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Initial vs. non-initial placement of agent constructions in spoken clauses: A corpus-based study of language production under time pressure

Kuiper, K., Bimesl, N., Kempen, G., & Ogino, M. (2017). Initial vs. non-initial placement of agent constructions in spoken clauses: A corpus-based study of language production under time pressure. Language Sciences, 64, 16-33. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2017.06.001.
In this exploratory study we test the hypothesis that the retrieval from memory of proper noun Agents (PNAs) under processing pressure causes a greater proportion of such semantic arguments to be placed to the right of the initial position in a clause than would be the case if such retrieval from memory were not necessary. This effect is manifest in sports commentary. Processing pressure on sports commentators is modulated by the speed at which the sport is played and reported. Non-initial placement is also facilitated by formulae which have slots in non-initial position. It follows that the non-initial placement of PNAs is not always semantically or pragmatically motivated. This finding therefore runs counter to a strong form of the functionalist hypothesis that syntactic choices available in the systemic structure of the syntax of a language offer solely semantic or pragmatic choices. It is an open question in a weak functionalist account of language and language use how processing and communicative functions interact in general.
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