs when such repair is not costly to the parser. Experiment 5
was a behavioral study using the stimuli from Experiment 4 with an error
detection task which confirmed that subjects were sensitive to all error types.

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