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ERIC Number: EJ1111079
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Aug
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0364-0213
Is Passive Syntax Semantically Constrained? Evidence from Adult Grammaticality Judgment and Comprehension Studies
Ambridge, Ben; Bidgood, Amy; Pine, Julian M.; Rowland, Caroline F.; Freudenthal, Daniel
Cognitive Science, v40 n6 p1435-1459 Aug 2016
To explain the phenomenon that certain English verbs resist passivization (e.g., "*£5 was cost by the book"), Pinker (1989) proposed a semantic constraint on the passive in the adult grammar: The greater the extent to which a verb denotes an action where a patient is affected or acted upon, the greater the extent to which it is compatible with the passive. However, a number of comprehension and production priming studies have cast doubt upon this claim, finding no difference between highly affecting "agent-patient/theme-experiencer" passives (e.g., "Wendy was kicked/frightened by Bob") and non-actional "experiencer theme" passives (e.g., "Wendy was heard by Bob"). The present study provides evidence that a semantic constraint is psychologically real, and is readily observed when more fine-grained independent and dependent measures are used (i.e., participant ratings of verb semantics, graded grammaticality judgments, and reaction time in a forced-choice picture-matching comprehension task). We conclude that a semantic constraint on the passive must be incorporated into accounts of the adult grammar.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A