VER: Comprehending relative clauses under undisturbed and aphasic conditions

Head of the project: Prof. Markus Bader
Staff: Vasiliki Koukoulioti

Short description:

The project VER investigates the processing of relative clauses during normal as well as aphasic language comprehension. A crucial question is how processing complexity is determined by the interaction of syntactic and non-syntactic factors while understanding syntactically unambiguous and locally ambiguous relative clauses. Syntactically, the relation between the relative pronoun as a moved element and its trace plays a central role. In the literature, configurational properties of this antecedent-trace relation have been argued to account for differences in processing relative clauses with an initial subject or an initial object. The validity of this assumption will be assessed by the project. First, an additional syntactic property, namely the object type (accusative, dative or prepositional object), will be considered. Second, the project examines several semantic-pragmatic properties (animacy, pronominal versus non-pronominal NP, information structure) as well as the frequencies of different relative clause types in German corpora. The required corpus data will be obtained within the project. Different methods such as reading time measures, sentence-to-picture matching as well as acceptability judgments will be applied to investigate the interaction of the mentioned factors. Both the complexity of unambiguous sentences and syntactic preferences for locally ambiguous relative clauses are taken into account. By tightly interlocking experiments with unimpaired and aphasic participants, the project provides a differentiated analysis of the mental processes involved in comprehending relative clauses.

Detailed project description as pdf-file (German)