Kaiser, Elsi

Email Address
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Research Interests

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 3 of 3
  • Publication
    Semantic Effects on Pronouns and Reflexives in Picture-NPs: Similarities and Differences
    (2012-05-01) Kaiser, Elsi; Do, Monica
    Research on Binding Theory shows that the syntactically-conditioned complementarity normally exhibited by pronouns and reflexives breaks down in certain syntactic environments, including possessorless picture-NPs (e.g. picture of {her/herself}). We report two psycholinguistic experiments which investigate what kinds of factors influence how pronouns and reflexives in picture-NPs are interpreted, given that their antecedents are not determined by Binding Theory. The results show that the interpretation of pronouns and reflexives in picture-NPs is governed by multiple factors. On the one hand, we corroborated the results of prior work which found that pronouns and reflexives are subject to opposing syntactic and semantic biases (Kaiser et al. 2009). However, on other hand, we provide evidence of shared biases: Both pronouns and reflexives dislike referentially underspecified antecedents, namely the indefinite existential ‘someone’ and wh-expressions. This pattern seems to fit well with claims that both forms prefer to pick out the antecedent whose point-of-view is being represented (Kuno 1987, Tenny 2003), assuming that referentially underspecified antecedents are not good point-of-view anchors
  • Publication
    Is There a Difference between ‘You’ and ‘I’? A Psycholinguistic Investigation of the Chinese Reflexive Ziji
    (2012-05-01) He, Xiao; Kaiser, Elsi
    We report two experiments examining first/second-person blocking effects on the Chinese long-distance reflexive ziji during on-line processing. Participants read sentences with varying matrix and embedded subjects (Exp1: 1st-person pronoun/3rd-person name; Exp2: 2nd-person pronoun/3rd-person name) and answered comprehension questions probing their interpretations of ziji. Work on English found that structurally inaccessible referents can cause competition at the reflexive, indicated by reading-time slowdowns (Badecker and Straub 2002). In Exp1, the 1st-person blocking condition (3rd-person matrix/1st-person embedded) exhibited slowdowns and a higher-than-expected rate of matrix-subject-interpretations, suggesting 1st-person blocking is not consistently effective. However, the subset of trials with effective blocking (local-antecedent interpretations) revealed no slowdowns. In Exp2, the 2nd-person blocking condition (3rd-person matrix/2nd-person embedded) showed consistent blocking and no significant slowdowns. Our results suggest that referents’ ability to compete depends not only on prominence (Badecker and Straub 2002) but also how it is blocked (person-feature vs. syntactic barrier). Building upon Brunyé et al.’s (2009) finding that 2nd-person pronouns are more effective at triggering perspective-taking than 1st-person pronouns, we suggest that the difference between first- and second- person blocking may be attributable to perspective taking: Identifying with the 2nd-person addressee leads comprehenders to more consistently interpret the reflexive as referring to the local 2nd-person subject, resulting in a consistent blocking effect.
  • Publication
    Looking Back and Looking Forward: Anaphora and Cataphora in Italian
    (2014-01-01) Fedele, Emily; Kaiser, Elsi
    Pronoun interpretation is central for comprehension. Prior work focused mostly on anaphora, where pronouns refer to previously-mentioned antecedents. Less research is on cataphora, where antecedents follow pronouns. Existing work suggests cataphora triggers an active-search mechanism: The parser actively searchers for a syntactically-licenses antecedent. Our results on Italian null and overt subject pronouns show that both processing constraints (“impatient parser”) and the grammatical properties of referring expressions contribute to the outcome of reference resolution; parsers try to “discharge” unresolved pronouns when encountered first (i.e., cataphora) due to a processing load of keeping an unresolved pronoun in memory, even if this goes against grammar specific properties. Furthermore, in line with related research, we find that strong grammatical principles (Binding Theory) are powerful enough to “block” processing effects, contributing to our view of how different components of language processing interact.