Article published in:The Structure of the English NP: Synchronic and diachronic explorations
Edited by Kristin Davidse
[Functions of Language 23:1] 2016
► pp. 120–141
(A few) psycholinguistic properties of the NP
Essentially, noun phrases are beams of formal features, like case or arbitrary gender, and semantic features, like number, animacy, or biologically-based gender. This means that when such nominal elements are embedded in the structure of the sentence, their features interact with that structure in many ways. The main purpose of this work is to explore some of those interactions psycholinguistically, as well as to provide a set of explanatory principles that account for a substantial number of results reported in the psycholinguistic literature. It will focus mostly on agreement. Towards that goal, firstly a distinction will be made between the storing of nominal features and the computation of those features; secondly a comparison of the features of number and gender will be made; thirdly, it will be seen how the processing and the production of featural information interacts with the strength of a language’s morphological component; fourthly, the cross-linguistically different degrees of semantic interfacing (such as agreement ad sensum) will also be seen to correlate with morphological strength; finally, it will be argued that processing systems behave quite opportunistically when it comes to using either the formal information or the conceptual information coded in their NPs. This opportunism very often translates into a timing strategy: use first whatever information is available first.
Published online: 16 June 2016
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