Experimental Syntax: exploring the effect of repeated exposure to anomalous syntactic structure --evidence from rating and reading tasks
AuthorFrancom, Jerid Cole
KeywordsAcceptability Judgment Task
AdvisorNicol, Janet L.
Committee ChairNicol, Janet L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis thesis explores the nature of linguistic introspection through the phenomenon known in the literature as the Syntactic Satiation Effect, where the perceived unacceptability of some syntactic structures is attenuated on repeated exposure. Recent findings suggest that rating change in experimental settings may not reveal the underlying grammatical status of syntactic objects by mitigating performance factors related to memory limitations, as initially proposed, but rather arise as a response bias conditioned by characteristics of some experimental designs, in effect introducing task-based performance factors. Findings from rating and reading times suggest that there is evidence supporting both accounts of rating change in experimental designs and highlights areas of development for the Experimental Syntax program. Exploring anecdotal reports, Snyder (2000) found that in as few as five exposures, participants found some types of wh-extraction anomaly (‘weak Islands’) significantly more acceptable at the end of the session compared to the beginning whereas others (‘strong Islands’) did not experience any rating improvement. Varied success in replicating initial results casts doubts on the proposal that rating data, experimentally elicited, can tease apart grammatical from performance sources of unacceptability. Sprouse (2009) suggests an alternative –Satiation arises as an artifact of a disproportionate number of ungrammatical to grammatical sentences in the testing session. This approach provides an explanation for the apparent mismatch in findings, but also highlights issues regarding the advances of experimental syntax: do experimental methods provide better data or do aspects of some designs systematically introduce extraneous influences themselves? Evidence from three rating and two self-paced reading tasks suggests that although robust evidence supporting the memory-based claim is not found, evidence that Satiation is strictly task-based is not substantiated either; sentences that satiate are similar across experiments. A novel observation is made that satiating sentences are also more readily interpretable than non-satiating sentences – providing some explanation for the apparent mismatch between Satiation studies, and also points to another source of variability associated with experimental approaches to linguistic intuition. In sum, evidence here underlines the composite nature of introspection, points areas of refinement for experimental techniques and advocates for the adoption of cross-methodological procedures to enhance syntactic investigation.