The time course for structuring complex utterances
Crew, Christopher M.
MetadataShow full item record
Eye movements during picture description were used to investigate the time course for structuring embedded clauses. According to the frame-based model of language production (e.g., Garrett, 1975; Ferreira, 2000) speakers make decisions about syntactic structure using structural frames corresponding to clauses or verb phrases. On-line theories allow structure to be built piecemeal corresponding to individual words and phrases (e.g., Kempen & Hoenkamp, 1987). These predictions were tested in two studies where speakers answered questions based on scenes that depicted someone communicating or thinking about an embedded event, eliciting descriptions like A woman is thinking about (a man being chased by a bear/a bear chasing a man). Based on previous eye movement studies (e.g., Meyer & Van Der Meulen, 2000), gaze shifts between agents (bear) and patients (man) were expected to occur less often after hearing biased questions, which provided multiple structural cues, than after unbiased ones. The timing of a difference in gaze shifts would then reflect when speakers considered order of mention and committed to an active or passive structure. Study 1 partially supports a frame-based theory of the syntactic planning while study 2 did not provide evidence for either model. Results are discussed in terms of models of language production and reiterate the need for experimental paradigms that use on-line methods in the investigation of the time-course structuring spoken utterances.