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The roles of efficiency and complexity in the processing of verb particle constructions


Sentence processing
Word order
Verb particle
Linguistic complexity
Relative clause

How to Cite

Gonnerman L. The roles of efficiency and complexity in the processing of verb particle constructions. J. of Speech Sci. [Internet]. 2021 Feb. 3 [cited 2024 Jun. 14];2(1):3-31. Available from:


Recent theories have proposed that processing difficulty affects both individuals’ choice of grammatical structures and the distribution of these structures across languages of the world (Hawkins, 2004). Researchers have proposed that performance constraints, such as efficiency, integration, and storage costs, drive languages to choose word orders that minimize processing demands for individual speakers (Hawkins, 1994; Gibson, 2000). This study investigates how three performance factors, adjacency, dependency, and complexity, affect reading times for sentences with verb-particle constructions. Results from a self-paced reading task indicate that reading times increase with each performance factor, such that shifted sentences, more dependent verb-particle constructions, and more complex noun phrases are more difficult. More importantly, I explore the relative weightings and interactions of the performance factors. The results support the notion that processing ease affects grammaticalization, such that those structures which are more easily processed by individuals (subject relatives and adjacent dependent constituents) are also more common crosslinguistically (Keenan & Hawkins, 1987).


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Copyright (c) 2012 Laura Gonnerman


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