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Similarity effects in grammatical agreement as the signature of a cue-based memory system for sentences

Guest lecture by Julie Franck, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Info about event


Tuesday 30 May 2023,  at 10:15 - 11:30


Jens Chr. Skous vej 4, bygn. 1481 lokale 324


Anne Mette Nyvad and Ken Ramshøj Christensen

Cross-linguistic evidence shows that subject-verb agreement is occasionally realized with an element that is not the subject, giving rise to ‘attraction’ errors. These errors typically arise when the interfering element (the 'attractor') linearly intervenes between the subject and the verb. However, they also occur when the subject and the verb are non-adjacent, although under precise structural conditions. In this talk, I will first survey the literature on attraction and suggest that the semantic, morphological and even syntactic similarity between the subject and the attractor is a key factor modulating error rates in sentence production and comprehension. Interestingly, similarity-based interference is the signature of cue-based memory systems. I will then report experimental evidence based on the Speed-Accuracy trade-off procedure suggesting that modulations of attraction due to the structural position of the attractor in the sentence align with variations in the parameters of memory retrieval (accessibility and dynamics), leading to the tentative conclusion that the theory of grammar is, in fact, a theory of memory.


Participation is open to everybody.

The event is financed by SCC’s research programme for Language, Linguistics, and Cognition in coorporation with the Sapere Aude research project At the Edge of Language - An Investigation into the Limits of Human Grammar