November 18, 2015

Guest speaker: Marcus Maia (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

Our department is very pleased to welcome Marcus Maia, who is currently an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994 and has worked on a range of topics and languages, including psycholinguistics, syntax, Spanish, Portuguese, and the indigenous languages of Brazil.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Linguistics are co-hosting a talk of his on Friday, November 27, at 3:30 PM sharp in SS 560A. It will be followed by a reception in our department lounge.

"The processing of embedded and coordinated PPs in Karaja and in Brazilian Portuguese: Eye-tracking evidence."

As much as there is a vast literature on the processing cost of long distance dependencies between sentences, not much has been written on the on-line processing of locally embedded phrases. In the present work we structured a set of comparative tests between a series of embedded PPs (Prepositional/Postpositional Phrases) and coordinated ones, in Brazilian Portuguese and in the Brazilian indigenous language Karajá (Macro-Jê). Our hypothesis was that, even at short distance, embedded structures would still be more costly computationally than the coordinated ones. We will start by reporting oral/sentence picture matching experiments run with Karaja and Brazilian Portuguese subjects (Maia, França, Lage, Gesualdi, Oliveira, Soto & Gomes, to appear). We will then present a new eye-tracking study with Brazilian Portuguese and Karaja subjects (Maia, to appear) to argue that a basic cognitive efficiency process is at play in the computation of multiply embedded PP constructions, accounting for the experimental results obtained. We conclude that recursion is the result of a syntactic algorithm that is costly to be launched, but once it is established, it undergoes habituation and does not pose any extra significant effort to the system.

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