Construal by Lyn Frazier, Charles Clifton, Jr.

By Lyn Frazier, Charles Clifton, Jr.

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Once the resultant-state reading (13a) is eliminated, it is unclear whether the preference for the (adjunct) predicate to modify the object still exists. In a series of psycholinguistic studies (Clifton, Frazier, and Rapoport 1994; see also chapter 6), unambiguous subject-adjunct sentences (14a) took no longer to read than unambiguous object-adjunct sentences (14b). (14) a. b. John ate the broccoli naked. John ate the broccoli raw. The final interpretation preference data for ambiguous adjunct sentences show a somewhat unstable object preference.

Thus, much as in the relative clause attachment example, we see that a general structural preference for low attachment is not confirmed. However, a general high attachment preference is not observed either. Instead, semantic and aspectual factors (expressed in ed vs. ing) influence the complexity of processing the structures and the preferences in cases of ambiguity. We might therefore conclude that the processor associates either a subject or an object adjunct predicate into the partially indeterminate sentence structure shown in (16).

In Church's presentation of Pseudoattachment, the parser actually builds two different syntactic representations. Thus, the principle appears to reduce to the claim that a limited amount of syntactic parallelism is found in the natural-language parser. In terms of empirical predictions, Pseudoattachment thus seems to predict that processing complexity should vary with the number of possible syntactic attachments. By contrast, the Construal Hypothesis specifies that only one (underdetermined) structure is built.

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