Linguistics colloquium: Julie Fadlon

22/03/2016 - 14:00 - 15:30

Julie Fadlon, University of California San Diego

Title: There’s a pronoun which I don’t like to hear but I do like to produce it: what modulates the effect of resumption on processing?

Abstract: Resumptives are pronominal elements which appear in a position where we would expect to find a gap (McCloskey, 2006). In English and Romance languages, resumption is generally considered intrusive, i.e. introduced to speakers’ productions by an extra-grammatical mechanism and, according to some recent analyses, used to facilitate processing of challenging or poorly planned utterances. At the same time, speakers of these languages systematically judge resumptives as less acceptable than gaps (Alexopoulou and Keller, 2007; Asudeh, 2004; Beltrama, 2013; Dickey, 1996; Erteschik-Shir, 1992; Hawkins, 1999). Hebrew (and also Irish, varieties of Arabic and Swedish), on the other hand, is considered a language with grammaticized resumption, namely, a language in which resumption is a productive strategy of forming filler-gap dependencies. In particular, an observation often repeated is that in Hebrew relative clauses, resumptives may alternate freely with gaps in the direct object position (Beltrama, 2013; Borer, 1984; Sells, 1984; Shlonsky, 1992). In contrast with this dichotomy, Ariel (1990, 1999) maintains that resumption has a processing function cross-linguistically and proposes to capture the difference between grammaticized and intrusive resumptive languages by assuming that languages form a continuum.

I will begin my talk by discussing the findings of three studies which examined the status of direct object resumption in Hebrew (Farbi et al., 2010; Meltzer-Asscher, Fadlon, Goldstein and Holan, 2015; Meltzer-Asscher and Glaserman, submitted). The results of these studies indicate that resumption has an adverse effect on acceptability across structures, presumably reflecting a processing cost. Further, they also indicate that the severity of its detrimental effect is modulated by the complexity of the filler-gap dependency. This suggests, in line with Ariel (1990, 1999) that direct object resumption in Hebrew has a processing function. The picture that emerges from these studies is that RPs are characterized by a hindering-facilitating duality.

Next I’ll present preliminary results from an ongoing cross-modal lexical priming study designed to tap into the on-line integration of resumptives into the parse (Fadlon, Goldstein, and Meltzer-Asscher, in preparation). Results of this study indicate that the integration of a direct object resumptive: (a) Hinders speakers' processing, as reflected by their overall response times (b) Induces a reactivation of the filler at a point of the derivation where a gap/trace no longer does. I will propose that this newly observed performance pattern can be viewed as the online manifestation of the duality described above.

I will end my talk with a suggestion as to why intuitions about the facilitating effect of resumptives were not often reinforced in the literature. I propose that while these intuitions are warranted, many studies have attempted to probe the facilitating nature of resumption by focusing on a task in which the hindering aspect of resumption may overpower its facilitating aspect, namely, comprehension via an acceptability rating task.

In contrast, studies have consistently observed that speakers produce RPs in challenging environments (Ferreira and Swets, 2005; Kroch, 1981; Morgan and Wagers, in revision; Polinsky et al., 2014). Adopting Han et al.’s (2012) analysis of the processing difficulties associated with resumption, I will present a preliminary hypothesis which suggests that producers of filler-gap dependencies are less susceptible to it. Finally, if time allows, I will describe the first in a series of planned production studies (Fadlon, Morgan, Meltzer-Asscher and V. Ferreira, in progress) designed to probe the contextual and functional considerations which prompt Hebrew speakers to produce resumptives in direct object position.


Location: Building 403 Room 101