Is passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from adult grammaticality judgment and comprehension studies

Ambridge, B, Bidgood, A ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9719-4256, Pine, JM, Rowland, CF and Freudenthal, D 2015, 'Is passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from adult grammaticality judgment and comprehension studies' , Cognitive Science, 40 (6) , pp. 1435-1459.

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Abstract

To explain the phenomenon that certain English verbs resist passivization (e.g., *£5 was cost by the book), Pinker (1989) proposed a semantic constraint on the passive in the adult grammar: The greater the extent to which a verb denotes an action where a patient is affected or acted upon, the greater the extent to which it is compatible with the passive. However, a number of comprehension and production priming studies have cast doubt upon this claim, finding no difference between highly affecting agent-patient/theme-experiencer passives (e.g., Wendy was kicked/frightened by Bob) and non-actional experiencer theme passives (e.g., Wendy was heard by Bob). The present study provides evidence that a semantic constraint is psychologically real, and is readily observed when more fine-grained independent and dependent measures are used (i.e., participant ratings of verb semantics, graded grammaticality judgments, and reaction time in a forced-choice picture-matching comprehension task). We conclude that a semantic constraint on the passive must be incorporated into accounts of the adult grammar.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Journal or Publication Title: Cognitive Science
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0364-0213
Related URLs:
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Leverhulme Trust
Depositing User: A Bidgood
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2018 11:47
Last Modified: 08 May 2019 15:02
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/48324

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