Unmet Expectations in the Comprehension of Relative Clauses in Japanese

Abstract

In two self-paced reading experiments, subject relative clauses (e.g., ‘the woman who saw the man’) were read faster than object relative clauses (‘the woman who the man saw’) in Japanese. Previous formulations of working-memory factors do not predict the patterns observed. A preference to complete fragments as object relative clauses indicates that ambiguity and expectation are unlikely to explain the reading-time data. The results support the proposal that accessibility of the position relativized affects how natural the relative clause is as a statement about the modified noun.


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