The present proposal addresses the question of how people comprehend sentences that they read or hear. Its long-range goal is to develop a theory of how people use knowledge of their language to structure world into mental representation that can then be interpreted semantically. The proposed research is designed to uncover the principles that govern readers' and listeners' use of grammatical information in sentence parsing, and is predicated upon the assumption that these principles will form a distinct subset of the principles that govern cognition in general. Three specific topics are addressed in the proposed research: (a) the applicability across languages of principles of phrase structure parsing we and our colleagues have identified in previous research; (b) the possible existence of differences in how argument phrases and adjunct phrases are parsed; and (c) the nature of the mental representation or representations of a sentence that are constructed during sentence comprehension. The research will use a variety of experimental techniques, testing normal adult humans on the speed with which they read sentences, the speed and accuracy with which they make judgments about sentences, and the effects that reading or hearing sentences have upon tasks performed concurrently with reading or listening. Our research is designed to contribute to the development of psycholinguistic theory. Recent advances in psycholinguistic theory have had a major impact on the analysis of language disorders, especially the aphasias. We look forward to the time when these new analyses will lead to improved treatments and we hope to contribute to the psycholinguistic theory that fuels the increase in our understanding of language disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
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Sensory Disorders and Language Study Section (CMS)
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Clifton Jr, Charles; Frazier, Lyn (2016) Accommodation to an Unlikely Episodic State. J Mem Lang 86:20-34
Frazier, Lyn (2015) Two interpretive systems for natural language? J Psycholinguist Res 44:7-25
Frazier, Lyn (2015) Do Null Subjects (mis-)Trigger Pro-drop Grammars? J Psycholinguist Res 44:669-74
Frazier, Lyn; Clifton Jr, Charles (2015) Without his shirt off he saved the child from almost drowning: interpreting an uncertain input. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:635-647
Frazier, Lyn; Clifton Jr, Charles; Carlson, Katy et al. (2014) Standing alone with prosodic help. Lang Cogn Process 29:459-469
Benatar, Ashley; Clifton Jr, Charles (2014) Newness, Givenness and Discourse Updating: Evidence from Eye Movements. J Mem Lang 71:
Dillon, Brian; Clifton Jr, Charles; Frazier, Lyn (2014) Pushed aside: Parentheticals, Memory and Processing. Lang Cogn Neurosci 29:483-498
Harris, Jesse A; Clifton Jr, Charles; Frazier, Lyn (2013) Processing and domain selection: Quantificational variability effects. Lang Cogn Process 28:1519-1544
Clifton Jr, Charles; Frazier, Lyn (2013) Partition if You Must: Evidence for a No Extra Times Principle. Discourse Process 50:
Breen, Mara; Clifton Jr, Charles (2013) Stress matters revisited: a boundary change experiment. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 66:1896-909

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