Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Influences on Parsing Ambiguity
by Ackerman, Lauren Marie, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2015, 343; 3741393
Abstract (Summary)

The primary goal of this dissertation is to characterize the relative strength of two of the influences on the parser’s behavior during ambiguity resolution: coreference dependency formation and verb frame preference. I find that coreference dependency formation exerts a stronger influence on the parser than does verb frame preference, even when verb frame preference is maximized in transitively biased frames.

Previous studies have shown local attachment bias initially directs the parser to an embedded object analysis in sentences like (1), in which the DP Annie’s melody is locally ambiguous between the embedded object (EO)/matrix subject (MS) analyses (Ferreira and Henderson, 1990).

(1) Whenever she was trying to casually hum Annie’s melody was beautiful.

Additionally, (1) contains a cataphoric pronoun she which triggers an active search for an antecedent, whereby the parser seeks the antecedent only in grammatically sanctioned positions, such as where the antecedent is not c-commanded by the pronoun (Kazanina et al., 2007; van Gompel and Liversedge, 2003). In (1), the closest potential antecedent is Annie. However, it can be the antecedent only if the DP that contains it is analyzed as the MS, thus outside the whenever-clause and not c-commanded by she. A bias toward an early cataphoric dependency formation could lead the parser to analyze the ambiguous DP as the MS. In (1), there is a bias toward a MS analysis from the antecedent search in addition to a bias toward the local attachment EO analysis.

I find that, regardless of the transitivity bias of the verb in the position of hums, the parser forms a dependency between the pronoun she and Annie. This indicates that dependency formation can supersede verb frame preferences and any default preference the parser may have toward local attachment (Phillips and Gibson, 1997). Moreover, I also observe effects attributable to both the MS and EO parses. This suggests that the parser builds both alternatives and maintains them in parallel. From this, I conclude that the parser prioritizes information from an ongoing dependency search over lexical properties during ambiguity resolution.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yoshida, Masaya
Commitee: Goldrick, Matthew, Kazanina, Nina
School: Northwestern University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Ambiguity, Coreference, Dependency formation, Parsing, Psycholinguistics, Sentence processing
Publication Number: 3741393
ISBN: 978-1-339-33675-6
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