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Processing VP-ellipsis and VP-anaphora with structurally parallel and nonparallel antecedents: An eyetracking study

Roberts, L., Matsuo, A., & Duffield, N. (2013). Processing VP-ellipsis and VP-anaphora with structurally parallel and nonparallel antecedents: An eyetracking study. Language and Cognitive Processes, 28, 29-47. doi:10.1080/01690965.2012.676190.
In this paper, we report on an eye-tracking study investigating the processing of English VP-ellipsis (John took the rubbish out. Fred did [] too) (VPE) and VP-anaphora (John took the rubbish out. Fred did it too) (VPA) constructions, with syntactically parallel versus nonparallel antecedent clauses (e.g., The rubbish was taken out by John. Fred did [] too/Fred did it too). The results show first that VPE involves greater processing costs than VPA overall. Second, although the structural nonparallelism of the antecedent clause elicited a processing cost for both anaphor types, there was a difference in the timing and the strength of this parallelism effect: it was earlier and more fleeting for VPA, as evidenced by regression path times, whereas the effect occurred later with VPE completions, showing up in second and total fixation times measures, and continuing on into the reading of the adjacent text. Taking the observed differences between the processing of the two anaphor types together with other research findings in the literature, we argue that our data support the idea that in the case of VPE, the VP from the antecedent clause necessitates more computation at the elision site before it is linked to its antecedent than is the case for VPA.
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