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date: 21 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter on sentence comprehension reviews prominent sentence comprehension models addressing how people can turn a linear string of words into an understanding of sentence meaning: who did what to whom. A key method is comparing the factors that make one kind of sentence more difficult to comprehend than another, and the chapter discusses the roles of syntactic ambiguity and syntactic complexity in comprehension, including theoretical accounts emphasizing innate comprehension mechanisms or changes in comprehension patterns with experience. The chapter also discusses probabilistic and information theoretic models, the relationship between comprehension and production processes, and incrementality in sentence comprehension—the degree to which comprehension processes are devoted to interpreting the present input, updating the past, and predicting future input. The chapter also addresses future directions and the degree to which sentence comprehension research can be integrated with work addressing other aspects of language comprehension.

Keywords: ambiguity resolution, syntactic complexity, constraint satisfaction processes in comprehension, information theoretic models of parsing, prediction processes in comprehension, working memory

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