Participant roles and the processing of verbs during sentence comprehension

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This paper explores the nature of thematic information made available when a verb is accessed during sentence comprehension. Following Shapiro, Zurif, and Grimshaw (1987), a cross-modal lexical decision (interference) task was employed to examine whether either the number of argument structures or the number of participant (thematic) roles inherent in a verb cause an increase in processing load upon access of the verb. It was determined that there was no evidence for such an increased processing load covarying with the number of argument structures of the verb, at least for those verb types examined in this study. However, there was an increase in processing load as a direct function of the number of participant roles carried by the verb. It is concluded that the participant roles (thematic roles associated with the central meaning of the verb) are stored with the representation of a verb and are made immediately, available upon access of the verb for further processing during comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-547
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)

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