The psychological reality of linguistically defined gaps

  • McElree B
  • Bever T
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In five experiments, recognition times for an adjective from a sentence-initial noun phrase were examined following the processing of coreferential gaps in syntactic structure as a means of determining whether linguistically defined gaps access their antecedents. Recognition latencies and/or error rates following the processing of gaps were found to be lower than a nonanaphoric control in a number of constructions, including two instances of constructions with NP-movement gaps—namely, the passive and raising-to-subject—and constructions with a PRO gap in an infinitival clause. Additionally, NP-movement gaps were found to produce lower latencies and error rates than PRO-gaps. The results are interpreted as evidence for the psychological reality of representational assumptions of Government and Binding Theory (Chomsky, 1981).

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  • Brian McElree

  • Thomas G. Bever

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