TITLE: Constraining pronominal reference in real-time

ABSTRACT: Experimental research has consistently shown that the grammatical knowledge reflected in (e.g.) the Binding Theory guides real-time pronoun interpretation, albeit perhaps in a defeasible fashion. Evidence for this conclusion comes from a range of experimental evidence that comprehenders selectively activate grammatically-licit antecedents when processing pronouns and anaphors. But what are the mechanisms by which comprehenders arrive at these grammatically constrained interpretations? And what is the relationship that these mechanisms bear to offline grammatical knowledge and/or language production? 

One clue to these answers comes from offline studies of how pronouns are interpreted under ambiguity. Studies of this sort emphasize the fact that pronoun interpretation is a mixture of bottom-up and top-down processes (e.g. Rohde & Kehler, 2019). In this talk I hope to show that this perspective offers a useful framework for thinking about how structural constraints on coreference enter into the real-time comprehension of pronouns and anaphors. Using Principle B effects as a test case, I will survey a number of experimental studies done with our research group here at UMass and collaborators at the University of Toronto that illustrate how top-down and bottom-up pronoun resolution processes jointly contribute to grammatically constrained reference in the course of real-time language processing.


The talk will be followed by a reception from 5:00-6:00pm in the Linguistics Department Library