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Understanding Pronouns. Jennifer E. Arnold University of Pennsylvania. Collaborators. John C. Trueswell Janet Eisenband Sarah Brown-Schmidt Jared Novick. How are pronouns interpreted?. Sarah called Janet when she got home. SARAH. JANET. ??? she ???. Overarching research goal:.

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understanding pronouns
Understanding Pronouns

Jennifer E. Arnold

University of Pennsylvania

slide2

Collaborators

  • John C. Trueswell
  • Janet Eisenband
  • Sarah Brown-Schmidt
  • Jared Novick
how are pronouns interpreted
How are pronouns interpreted?

Sarah called Janet when she got home.

SARAH

JANET

??? she ???

overarching research goal
Overarching research goal:

What are the cognitive mechanisms underlying our ability to understand language?

 How does the human mind work?

language is ambiguous
Language is ambiguous
  • British Left Waffles On Falkland Islands
  • Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax

GLOBAL AMBIGUITY

LOCAL (TEMPORARY) AMBIGUITY

  • British
  • British left
  • British left waffles
  • British left waffles on what to do in the Falkland Islands.
pronouns are one type of ambiguity
Pronouns are one type of ambiguity

Clinton confessed to Gore when he asked for the truth.

what cognitive mechanisms underlie referent interpretation
What cognitive mechanisms underlie referent interpretation?
  • WHAT types of information are used?
  • WHEN does each source of information have an effect?
  • Cognitive Accessibility (Order of mention )
  • Gender information
cognitive accessibility
Cognitive Accessibility

Sarah called Janet. She...

SARAH

JANET

gender information
Gender Information

John called Janet. She . . .

JOHN

JANET

conflicting claims about gender
Conflicting claims about gender
  • THE “GENDER LAST” CLAIM: Gender information does not influence the first stage of pronoun interpretation.

(Garnham et al., 1992; Gernsbacher, 1989; Greene et al., 1992)

  • THE “GENDER FIRST” CLAIM: Gender guides the initial interpretation of the pronoun.

(Crawley et al., 1990; Ehrlich, 1980; Shillcock, 1982)

research question
Research Question
  • Can gender guide the initial processes of pronoun interpretation?
    • STAGE models vs. INCREMENTAL model
  • Fix problems with earlier studies
    • use spoken language
    • use a less intrusive measure
talk outline
Talk outline
  • Experiment 1
  • Experiment 2
  • How do these data inform a theory of referential processing?
stimulus design
Stimulus Design
  • 2x2 design:
    • gender (same vs. different)
    • order of mention (1st-mention vs. 2nd-mention)

Bart is taking a picture of Homer / Marge

next to the Eiffel Tower.

He’s / She’s holding a guide book

and it looks like they’re visiting Paris.

experimental design
Experimental Design
  • 16 participants
  • 16 items
  • 16 fillers
  • 3 practice
coding responses where did the subject look at each point in time
Coding responses: where did the subject look at each point in time?
  • at the TARGET?
  • at the COMPETITOR?
  • at OTHER?
predictions
Predictions
  • “GENDER-LAST”: target identification should occur easily only for first-mentioned referents
  • “GENDER-FIRST”: target identification should occur easily only in different-gender conditions
  • OR: Both Gender and Order of mention have immediate effects  target identification should occur easily in all conditions except same/ 2nd-mention
slide23

Bart is taking a picture of Marge . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide24

Bart is taking a picture of Marge . . .

She’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide25

Bart is taking a picture of Homer . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide26

Bart is taking a picture of Homer . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

eye movement results summary
Eye Movement Results summary
  • More looks to target than competitor when either gender or order-of-mention helps
  • Equal looks to target and competitor when neither helps
  • Conditions different beginning 200 ms after pronoun offset
  • Reliable by participant means and item means
exp 1 conclusions
Exp. 1 Conclusions
  • Gender information is used immediately to constrain pronoun interpretation.
  • Order-of-mention is used immediately to constrain pronoun interpretation.
experiment 2
Experiment 2

What happens when the second-mentioned character is truly inaccessible?

exp 2 stimulus design
Exp. 2: Stimulus Design

Bart is taking a picture of Homer. He’s quickly focusing the camera, making sure the Eiffel Tower is in the background. He’s holding a guide book, and it looks like they’re visiting Paris.

exp 2 cont
Exp. 2, cont.

Bart is taking a picture of Marge. He’s quickly focusing the camera, making sure the Eiffel Tower is in the background. She’s holding a guide book, and it looks like they’re visiting Paris.

slide33

Bart is taking a picture of Marge. He’s quickly focusing the camera . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide34

Bart is taking a picture of Marge. He’s quickly focusing the camera...

She’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide35

Bart is taking a picture of Homer. He’s quickly focusing the camera...

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

slide36

Bart is taking a picture of Homer. He’s quickly focusing the camera . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

eye movement results summary1
Eye Movement Results summary
  • More looks to target than competitor when either gender or order-of-mention helps
  • More looks to competitor when neither helps
  • Conditions different beginning between 0 and 200 ms after pronoun offset
  • Reliable by participant means and item means
exp 2 conclusions
Exp. 2 Conclusions
  • Gender information is used immediately to constrain pronoun interpretation.
  • Order of mention is used immediately to constrain pronoun interpretation.
why did subjects in previous studies not use gender
Why did subjects in previous studies not use gender?
  • Reading probe task interrupts comprehension, creating extra memory load
  • Rich discourse representations are difficult to establish
    • Probe task encourages an unnatural focus on surface form
    • Texts used unfamiliar, unelaborated characters
what cognitive mechanisms underlie referent interpretation1
What cognitive mechanisms underlie referent interpretation?
  • WHAT types of information are used?
  • WHEN does each source of information have an effect?
  • HOW do different cues affect referent interpretation?
categorical constraints
Categorical constraints

Does accessibility pick a unique referent?

YES

NO

Does gender pick a unique referent?

Pick that referent

YES

NO

probabilistic constraints
Probabilistic constraints

Sarah called Janet. She...

SARAH

JANET

do we have evidence for the probabilistic use of cues
Do we have evidence for the probabilistic use of cues?
  • Gender and Order-of-mention are used so effectively, they could be either categorical or strong probabilistic constraints.
  • Post-pronominal information is used in a way that looks probabilistic.
post pronominal disambiguating information
Post-pronominal disambiguating information

Bart is taking a picture of Homer . . .

He’s holding a guide book, . . .

early vs late disambiguation
Early vs. Late disambiguation

EARLY:

She’s singing along with the music…”

early vs late disambiguation1
Early vs. Late disambiguation

LATE:

She’s wearing a blue bathing suit…”

did point of disambiguation make a difference
Did point of disambiguation make a difference?
  • Different-gender / 1st-mention NO
  • Different-gender / 2nd-mention NO
  • Same-gender / 1st-mention NO
  • Same-gender / 2nd-mention YES
slide52

What cognitive mechanisms underlie referent interpretation?

  • WHAT types of information are used?
  • WHEN does each source of information have an effect?
  • HOW do different constraints affect referent interpretation?
  • WHAT : gender, accessibility
  • WHEN : incrementally
  • HOW : probabilistically