Dependencies First: Eye Tracking Evidence from Sentence Production in Tagalog

Abstract

We investigated the time course of sentence formulation in Tagalog, a verb-initial language in which the verb obligatorily agrees with one of its arguments. Eye-tracked participants described pictures of transitive events. Fixations to the two characters in the events were compared across sentences differing in agreement marking and post-verbal word order. Fixation patterns show evidence for two temporally dissociated phases in Tagalog sentence production. The first, driven by verb agreement, involves early linking of concepts to syntactic functions; the second, driven by word order, involves incremental lexical encoding of these concepts. These results suggest that even the earliest stages of sentence formulation may be guided by a language's grammatical structure.


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