The processing of it object relative clauses: Evidence against a fine-grained frequency account

Paul M. Heider, Jeruen E. Dery, Douglas Roland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Reali and Christiansen (2007a) found that pronominal object relative clauses were easier to process than analogous subject relative clauses, except when the pronoun is it. They attributed this to it occurring more frequently in subject relatives than in object relatives, while the opposite was true for the other pronouns. We find that their it relative clause processing result was due to a garden path like effect caused by participants misinterpreting the referent of the grammatical subject of the sentence containing the relative clause, rather than any inherent properties of the relative clause itself. We also find that when reduced object relative clauses are taken into account, it occurs more frequently in object relative clauses than subject relative clauses. Our results are broadly consistent with expectation-based accounts of processing, but not with a fine-grained account that would predict different behavior for reduced and unreduced object relative clauses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-76
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Constraint-based approach
  • Corpus analysis
  • Discourse
  • Relative clause
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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