All Publications

  • Rational Sentence Interpretation in Mandarin Chinese. Cognitive science Zhan, M., Chen, S., Levy, R., Lu, J., Gibson, E. 2023; 47 (12): e13383


    Previous work has shown that English native speakers interpret sentences as predicted by a noisy-channel model: They integrate both the real-world plausibility of the meaning-the prior-and the likelihood that the intended sentence may be corrupted into the perceived sentence. In this study, we test the noisy-channel model in Mandarin Chinese, a language taxonomically different from English. We present native Mandarin speakers sentences in a written modality (Experiment 1) and an auditory modality (Experiment 2) in three pairs of syntactic alternations. The critical materials are literally implausible but require differing numbers and types of edits in order to form more plausible sentences. Each sentence is followed by a comprehension question that allows us to infer whether the speakers interpreted the item literally, or made an inference toward a more likely meaning. Similar to previous research on related English constructions, Mandarin participants made the most inferences for implausible materials that could be inferred as plausible by deleting a single morpheme or inserting a single morpheme. Participants were less likely to infer a plausible meaning for materials that could be inferred as plausible by making an exchange across a preposition. And participants were least likely to infer a plausible meaning for materials that could be inferred as plausible by making an exchange across a main verb. Moreover, we found more inferences in written materials than spoken materials, possibly a result of a lack of word boundaries in written Chinese. Overall, the fact that the results were so similar to those found in related constructions in English suggests that the noisy-channel proposal is robust.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cogs.13383

    View details for PubMedID 38073607

  • The Puzzle of Argument Structure Mismatch in Gapping. Frontiers in psychology Lu, J., Kim, N. 2022; 13: 907823


    Voice mismatch between conjuncts is impossible in the gapping construction. Some recent studies explained this effect by analyzing gapping as involving the ellipsis of a category at least as large as VoiceP. One prediction this analysis makes is that mismatch of any head structurally lower than Voice (e.g., little v) should not be possible in gapping. In this study, through a series of acceptability judgment experiments examining argument structure mismatches in gapping, we provide empirical observations that challenge this prediction.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.907823

    View details for PubMedID 35719600

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9205392

  • Island-sensitivity of two different interpretations of why in Chinese. Frontiers in psychology Kim, N., Li, Z., Lu, J. 2022; 13: 1059823


    It has been assumed that the wh-element weishenme "why" in Chinese has two distinct interpretations: a reason reading, which typically yields yinwei "because"-answers, and a purpose reading, which typically triggers weile "in order to"-answers. It is claimed that the two interpretations differ in island sensitivity: the reason weishenme is sensitive to islands while the purpose weishenme is not. Assuming that the reason weishenme is a wh-adverb without finer internal structure, while the purpose weishenme is a wh-PP consisting of the preposition wei "for" and a wh-DP shenme "what," this contrast in island sensitivity can be considered as an instance of a broader generalization: the so-called argument-adjunct asymmetry (or the DP-adverb asymmetry) of wh-in-situ island sensitivity. However, recent experimental studies provided mixed findings on whether the argument-adjunct asymmetry of wh-in-situ island sensitivity actually holds. The current study focuses on the two interpretations of weishenme "why/for what" in Chinese, and provides evidence using a formal acceptability judgment experiment that the two weishenmes are both sensitive to islands, contrary to previous generalizations. Our results provide further empirical challenge to the so-called argument-adjunct asymmetry of wh-in-situ island sensitivity.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1059823

    View details for PubMedID 36743595