Does a walk-through video help the parser down the garden-path? A visually enhanced self-paced reading study in Dutch

Sara Shoghi*, Seçkin Arslan, Roelien Bastiaanse, Srdan Popov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The human language processing mechanism assigns a structure to the incoming materials as they unfold. There is evidence that the parser prefers some attachment types over others; however, theories of sentence processing are still in dispute over the stage at which each source of information contributes to the parsing system. The present study aims to identify the nature of initial parsing decisions during sentence processing through manipulating attachment type and verbs’ argument structure. To this end, we designed a self-paced reading task using globally ambiguous constructions in Dutch. The structures included double locative prepositional phrases (PPs) where the first PP could attach both to the verb (high attachment) and the noun preceding it (low attachment). To disambiguate the structures, we presented a visual context in the form of short animation clips prior to each reading task. Furthermore, we manipulated the argument structure of the sentences using 2- and 3-argument verbs. The results showed that parsing decisions were influenced by contextual cues depending on the argument structure of the verb. That is, the visual context overcame the preference for high attachment only in the case of 2-argument verbs, while this preference persisted in structures including 3-argument verbs as represented by longer reading times for the low attachment interpretations. These findings can be taken as evidence that our language processing system actively integrates information from linguistic and non-linguistic sources from the initial stages of analysis to build up meaning. We discuss our findings in light of serial and parallel models of sentence processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1009265
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • PP attachment
  • self-paced reading
  • sentence processing
  • syntactic ambiguity resolution
  • visual context
  • written language comprehension


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