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Auteur: Ye TIAN

Co-Auteur(s): Richard BREHENY (University College London), Heather FERGUSON (University of Kent)

Eye movements reveal causes of delay in negative sentence processing

Abstract/Résumé: Studies show negative sentences are more difficult to process than positives. One account[1] suggest that negative sentences are initially processed in the same way as positives. [2] shows such effect is likely due to contextual accommodation. When negative sentences are presented alone, we problematically accommodate the most prominent contextual question, or Question Under Discussion (QUD), which is most frequently positive. However, if a negative sentence has a negative prominent QUD (such as a cleft sentence), comprehenders do not first represent the affirmative counterpart. This visual world study explores when QUD accommodation happens, and when the meaning of negation is incorporated. With a 2(polarity) by 2(cleft) design, participants heard simple and cleft sentences, e.g. “(It is) John (who) has/hasn’t shut his dad’s window”, while looking at a scene of objects including an open window (target) and a closed window (competitor). Results suggest that simple negatives take longer to process than simple positives due to QUD interference. Without QUD interference (cleft), negatives do not show a delay. Also, our results speak against the idea that the negation operator is only incorporated after the argument of negation is processed. [1] Kaup et al (2006). QJEP, 60, 976–990. [2] Tian et al (2010). QJEP, 63, 2305–12.