ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year

Spring 2024



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics



First Advisor

Jeffrey Witzel


This dissertation explores the differences in the real-time processing of long-distance dependencies and how the processing of these dependencies functions within a cue-based retrieval model. During subject-verb agreement (SVA) comprehension, the processing of the verb is influenced by attractor noun phrases (NPs) that cannot control agreement. Referential dependencies, however, are less susceptible to such attraction effects. Many studies examining ungrammatical sentences in which a reflexive or pronoun mismatches with its antecedent in number/gender have indicated that the processing of these referentially dependent elements is largely uninfluenced by grammatically unavailable attractor NPs. These disparities have been taken to indicate that SVA and referential dependencies engage qualitatively different processing procedures. Recent research, however, has shown that when a reflexive and its antecedent mismatch on two features, grammatically unavailable antecedents can give rise to attraction effects. These findings have been interpreted to indicate that dependency processing engages a common cue-based retrieval system, but that different weightings are assigned to syntactic cues based on the elements involved. Additionally, syntactic cue weightings may relate to the predictability of the dependency, with these cues weighted more heavily for unpredictable dependencies (e.g., reflexives) than for predictable ones (e.g., SVA). The present study uses two bidirectional self-paced reading experiments to investigate this retrieval-based model by examining whether attraction effects for pronouns –an unpredictable referential dependency – are comparably modulated by the degree of the mismatch with the antecedent. The results for both experiments showed reliable processing difficulty for ungrammatical sentences at and immediately after the pronoun, with no attenuation of this difficulty in sentences with matching attractors. That is, the processing of pronouns was not susceptible to attraction effects, even in cases of severe mismatch with the antecedent. These findings indicate a clear difference in processing of pronouns and reflexives even though both introduce unpredictable referential dependencies.


Psycholinguistics; Sentence Processing; Pronouns; Attraction Effects


Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics



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