Parallel processing and sentence comprehension difficulty

  • Eye fixation durations during normal reading correlate with processing difficulty but the specific cognitive mechanisms reflected in these measures are not well understood. This study finds support in German readers’ eyefixations for two distinct difficulty metrics: surprisal, which reflects the change in probabilities across syntactic analyses as new words are integrated, and retrieval, which quantifies comprehension difficulty in terms of working memory constraints. We examine the predictions of both metrics using a family of dependency parsers indexed by an upper limit on the number of candidate syntactic analyses they retain at successive words. Surprisal models all fixation measures and regression probability. By contrast, retrieval does not model any measure in serial processing. As more candidate analyses are considered in parallel at each word, retrieval can account for the same measures as surprisal. This pattern suggests an important role for ranked parallelism in theories of sentence comprehension.

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Author:Marisa Ferrara Boston, John T. Hale, Shravan Vasishth, Reinhold Kliegl
Series (Serial Number):Postprints der Universität Potsdam : Humanwissenschaftliche Reihe (paper 252)
Document Type:Postprint
Date of Publication (online):2011/12/13
Year of Completion:2011
Publishing Institution:Universität Potsdam
Release Date:2011/12/13
Source:Language and Cognitive Processes. - ISSN 0169-0965. - 26 (2011), 3 , S. 301-349
Organizational units:Humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Psychologie
Extern / Extern
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 40 Sprache / 400 Sprache
Licence (German):License LogoKeine Nutzungslizenz vergeben - es gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht
Notes extern:This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published as:
Boston, Marisa Ferrara , Hale, John T. , Vasishth, Shravan and Kliegl, Reinhold(2011): Parallel processing and sentence comprehension difficulty, Language and Cognitive Processes, 26: 3, 301 — 349. - First published on: 17 January 2011 (iFirst)
DOI: 10.1080/01690965.2010.492228
2011 Psychology Press, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group