The processing of pronominal relative clauses: Evidence from eye movements

Douglas Roland*, Gail Mauner, Yuki Hirose

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Relative clauses have played a key role in distinguishing between different theories of language comprehension. A reversal in processing costs between full NP and pronominal relative clauses reported by Reali and Christiansen (2007) has been used to argue for expectation-based theories of comprehension (e.g., Hale, 2001; Levy, 2008), and against memory-based theories of comprehension (e.g., Gibson, 1998, 2000; Gordon, Hendrick, & Johnson, 2001; Lewis, Vasishth, & Van Dyke, 2006). We present results relying on eye-movements during reading, in conjunction with modeling of differences between self-paced reading and eye movement data, to argue that the results observed by Reali and Christiansen and others are due to the self-paced reading paradigm, and do not reflect an actual reversal in processing costs. Overall, our results suggest that a combination of memory-based factors and spillover explains the pattern of reading times observed in various relative clause experiments such as those in Reali and Christiansen (2007), and that while comprehenders’ expectations undeniably play a role in language comprehension, the role may be less dramatic than is suggested by previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104244
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug


  • English
  • Eye tracking
  • Language comprehension
  • Relative clause
  • Sentence processing
  • Spillover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'The processing of pronominal relative clauses: Evidence from eye movements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this