Subjecthood and linear order in linguistic encoding: Evidence from the real-time production of wh-questions in English and Mandarin Chinese

Publication date: April 2019Source: Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 105Author(s): Monica L. Do, Elsi KaiserAbstractWe use visual world eye-tracking to provide a first look into the real-time production of an under-researched but communicatively crucial construction – wh-questions. We investigate whether the transition from abstract message to highly-structured utterances (linguistic encoding) is driven by linear order (positional processing) or subjecthood assignment (functional processing). Experiment 1 decouples positional and functional processes by comparing production of English declaratives versus object wh-questions (‘Which nurses did the maids tickle?’). Experiment 2 compares the production of declaratives versus object wh-questions in Mandarin Chinese to investigate potential information-focus effects on linguistic encoding and tests whether Experiment 1’s findings could be due to focus. Experiment 1 found that even though the articulation of a sentence is necessarily linear, speakers do not necessarily encode sentences in accordance with the linear order in which the words are uttered. Experiment 2 suggests that information-focus does not guide speakers' eye-movements during linguistic encoding.
Source: Journal of Memory and Language - Category: Speech-Language Pathology Source Type: research

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