Incremental structure building of preverbal PPs in Dutch

Coopmans, C. W., & Schoenmakers, G.-J. (2020). Incremental structure building of preverbal PPs in Dutch. Linguistics in the Netherlands, 37(1), 38-52. doi:10.1075/avt.00036.coo.
Incremental comprehension of head-final constructions can reveal structural attachment preferences for ambiguous phrases. This study investigates how temporarily ambiguous PPs are processed in Dutch verb-final constructions. In De aannemer heeft op het dakterras bespaard/gewerkt ‘The contractor has on the roof terrace saved/worked’, the PP is locally ambiguous between attachment as argument and as adjunct. This ambiguity is resolved by the sentence-final verb. In a self-paced reading task, we manipulated the argument/adjunct status of the PP, and its position relative to the verb. While we found no reading-time differences between argument and adjunct PPs, we did find that transitive verbs, for which the PP is an argument, were read more slowly than intransitive verbs, for which the PP is an adjunct. We suggest that Dutch parsers have a preference for adjunct attachment of preverbal PPs, and discuss our findings in terms of incremental parsing models that aim to minimize costly reanalysis.
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