Accent and reference resolution in spoken-language comprehension

Dahan, D., Tanenhaus, M. K., & Chambers, C. G. (2002). Accent and reference resolution in spoken-language comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 47(2), 292-314. doi:10.1016/S0749-596X(02)00001-3.
The role of accent in reference resolution was investigated by monitoring eye fixations to lexical competitors (e.g., candy and candle ) as participants followed prerecorded instructions to move objects above or below fixed geometric shapes using a computer mouse. In Experiment 1, the first utterance instructed participants to move one object above or below a shape (e.g., “Put the candle/candy below the triangle”) and the second utterance contained an accented or deaccented definite noun phrase which referred to the same object or introduced a new entity (e.g., “Now put the CANDLE above the square” vs. “Now put the candle ABOVE THE SQUARE”). Fixations to the competitor (e.g., candy ) demonstrated a bias to interpret deaccented nouns as anaphoric and accented nouns as nonanaphoric. Experiment 2 used only accented nouns in the second instruction, varying whether the referent of this second instruction was the Theme of the first instruction (e.g., “Put the candle below the triangle”) or the Goal of the first instruction (e.g., “Put the necklace below the candle”). Participants preferred to interpret accented noun phrases as referring to a previously mentioned nonfocused entity (the Goal) rather than as introducing a new unmentioned entity.
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