ID de réunion : 928 9736 4948
Mot de passe : 765186
A Verb-frame Frequency Account of Constraints on Long-Distance Dependencies in English
Going back to Ross (1967) and Chomsky (1973), researchers have sought to understand what conditions permit long-distance dependencies in language, such as between the wh-word what and the object of the verb bought in the sentence ‘What did John think that Mary bought?’. In the present work, we attempt to understand why changing the main verb in wh-questions affects the acceptability of long-distance dependencies out of embedded clauses. In particular, it has been claimed that factive and manner-of-speaking verbs block such dependencies (e.g., ‘What did John know/whisper that Mary bought?’), whereas verbs like think and believe allow them. Here we provide 3 acceptability judgment experiments of filler-gap constructions across embedded clauses to evaluate four types of accounts based on (1) discourse; (2) syntax; (3) semantics; and (4) our proposal of verb-frame frequency. When analyzed using ordinal or logistic regressions, we see no evidence of interactions between verb-frame frequency and construction type (wh-question or cleft vs. declarative), and hence we see no evidence of an independent factor that predicts acceptability degradation. The results are most simply explained by two factors: verb-frame frequency, such that verbs that rarely take embedded clauses are less acceptable; and construction type, such that wh-questions and clefts are less acceptable than declaratives. We conclude that the low acceptability of filler-gap constructions formed by certain SC verbs is due to low linguistic exposure. In addition, we observe that the wide application of linear models to Likert scale rating data in many previous island studies can sometimes lead to false positives - spurious syntactic “island” effects.