Engaging long and short term memory during anaphor comprehension.
This research investigates how memory representations are activated and associated when
making inferences in language, and in particular during the comprehension of anaphors
(Le. co-referring expressions). Experiments 1 to 6 investigate 'do it' comprehension (e.g.
John bought a newspaper. He did it while the others were out). Experiments 1 and 2 (offline
sentence-completion tasks) show that 'do it' processing is sensitive to both NPs (a
newspaper) and VPs (bought a newspaper) in the preceding context, and to specific
lexical properties of the preceding NPs. With similar tasks, Experiments 3 and 4 show that
the interpretation of an ambiguous 'do it' expression is influence by (two particular)
properties of the linguistic context in which it is found. Experiment 5 (a reading-time
study) suggests that 'do it' processing initially targets preceding NPs (and then only
subsequently, preceding VPs), and Experiment 6 (an off-line grarnmaticality judgement
task) shows that the 'do it' expression is a semantically divisible construction (i.e. 'do' +
'in, rather than an 'idiomatic' expression (Le. a semantically non-divisible 'do it').
In this way, Experiments 1 to 6 investigate how the referent of an anaphor is selected from
the short term memory (STM) representation of a discourse. Experiments 7 to 11 however
suggest that anaphor comprehension may also target the Mental Lexicon, a long term
memory (LTM) store. From four on-line probe recognition tasks, (Experiments 8 to 11),
and a lexical naming pre-test of the materials (Experiment 7), we find evidence to suggest
that when an anaphor is processed, the meaning of the referent may be activated in some
long-term linguistic storehouse of words (Le. similar in character to the Mental Lexicon).