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ERIC Number: EJ1111074
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Aug
Pages: 30
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0364-0213
Uncertainty and Expectation in Sentence Processing: Evidence from Subcategorization Distributions
Linzen, Tal; Jaeger, T. Florian
Cognitive Science, v40 n6 p1382-1411 Aug 2016
There is now considerable evidence that human sentence processing is expectation based: As people read a sentence, they use their statistical experience with their language to generate predictions about upcoming syntactic structure. This study examines how sentence processing is affected by readers' "uncertainty" about those expectations. In a self-paced reading study, we use lexical subcategorization distributions to factorially manipulate both the strength of expectations and the uncertainty about them. We compare two types of uncertainty: uncertainty about the verb's complement, reflecting the next prediction step; and uncertainty about the full sentence, reflecting an unbounded number of prediction steps. We find that uncertainty about the full structure, but not about the next step, was a significant predictor of processing difficulty: Greater reduction in uncertainty was correlated with increased reading times (RTs). We additionally replicated previously observed effects of expectation violation (surprisal), orthogonal to the effect of uncertainty. This suggests that both surprisal and uncertainty affect human RTs. We discuss the consequences for theories of sentence comprehension.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: IIS1150028