Processing unambiguous verbal passives in German

TitleProcessing unambiguous verbal passives in German
Publication TypeCommunication
Année de publication2016
AuthorsGrillo, Nino, Artemis Alexiadou, Berit Gehrke, Nils Hirsh, Caterina Paolazzi, and Andrea Santi
Titre de la conférenceAMLaP
Date de publication09/2017

We investigate the effect of event-structure on the processing of passivization in German. In contrastto English, German passives are unambiguously verbal or adjectival. This feature allows for the study of passivization independent of any (verbal/adjectival) ambiguity confound. Paolazzi et al. (2015 AMLaP, 2016 CUNY)showthat,contraryto broadlyheld theoreticalperspectives, passive sentences are not inherently harder to process than actives. Complexity of passivization in English is tied to the predicate event structure: with eventive predicates, passives are read faster (as previously observed in the literature) and generate no comprehension difficulties (contrary to previ ous findings with mixed predicates). Complexityeffectswith passivization areonly foundwith stative verbs. The asymmetry is claimed to stem from the adjectival/verbal ambiguity of stative passives, in English. We tested the account bylooking at the processing of unambiguous verbal-passives in German across two (event vs state) word-by-word non-cumulative self-paced-reading studies in a moving-window paradigm that manipulated syntax (active vs passive), with each sentence followed by a comprehension question. The predictionbeing thatwhen the adjectival reading is no longer available, the effects observed with English statives, should disappear. The results supported this prediction, both online and offline (active- stative: 87%, passive-stative: 88.2% correct).