Processing A Language without Inflections: A Reaction Time Study of Sentence Interpretation in Chinese

Ping Li, Elizabeth Bates, Brian MacWhinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

87 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Chinese is well-known for its impoverished system of grammatical morphology. This study examines how, in the absence of inflections, Chinese speakers employ other types of cues in real-time sentence interpretation. A reaction time technique was designed to tap into the role of word order, noun animacy, the object marker ba, the passive marker bei, and the indefinite marker yi. Results show the following hierarchy of cue strengths in Chinese: passive marker bei > animacy > word order > object marker ba > indefinite marker yi. The fact that the semimorphological markers (ba and bei) are intercepted by semantic (noun animacy) and syntactic (word order) cues in this strength hierarchy shows that cues are not necessarily grouped together by linguistic type (e.g., morphology > order vs order > morphology). Complex interactions among cue types were observed in both the decision and the reaction time data, reflecting principles of competition and convergence. These findings are compatible with interactive activation models of sentence processing (e.g., the Competition Model), while posing problems for models that assume a modular architecture in which morphological, semantic, and syntactic sources of information are insulated from one another at various points in parsing and interpretation. Finally, reaction time data reveal aspects of processing that are often not available in results from choice response measures, attesting to the usefulness of reaction time studies at the sentence level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

Fingerprint

Time and motion study
Time and Motion Studies
Reaction Time
Cues
Language
Syntactics
interpretation
Processing
language
Semantics
Linguistics
semantics
Chemical activation
source of information
activation
time
Inflection
linguistics
interaction
Animacy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

Cite this

Li, Ping ; Bates, Elizabeth ; MacWhinney, Brian. / Processing A Language without Inflections : A Reaction Time Study of Sentence Interpretation in Chinese. In: Journal of Memory and Language. 1993 ; Vol. 32, No. 2. pp. 169-192.
@article{643058885bc843ef8280b3a951b5cc69,
title = "Processing A Language without Inflections: A Reaction Time Study of Sentence Interpretation in Chinese",
abstract = "Chinese is well-known for its impoverished system of grammatical morphology. This study examines how, in the absence of inflections, Chinese speakers employ other types of cues in real-time sentence interpretation. A reaction time technique was designed to tap into the role of word order, noun animacy, the object marker ba, the passive marker bei, and the indefinite marker yi. Results show the following hierarchy of cue strengths in Chinese: passive marker bei > animacy > word order > object marker ba > indefinite marker yi. The fact that the semimorphological markers (ba and bei) are intercepted by semantic (noun animacy) and syntactic (word order) cues in this strength hierarchy shows that cues are not necessarily grouped together by linguistic type (e.g., morphology > order vs order > morphology). Complex interactions among cue types were observed in both the decision and the reaction time data, reflecting principles of competition and convergence. These findings are compatible with interactive activation models of sentence processing (e.g., the Competition Model), while posing problems for models that assume a modular architecture in which morphological, semantic, and syntactic sources of information are insulated from one another at various points in parsing and interpretation. Finally, reaction time data reveal aspects of processing that are often not available in results from choice response measures, attesting to the usefulness of reaction time studies at the sentence level.",
author = "Ping Li and Elizabeth Bates and Brian MacWhinney",
year = "1993",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1006/jmla.1993.1010",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "32",
pages = "169--192",
journal = "Journal of Memory and Language",
issn = "0749-596X",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "2",

}

Processing A Language without Inflections : A Reaction Time Study of Sentence Interpretation in Chinese. / Li, Ping; Bates, Elizabeth; MacWhinney, Brian.

In: Journal of Memory and Language, Vol. 32, No. 2, 01.01.1993, p. 169-192.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Processing A Language without Inflections

T2 - A Reaction Time Study of Sentence Interpretation in Chinese

AU - Li, Ping

AU - Bates, Elizabeth

AU - MacWhinney, Brian

PY - 1993/1/1

Y1 - 1993/1/1

N2 - Chinese is well-known for its impoverished system of grammatical morphology. This study examines how, in the absence of inflections, Chinese speakers employ other types of cues in real-time sentence interpretation. A reaction time technique was designed to tap into the role of word order, noun animacy, the object marker ba, the passive marker bei, and the indefinite marker yi. Results show the following hierarchy of cue strengths in Chinese: passive marker bei > animacy > word order > object marker ba > indefinite marker yi. The fact that the semimorphological markers (ba and bei) are intercepted by semantic (noun animacy) and syntactic (word order) cues in this strength hierarchy shows that cues are not necessarily grouped together by linguistic type (e.g., morphology > order vs order > morphology). Complex interactions among cue types were observed in both the decision and the reaction time data, reflecting principles of competition and convergence. These findings are compatible with interactive activation models of sentence processing (e.g., the Competition Model), while posing problems for models that assume a modular architecture in which morphological, semantic, and syntactic sources of information are insulated from one another at various points in parsing and interpretation. Finally, reaction time data reveal aspects of processing that are often not available in results from choice response measures, attesting to the usefulness of reaction time studies at the sentence level.

AB - Chinese is well-known for its impoverished system of grammatical morphology. This study examines how, in the absence of inflections, Chinese speakers employ other types of cues in real-time sentence interpretation. A reaction time technique was designed to tap into the role of word order, noun animacy, the object marker ba, the passive marker bei, and the indefinite marker yi. Results show the following hierarchy of cue strengths in Chinese: passive marker bei > animacy > word order > object marker ba > indefinite marker yi. The fact that the semimorphological markers (ba and bei) are intercepted by semantic (noun animacy) and syntactic (word order) cues in this strength hierarchy shows that cues are not necessarily grouped together by linguistic type (e.g., morphology > order vs order > morphology). Complex interactions among cue types were observed in both the decision and the reaction time data, reflecting principles of competition and convergence. These findings are compatible with interactive activation models of sentence processing (e.g., the Competition Model), while posing problems for models that assume a modular architecture in which morphological, semantic, and syntactic sources of information are insulated from one another at various points in parsing and interpretation. Finally, reaction time data reveal aspects of processing that are often not available in results from choice response measures, attesting to the usefulness of reaction time studies at the sentence level.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0000607722&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0000607722&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1006/jmla.1993.1010

DO - 10.1006/jmla.1993.1010

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:0000607722

VL - 32

SP - 169

EP - 192

JO - Journal of Memory and Language

JF - Journal of Memory and Language

SN - 0749-596X

IS - 2

ER -