Date of Graduation

12-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

William Levine

Committee Member

Denise Beike

Second Committee Member

Jeffery Lohr

Abstract

Two studies were conducted in order to examine the role of biased and unbiased contexts on the processing of object-extracted relative clauses (ORCs) (e.g., The child that the babysitter chased squealed with delight.) and subject-extracted relative clauses (SRCs) (e.g., The child that chased the babysitter squealed with delight.) In Experiment 1 ORCs and SRCs were embedded in licensing contexts that referentially supported the use of the relative clause (i.e., more than one child was present. In Experiment 2 ORCs and SRCs were embedded in context that biased towards either an ORC interpretation (e.g., One of the children was chased by the babysitter and the other was not.), or an SRC interpretation (e.g., One of the children chased the babysitter and the other did not.) The results demonstrated that the ORC-SRC difference was present and significant for Experiment 1. In Experiment 2 the results demonstrated that for late measures of sentence processing the contexts had a differential effect on the processing of ORCs and SRCs. The ORC-SRC difference was reduced for the ORC-biasing contexts but not for the SRC-biasing contexts. Moreover, cross-experiment comparisons revealed that the licensing contexts from Experiment 1 and the biased contexts from Experiment 2 had different influences on the ORC-SRC difference. The results are discussed in light of the current theories of relative clause processing.

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