We report three eye-movement experiments that investigated whether alternative syntactic analyses compete during syntactic ambiguity resolution. Previous research (Traxler et al., 1998 and Van Gompel et al., 2001) has shown that globally ambiguous sentences are easier to process than disambiguated sentences, suggesting that competition does not explain processing difficulty. However, the disambiguation in these studies was delayed relative to the initial point of ambiguity, so they do not rule out models which claim that competition is very short-lasting. The current experiments show that globally ambiguous sentences are easier to process than disambiguated sentences even when the disambiguation is immediate. Furthermore, globally ambiguous sentences are no harder to process than syntactically unambiguous sentences. We argue that the results are inconsistent with currently implemented constraint-based competition models, and support variable-choice reanalysis models such as the unrestricted race model.
van-Gompel, R. P. G., Pickering, M. J., Pearson, J., & Liversedge, S. P. (2005). Evidence against competition during syntactic ambiguity resolution. Journal of Memory and Language, 52(2), 284-307. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2004.11.003