Making semantic commitments can be delayed: Evidence from aspectual processing. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Semantic interpretation of aspectual verbs has been shown to cause a processing cost. The present study provides additional evidence that the semantic interpretation of events interacts with sentence processing. The study focused on telicity, an aspectual property that does not solely depend on lexical items but instead on the semantic composition of verb phrase (VP)-level events. Results from a working memory task showed that committing to a semantic interpretation incurs a processing cost and that some adverbials force the parser to commit to a particular aspectual interpretation. Specifically, in-X-time adverbials force the parser to commit to a telic (completed/terminated) interpretation before the VP has been processed. In contrast, for-X-time adverbials, which are compatible with an atelic (completed or incomplete) interpretation, do not force the parser to make an early commitment to a particular semantic interpretation. Instead, processing is always delayed until the VP has been completely parsed. Results support the partial interpretation hypothesis according to which the parser can delay making semantic commitments until it is necessary to do so, that is, in atelic but not telic sentences. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

publication date

  • March 2021