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PhD ceremony Mr. R.C. Taylor: Tracking referents. Markedness, world knowledge, and pronoun resolution

When:Th 04-07-2013 at 11:00

PhD ceremony: Mr. R.C. Taylor, 11.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Tracking referents. Markedness, world knowledge, and pronoun resolution

Promotor(s): prof. G. Redeker

Faculty: Arts

Taylor’s thesis reports an investigation of anaphora resolution, concentrating in particular on the influence of markedness of the anaphoric expression (in terms of prosodic and/or morphological realization) and plausibility of the antecedent (based on world knowledge). One of the key issues in this type of investigation is how diverse sources of information are combined by the language processor. This was addressed by examining how plausibility and markedness affect comprehension difficulty, choice of referent, and the effect on brain waves using a diverse set of psycholinguistic response measures (self-paced reading, antecedent selection and ERP (Event-Related brain Potentials) registration).

The results suggest that in the comprehension of pronouns all sources of information are used in parallel. However, we also found that the task that participants were asked to complete while reading contributed substantially to the strength of the effects.

In the choice of who the pronoun actually referred to, markedness and world knowledge were shown to outweigh syntactic information and order-of-mention as cues in our stimuli. World knowledge was capable of dictating the referent to a strong degree, outweighing other factors that we tested.

The neural processes underlying pronoun comprehension were also examined with a focus on the interaction of markedness and world knowledge. Expectedness and accent both contributed to an ERP component (brain wave) referred to as the P600, possibly because accenting facilitates comprehension of an unexpected reference.

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