Two eye-tracking experiments investigated processing of VP-NP attachment ambiguities. Experiment 1 tested sentences in which there was an initial bias toward VP attachment. Readers experienced more difficulty when semantic information disambiguated the sentences to NP attachment than when it disambiguated them to VP attachment or when it was consistent with either analysis. Experiment 2 tested sentences in which there was no initial bias toward either VP or NP attachment. Readers experienced more difficulty when semantic information disambiguated the sentences to NP attachment or VP attachment than when it was consistent with either analysis. We argue that these results challenge theories that assume a competition mechanism, such as constraint-based lexicalist accounts (e.g., MacDonald, Pearlmutter, & Seidenberg, 1994; McRae, Spivey-Knowlton, & Seidenberg, 1998; Spivey-Knowlton & Sedivy, 1995) and fixed-choice two-stage models (e.g., Frazier, 1987). We interpret the results in terms of the unrestricted race model (cf. Traxler, Pickering, & Clifton, 1998).
- Sentence processing
- Syntactic ambiguity resolution