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Investigating Word Order Processing Using Pupillometry and Event-Related Potentials

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:15 authored by Leigh Breakell Fernandez
This thesis focuses on the processing costs associated with understanding spoken sentences with different word orders and grammatical constructions. These types of constructions are investigated using a psychophysiological (i.e. the physiological measures that underlie psychological processing) measure known as pupillometry, and the last study employs electroencephalography (EEG). Although the unifying goal of the thesis is to examine processing costs using psychophysical measures, the scope of the thesis is quite broad, investigating the processing of several different syntactic constructions and across different populations - children, native speakers of German, native speakers of English, and highly proficient second language speakers (L2) of English. The first empirical chapter (Chapter 2) focuses on filler gap dependences and how native speakers of English and skilled second language speakers of English process these difficult syntactic constructions. It reports an empirical study that uses pupillometry to test whether second language speakers are able to process a type of filler gap dependency, known as an intermediate gap, in the same way as native speakers, and in doing so tests the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen and Felser, 2006).1.6.2 Chapter 3 & 4The third and fourth chapters focus on the processing costs associated with different word orders in German sentences, as well as the processing costs that can arise as a result of the inherent ambiguity of some of these word orders. The empirical studies examine the processing of these constructions using pupillometry with adults (Chapter 3) and children (Chapter 4) aiming to test competing theories and to validate pupillometry as an effective method for testing the processing of word order in both adults and children.1.6.3 Chapter 5Chapter 5 focuses on subject and object relative clauses and the role that animacy plays in processing these constructions in English; the empirical study uses electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the processing of these constructions. EEG measures brain activity through electrodes on the scalp, and in Chapter 5 these measurements are averaged together (and the random noise averaged out) giving us event related potentials (ERP), which provide information about brain activity in response to a stimulus (in this case object relative clause constructions). There seems to be a link between brain activity and pupil response (see for example, Aston-Jones & Cohen, 2005), and more research is needed investigating pupil change in relation to brain activity. Chapter 5 aims to test competing processing theories of object relative constructions while manipulating animacy with the aim of a future study that will correlate ERP and pupillometry.


Table of Contents

1 Literature Review -- 2 Intermediate Gap processing & Pupillometry in L2 Speakers of English -- 3 Investigating the Processing of German Word Order in Adults -- 4 Investigating the Processing of German Word Order in Children -- 5 Exploring Animacy in Object Relative Clauses using ERP -- 6 Conclusions -- References.


Bibliography: pages 154-156 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

J. Brock

Additional Supervisor 1

L. Nickels

Additional Supervisor 2

B. Hohle


Copyright Leigh Breakell Fernandez 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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