LingLang Lunch (2/26/2014): Jeff Runner (University of Rochester)

Binding constraints on processing: pronouns are harder than reflexives (In collaboration with Kellan Head, Teach For America, and Kim Morse, University of Rochester)

In this talk I will present the results of a visual world eye-tracking experiment designed to test two claims in the literature: (a) that the binding theory is a set of “linked” constraints as in the classic binding theory (Chomsky 1981) and HPSG’s binding theory (Sag, Wasow & Bender 2003); and (b) that the binding theory applies as an initial filter on processing (Nicol & Swinney 1989, Sturt 2003). Our results instead support two different claims: (a) that the constraint(s) on pronouns and the constraint(s) on reflexives are separate constraints that apply differently and with different timelines, in line with “primitives of binding” theory, Reuland (2001, 2011); and (b) that neither constraint applies as an initial filter on processing, as in Badecker & Straub (2001). In particular the results show clearly that the resolution of the appropriate antecedent for pronouns is delayed compared to that of reflexives. This project started as an examination of the on-line effects of the constraints of the binding theory, developing an approach based on Nicol & Swinney 1989, Badecker & Straub 2001, and Sturt 2003. Recent work, however, implicates the critical role of memory access in reflexive interpretation (Dillon et al. 2013). Thus, I will also try to relate the current results to current models of memory access.