Past research has produced evidence that parsing commitments strengthen over the processing of additional linguistic elements that are consistent with the commitments and undoing strong commitments takes more time than undoing weak commitments. It remains unclear, however, whether this so-called digging-in effect is exclusively due to the length of an ambiguous region or at least partly to the extra cost of processing these additional phrases. The current study addressed this issue by testing Japanese relative clause structure, where lexical content and sentence meaning were controlled for. The results showed evidence for a digging-in effect reflecting the strengthened commitment to an incorrect analysis caused by the processing of additional adjuncts. Our study provides strong support for the dynamical, self-organizing models of sentence processing but poses a problem for other models including serial two-stage models as well as frequency-based probabilistic models such as the surprisal theory.
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