Building and accessing clausal representations: The advantage of first mention versus the advantage of clause recency

Morton Ann Gernsbacher*, David J. Hargreaves, Mark Beeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated two seemingly contradictory phenomena: the Advantage of the First-Mentioned Participant (participants mentioned first in a sentence are more accessible than participants mentioned second) and the Advantage of the Most Recent Clause (concepts mentioned in the most recent clause are more accessible than concepts mentioned in an earlier clause). We resolved this contradiction by measuring how quickly comprehenders accessed participants mentioned in the first versus second clauses of two-clause sentences. Our data supported the following hypotheses: Comprehenders represent each clause of a two-clause sentence in its own mental substructure. Comprehenders have greatest access to information in the substructure that they are currently developing; that is, they have greatest access to the most recent clause. However, at some point, the first clause becomes more accessible because the substructure representing the first clause of a two-clause sentence serves as a foundation for the whole sentence-level representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-755
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume28
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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