Jesse Harris, Pomona College

Friday, April 5th, 4 pm, Stevenson Fireside Lounge

Generating alternatives on demand: Processing sluices with d-linked remnants    

Much sentence processing research on sluicing constructions (Ross, 1969; Chung, Ladusaw & McCloskey, 1995, 2011; Merchant, 2001, among many others) concentrates on whether the recoverability of the elided material <e> is affected by structural factors such as syntactic accessibility (Frazier & Clifton, 2005), distance (Martin & McElree, 2011), parallelism (Carlson, 2002; Dickey & Bunger, 2011), and locality (Yoshida et al, 2012). The findings thus far are consistent with a cost-free content-addressable/copy mechanism that reuses material from the immediate linguistic context, and is subject to structural factors.

(1) Somebody just left - guess who <e>.                                                (Ross, 1969)

 However, the relation between constraints guiding recovery of ellipsis structure, on the one hand, and those guiding resolution of the wh-interrogative in CP (who in (1)), on the other, has not yet been made fully explicit in online processing research. In this talk, I present several experiments exploring this relationship by employing which phrases in sluices. Such phrases are preferentially d-linked to salient alternatives accessible in the discourse (Pesetsky, 1987), thereby introducing a discourse preference which may conflict with configurational ones during retrieval.

In particular, I investigate globally ambiguous structures, in which two different sorts of alternative-evoking phrases (disjunctions and indefinites; see also AnderBois, 2010) compete as antecedent to the d-linked wh-interrogative. The results suggest that both structural and discourse economy constraints influence the retrieval process, but that discourse considerations facilitate, but do not override, structural ones during retrieval. I argue that the results are consistent with a cue-based, content-addressable retrieval system (e.g., Lewis & Vasishth, 2005), in which potential antecedents are passively activated in parallel. Additionally, while accessibility of those antecedents may be facilitated by linguistic focus (e.g., Foraker & McElree, 2007), integration is assisted by congruent discourse structure.