Eye-tracking evidence from attachment structures favors a serial model of discourse–sentence interactivity

Jack Dempsey, Anna Tsiola, Kiel Christianson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many psycholinguistic studies examine how people parse sentences in isolation; however, years of work in discourse processing have shown that sentence-level interpretations are influenced at some stage by discourse-level information. Evidence over the past 20 years remains mixed as to the temporal dynamics of such top-down interactions. In particular, dynamic accounts where readers use the discourse model to generate expectations for certain grammatical structures before and during parsing differ from serial accounts where an algorithmic first-pass processing mechanism precedes integration of sentence material into the discourse model. To test between these two theories, the current study investigates eye-movement behaviors when reading temporarily ambiguous attachment structures following discourses with biases either matching, mismatching, or neutral with respect to the attachment resolution. No evidence was found suggesting readers systematically use discourse information to generate structural expectations, in line with serial accounts of processing at the sentence–discourse interface. Scanpath analyses further highlight the confirmatory nature of rereading when participants encounter discourse continuations that do not fit with prior contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-633
Number of pages21
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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