Processing relative clause extractions in Swedish

Damon Tutunjian, Fredrik Heinat, Eva Klingvall, Anna-Lena Wiklund

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Relative clauses are considered strong islands for extraction across languages. Swedish comprises a well-known exception, allegedly allowing extraction from relative clauses (RCE), raising the possibility that island constraints may be subject to "deep variation" between languages. One alternative is that such exceptions are only illusory and represent "surface variation" attributable to independently motivated syntactic properties. Yet, to date, no surface account has proven tenable for Swedish RCEs. The present study uses eyetracking while reading to test whether the apparent acceptability of Swedish RCEs has any processing correlates at the point of filler integration compared to uncontroversial strong island violations. Experiment 1 tests RCE against licit that-clause extraction (TCE), illicit extraction from a non-restrictive RC island (NRCE), and an intransitive control. For this, RCE was found to pattern similarly to TCE at the point of integration in early measures, but between TCE and NRCE in total durations. Experiment 2 uses RCE and extraction from a subject NP island (SRCE) to test the hypothesis that only non-islands will show effects of implausible filler-verb dependencies. RCE showed sensitivity to the plausibility manipulation across measures at the first potential point of filler integration, whereas such effec.ts were limited to late measures for SRCE. In addition, structural facilitation was seen across measures for RCE relative to SRCE. We propose that our results are compatible with RCEs being licit weak island extractions in Swedish, and that the overall picture speaks in favor of a surface rather than a deep variation approach to the lack of island effects in Swedish RCEs
Original languageEnglish
Article number2118
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 7

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


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