Carnegie Mellon University
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The Time Course of Anaphor Resolution: Effects of Implicit Verb Causality and Gender

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posted on 1995-08-01, 00:00 authored by Janet L McDonald, Brian MacwhinneyBrian Macwhinney
This paper examines the time course of the use of implicit verb causality and gender agreement information in determining the antecedent of a pronominal anaphor. A crossmodal probe paradigm measured the activation of candidate antecedents at four time points during comprehension. Sentences contained two participants, an implicit causality verb, and a subsequent "because"-clause (e.g., Gary amazed Ellen time after time because he was so talented.). In Experiment 1, a general advantage for the first-mentioned participant was nullified immediately upon encountering the pronoun if the implicit causality of the verb favored the second participant. Experiment 2 showed that this effect was due to anaphor resolution processes and not priming from the verb. Experiment 3, which deleted the causal conjunction "because" and placed the pronoun in a separate sentence, continued to find an effect of implicit causality. In addition, the first-mentioned advantage was nullified at the pronoun for sentences without a gender contrast. The overall results are consistent with a model of anaphor resolution in which resolution processes are initiated immediately upon encountering the pronoun, but cannot be completed until information becomes available from other processes.




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