Lexical expectations in parsing complement-verb sentences

V. M. Holmes*, L. Stowe, L. Cupples

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Using the single-word self-paced reading task, three experiments investigated parsing of temporarily ambiguous sentences containing complement verbs. The verbs differed in the likelihood with which they are typically followed by a direct object (NP-bias verbs) or a clausal complement (clausal-bias verbs). When the potential direct object was short, readers were "garden-pathed" after NP-bias verbs, but not after clausal-bias verbs. The pragmatic plausibility of the potential direct object also only influenced responses in sentences containing NP-bias verbs. The results suggest that lexical expectations may determine the initial structural assignment made by the reader in these sentences. It was argued that models of parsing should incorporate a role for lexical expectations at an early stage of syntactic decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-689
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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