The role of conceptual accessibility on word order alternations in French: Evidence from sentence recall Complement order

Abstract : Previous studies show that errors in sentence recall reflect a preference to produce more conceptually accessible DPs earlier in a sentence (for example, animates before inanimates). However, there is a debate as to the stage of sentence production at which accessibility plays a role. Models of sentence production (Levelt et al. 1999) have proposed separate stages for the assignment of lexical items to grammatical roles and for the linear ordering of constituents. Some studies have found evidence for an accessibility effect in grammatical assignment only (Bock & Warren 1985, Tanaka 2011), and some for both levels (see Branigan et al. 2007). We studied the recall of 3 sentence types in French: voice alternations (1), coordinated DPs (2), and ditransitives (3). French does not have an English-type dative alternation, but postverbal ditransitives arguments may have NP-PP or PP-NP order (NP-PP order is considered to be canonical based on corpus evidence (Thuilier 2012)). Preliminary results show that for transitives (N=30), speakers were more likely to produce passive-to-active inversions that avoided an inanimate argument in subject position (39% of acceptable recalls) than when both arguments were animate (11.4%, p<.01). No significant differences were found based on animacy for inversions in coordinations (N=32). Ditransitives (N=33) did not show a preference for ordering animate arguments before inanimates. In fact, there was an interaction (p<.01) such that ditransitives with inanimate themes had the most inversions from PP-NP to NP-PP order (22%) and the least inversions from NP-PP to PP-NP (4.5%). Our results for transitives and coordinations support a role for animacy in grammatical role assignment but not for linear order. The ditransitive result, however, is not predicted by either view of the role of conceptual accessibility. Animacy alternatives (), order alternatives [], recall prompt < > (1) , (le voleur/le revolver) a été trouvé par le policier. 'At the end of the alley, the thief/revolver was found by the policeman.' (2) [les traîtres et (les lâches/les échecs)|(les lâches/les échecs) et les traîtres] 'This young man has always avoided traitors and cowards/failures.' (3) [(un agent commercial/un nouveau budget) à un décorateur|à un décorateur (un agent commercial/un nouveau budget).] 'The project manager assigned a commercial agent/new budget to a decorator.'
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Margaret Grant, Juliette Thuilier, Benoît Crabbé, Anne Abeillé. The role of conceptual accessibility on word order alternations in French: Evidence from sentence recall Complement order. International Workshop on Language Production, Jul 2014, Genève, Switzerland. ⟨http://www.unige.ch/fapse/iwlp2014/⟩. ⟨hal-01451790⟩

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