Number attraction affects reanalysis in sentence processing

Katja Suckow (Lead / Corresponding author), Roger P.G. van Gompel

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Many studies have shown evidence for number attraction effects in production. Recent cross-linguistic findings suggest that number attraction can also affect comprehension of ungrammatical sentences. We present an eye-tracking experiment that investigates number attraction during recovery from garden-path sentences. The sentences contrasted locally ambiguous with unambiguous structures containing a plural or a singular attractor noun before a singular verb. Reading time data from the experiment suggest that number attraction effects occur when the processor has difficulty finding a grammatical analysis: Sentences with a local ambiguity had longer regression-path times when there was a plural number attractor than when there was a singular number attractor. The attractor number did not affect the processing of the unambiguous sentences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • eye-tracking
  • garden-path sentences
  • number attraction
  • reanalysis
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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