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Title: The process of changing reference in simple texts
Author: Nelson, Alexander William Robb
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1992
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The thesis investigates the link between memory and the construction of representations of individuals by studying referential change. The issue of how properties of individuals are represented as belonging to one and the same individual in memory is considered, and the processing of simple descriptions of pairs of individuals is considered in relation to this issue. Previous work has shown that referentially predictable descriptions of individuals impose no cost when attention switched between individuals. This investigation shows that when texts are referentially unpredictable, switching reference does cost time and that the two individuals are treated symmetrically. Recall analysis supports this and suggests that subjects focus on one of the individuals more than the other. This is explained by assuming that subjects encode simple surface characteristics which allow them to infer the pattern of attribute binding described by a text. When this mapping from surface order to semantics is disrupted by the introduction of unpredictability, subjects respond by treating the individuals asymmetrically which restores the mapping. It is proposed that this use of surface information is a general feature of language processing. Work on parallel function in pronoun comprehension is a closely related issue and some work had already addressed the issue of surface information effects. Therefore an investigation of parallelism in pronoun comprehension was carried out which revealed effects of surface information along with effects of grammatical parallelism which interacted with animacy and sentence structure. The investigation of switching reference also revealed word length effects which were interpreted as speech-based memory effects. Further investigations of these effects showed that they were not interfered with by articulatory suppression which contradicts interpretations of similar effects reported in the immediate serial list recall literature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available