Processing modifier-head agreement in long Finnish words: Evidence from eye movements

Vainio, Seppo and Bertram, Raymond and Pajunen, Anneli and Hyönä, Jukka (2011) Processing modifier-head agreement in long Finnish words: Evidence from eye movements. Acta Linguistica Hungarica, 58 (1-2). pp. 134-156. ISSN 1216-8076


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The present study investigates whether processing of an inflected Finnish noun is facilitated when preceded by a modifier in the same case ending. In Finnish, modifiers agree with their head nouns both in case and in number and the agreement is expressed by means of suffixes (e.g., vanha/ssa talo/ssa ‘old/in house/in’ → ‘in the old house’). Vainio et al. (2003; 2008) showed processing benefits for this kind of modifier-head agreement, when the head nouns were relatively short. However, the effect showed up relatively late in the processing stream, such that word n + 1, the word following the target noun talo/ssa, was read faster when it was preceded by an agreeing modifier (vanha/ssa) than when no modifier was present. This led Vainio et al. to the conclusion that agreement exerts its effect at a later stage, namely at the level of syntactic integration and not at the level of lexical access. The current study investigates whether the same holds when head nouns are considerably longer (e.g., kaupungin/talo/ssa ‘city house/in’ → ‘in the city hall’). Our results show that the effect of agreement is facilitative in case of longer head nouns as well, but—in contrast to what was found for shorter words—the effect not only appeared late, but was also observed in earlier processing measures. It thus seems that, in processing long words, benefits related to modifier-head agreement are not confined to post-lexical syntactic integration processes, but extend to lexical identification of the head.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature / nyelvészet és irodalom > P0 Philology. Linguistics / filológia, nyelvészet
Depositing User: xBarbara xBodnár
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2017 08:59
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 08:59

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