Principle B constrains the processing of cataphora: Evidence for syntactic and discourse predictions

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Description: We tested whether comprehenders can use Binding Principle B (Chomsky, 1981) to guide antecedent search during the processing of cataphoric pronouns. We implemented two self-paced reading experiments using the gender mismatch paradigm (van Gompel & Liversedge, 2003) as an index of active prediction of coreference between a cataphor and a main clause subject. In both experiments, we find gender mismatch effects at the main clause subject when coreference with the cataphor is grammatically acceptable. We do not find comparable gender mismatch effects in conditions where coreference is ruled out by Principle B. Our results are broadly consistent with models in which grammatical constraints guide active referential processing in comprehension. We illustrate how such the parser integrates syntactic and discourse-level information to achieve grammatical sensitivity during incremental referential processing.

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