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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

What eye movements can and cannot tell us about Wh-movement and Scrambling

P. 147-165.
Sekerina I. A., Laurinavichyute A., Dragoy O.

Generative grammar postulates a filler-gap dependency in Wh-
questions. Visual World Paradigm (VWP) studies of this dependency in English
have found an increase in fixations to the filler object during and after the verb
which was interpreted as filler reactivation (Trace Reactivation Hypothesis) at the
gap and explained by the Active Filler Hypothesis. However, it is possible that
such fixations are compatible not only with filler-gap processing, but also with a
goal-oriented strategy, i.e., the pragmatic computation of an answer to the
question. To disentangle these two possible explanations, we conducted two VWP
experiments that investigated comprehension of simple Russian Wh-questions in
which the type of question (subject vs. object) was crossed with scrambling
(object-verb vs. verb-subject). For object scrambling, there was no evidence of
reactivation of the scrambled filler; for subject scrambling, there was a brief
consideration of the scrambled filler, but not at the gap site. Instead, the referent
that was the answer to the question was fixated. For object Wh-questions, the eye-
movement pattern was inconclusive, as it was consistent with both filler-gap and
goal-oriented processing. We suggest that the latter strategy of looking for an
answer in the visual context may account for eye-movements in all types of Wh-
movement: when participants answer a question, they prioritize computing the
answer (and visually verifying it) over computing filler-gap dependencies.



















In book

Edited by: K. Carlson, C. Clifton, J. D. Fodor. Springer, 2019.