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The influence of sense-contingent argument structure frequencies on ambiguity resolution in aphasia

Huck, A., Thompson, R.L., Cruice, M. & Marshall, J. (2017). The influence of sense-contingent argument structure frequencies on ambiguity resolution in aphasia. Neuropsychologia, 100, pp. 171-194. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.03.031


Verbs with multiple senses can show varying argument structure frequencies, depending on the underlying sense. When acknowledge is used to mean ‘recognise’, it takes a direct object (DO), but when it is used to mean ‘admit’ it prefers a sentence complement (SC). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether people with aphasia (PWA) can exploit such meaning-structure probabilities during the reading of temporarily ambiguous sentences, as demonstrated for neurologically healthy individuals (NHI) in a self-paced reading study (Hare et al., 2003). Eleven people with mild or moderate aphasia and eleven neurologically healthy control participants read sentences while their eyes were tracked. Using adapted materials from the study by Hare et al., target sentences containing an SC structure (e.g. He acknowledged (that) his friends would probably help him a lot) were presented following a context prime that biased either a direct object (DO-bias) or sentence complement (SC-bias) reading of the verbs. Half of the stimuli sentences did not contain that so made the post verbal noun phrase (his friends) structurally ambiguous. Both groups of participants were influenced by structural ambiguity as well as by the context bias, indicating that PWA can, like NHI, use their knowledge of a verb’s sense-based argument structure frequency during online sentence reading. However, the individuals with aphasia showed delayed reading patterns and some individual differences in their sensitivity to context and ambiguity cues. These differences compared to the NHI may contribute to difficulties in sentence comprehension in aphasia.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: Aphasia; Structural Ambiguity; Garden-Path; Argument Structure Frequency; Probabilistic Cues; Verb Sense; Eye Tracking
Subjects: P Language and Literature
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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