On the online effects of subjectivity encoded in causal connectives
Fang Li |
Beijing International Studies University
Causal relations between sentences differ in terms of subjectivity: they can be objective (based on facts) or subjective (based on reasoning). Subjective relations lead to longer reading times than objective relations. Causal connectives differ in the degree to which they encode this subjectivity. The Chinese connectives kejian ‘so’ and yin’er ‘so’ specify a high and low degree of subjectivity, respectively, whereas suoyi ‘so’ is underspecified for subjectivity. In an eye-tracking experiment we compare the effect of the specificity of these connectives in subjective and objective relations. In objective relations, the specificity of the connective has no effect on reading times. In subjective relations, reading times are shorter in sentences with the specified connective kejian than in sentences with the underspecified connective suoyi. These results suggest that readers prefer to interpret a relation as objective. Computing subjective relations requires extra processing time, which is diminished when the connective encodes the subjectivity.
Keywords: causal connectives, subjectivity, discourse processing, eye-tracking
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