Misinterpretations of garden-path sentences: Implications for models of sentence processing and re analysis

Fernanda Ferreira, Kiel Christianson, Andrew Hollingworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theories of sentence comprehension have addressed both initial parsing processes and mechanisms responsible for reanalysis. Three experiments are summarized that were designed to investigate the reanalysis and interpretation of relatively difficult garden-path sentences (e.g., While Anna dressed the baby spit up on the bed). After reading such sentences, participants correctly believed that the baby spit up on the bed; however, they often confidently, yet incorrectly, believed that Anna dressed the baby. These results demonstrate that garden-path reanalysis is not an all-or-nothing process and that thematic roles initially assigned for the subordinate clause verb are not consistently revised. The implications of the partial reanalysis phenomenon for Fodor and Inoue's (1998) model of reanalysis and sentence processing are discussed. In addition, we discuss the possibility that language processing often creates "good enough" structures rather than ideal structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-20
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Parsing
  • Reanalysis
  • Semantics
  • Syntactic ambiguity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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