Matthew Wagers, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of California - Santa Cruz, will give a presentation titled "Accessibility and Timing" on Friday, October 23, from 4-6 PM.
Subject relative clauses are generally easier to comprehend than non-subject relative clauses. This subject gap advantage (SGA) is a fact that grounded, conjecturally, Keenan & Comrie (1977)’s Accessibility Hierarchy and one which has been extensively investigated (e.g., Kwon, Lee, Gordon, Kluender & Polinsky, 2010). In recent years a new generation of studies has challenged or re-characterized the SGA by incorporating data from language users whose grammars provide better resources for disentangling competing theories, and who are not typically included in psycholinguistic experiments. This has certainly resulted in a more nuanced understanding of the SGA and relative clause processing. But more than that, it has also mapped out new topics, such as the processing of verb-initial clauses or ergative-absolutive case systems. In the first part of the talk, I will tour this new state-of-the-art to highlight some of these emerging findings and research agendas. In the second part of the talk, I will draw on work from my own group on Chamorro and Zapotec to support the idea that the SGA is driven fundamentally by timing, that is, the order in which syntactic hypotheses are projected from partial evidence.