Locality Effects and Predictability in Sentence Construction: An Investigation of ba Sentences and SVO Sentences in Mandarin Chinese
局域效应与预测性在句式构建中的关系探究:以把字句和主动宾句为例

This study investigated the relationship between two critical cognitive factors in constructing alternative ba sentences and SVO sentences in Mandarin Chinese: locality effects that predict a processing advantage for sentences where distances between syntactically related words are minimized, and predictability that predicts heavy processing difficulty for a word when its possibility of occurrence is low. Locality effects were measured by dependency distance and predictability was quantified by n-gram surprisal and Dependency Grammar (DG) surprisal. The results showed that locality effects and predictability co-exist in sentence construction: (a) there is a competitive relationship between dependency distance and n-gram surprisal in constructing naturally occurring ba sentences and the corresponding SVO sentences; (b) the competition between dependency distance and n-gram surprisal was also found in constructing ba sentences and SVO sentences respectively; (c) there is a competitive relationship between dependency distance and n-gram surprisal as well as a competitive relationship between dependency distance and DG surprisal in constructing naturally occurring ba sentences and ba sentences converted from SVO sentences. It is worth noting that, in some cases, dependency distance and DG surprisal cooperate with each other. These findings have important implications for theories of language production and cognition.

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