An investigation of 'minimalist' and 'constructionist' processing strategies in pronoun comprehension
This thesis investigated the use of 'minimal' (gender/number information, linguistic conjunction and thematic role occupancy) and 'non-minimal' information (spatial information and description type - proper name vs. role name i.e. the waiter) in the comprehension of pronouns, (McKoon and Ratcliff, 1992).Fourteen experiments were conducted. Seven experiments measured clause-by-clause reading times; seven measured frequency of reference in sentence continuation tasks. Six reading time experiments used materials pronominally unambiguous on the basis of the gender and number information. Experiments one to twelve also manipulated the spatial location of the characters (together or apart). Experiments five, six, seven, eight, eleven and twelve also manipulated noun phrase conjunction (by the use of 'and'), proposed to be a cue to plural pronoun use (Hielscher and Musseler, 1990; Sanford and Lockhart 1991). Experiment thirteen was a reading time task using pronominally ambiguous sentences. Characters' thematic roles and description type were manipulated. Experiment fourteen was a sentence continuation task version of experiment thirteen. For experiments one to twelve, the predictions were that subjects making use of a constructionist processing strategy would read plural references faster when characters were described as being together rather titan apart. In continuation tasks, it was predicted that subjects would make more plural references to characters described as being together rather than apart. In experiment thirteen it was predicted that subjects making use of a minimalist strategy would read references faster depending on the character's thematic role occupancy rather than on description type. In experiment fourteen it was predicted that subjects using a minimalist strategy would make more references to characters on the basis of thematic role occupancy rather than description type. The results did not consistently support either the minimalist or constructionist hypotheses. Subjects appeared instead to be making use of different strategies as a function of task demands. This interpretation is in line with work by Garnham et al (1992), McKoon and Ratcliff (1992), and Oakhill et al (1989).