Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Zhiying Qian

Second Advisor

Barbara Fox

Third Advisor

Kira Hall


This study tests language processing models previously explored by linguistics in terms of the parsing of temporarily ambiguous English sentences. The two primary models examined in this study are the garden-path model and the constraint-based model. Each of these models provides a possible explanation for sentence processing difficulty. John Trueswell (1996) previously found properties and lexical cues attached to certain verbs in their past participle forms and lexical information in nouns which aid or inhibit readers in accurately predicting the outcome of a temporarily ambiguous sentence. His results support the constraint-based model while providing some evidence for the garden-path model in specific conditions. This study, which improves upon Trueswell’s study design and tests for verb bias and plausibility cues as they interact with each other in ambiguity processing, also examines the interaction between the constraint-based and garden-path models in native English speakers. We tested native Engish speakers’ reading times of temporarily ambiguous English sentences containing reduced relative clauses without disambiguating relativizers like “that” or “who” before the verb. By examining reading times over each region of these types of sentences, we were able to look for a pattern of interaction between verb bias and plausibility in order to either further support or dispute previous language cognition models.