LINGUIST List 15.2003

Tue Jul 6 2004

Diss: Psycholing: Burkhardt: 'Representation...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. petra.burkhardt, Representation and Interpretation at the Syntax-Discourse Interface

Message 1: Representation and Interpretation at the Syntax-Discourse Interface

Date: Fri, 2 Jul 2004 18:03:29 -0400 (EDT)
From: petra.burkhardt <>
Subject: Representation and Interpretation at the Syntax-Discourse Interface

Institution: Yale University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Petra Burkhardt

Dissertation Title: Representation and Interpretation at the
Syntax-Discourse Interface: Establishing Dependency

Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics

Dissertation Director 1: Maria M Pinango
Dissertation Director 2: Larry Horn
Dissertation Director 3: Sergey Avrutin

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the establishment of
pronominal-antecedent dependencies, which are processes during which
two entities form a dependency relation with each other in order to
refer to the same entity in mental representation. I present a model
of syntax-discourse correspondences to account for different
dependency relations available to the language system and provide
supporting evidence for this model from three sources of online
sentence comprehension.

One particular kind of entities that require the establishment of a
dependency are pronominal elements, which are referentially dependent
on an antecedent, as their interpretation is not sufficiently
determined by their lexical content. Different pronominals are claimed
to be subject to different dependency relations. Within the
syntax-discourse model, a dependency is a function of the
phrase-structural relation (i.e. coargumenthood) and the
representation of discourse referents (i.e. file card
management). This dissertation examines the distinct dependencies by
investigating the processing of different pronominal elements
(particularly, coargument reflexives, logophors, and pronouns) and the
factors that determine the level at which these entities are

Chapter 1 presents general assumptions about the language
system. Chapter 2 provides an overview of previous approaches to
pronominal interpretation. Chapter 3 presents the syntax-discourse
model, which claims that two levels of representation - syntax and
discourse - are required for the establishment of
pronominal-antecedent dependencies. Subsequent chapters present
psycho- and neurolinguistic evidence for this claim. In chapter 4, a
series of cross-modal lexical decision interference studies from
English and Dutch test the psycholinguistic reality of the two levels
of representation. Results suggest that two levels are required for
the interpretation of different pronominal elements as evidenced by
increased processing demands to discourse-based dependencies. Chapter
5 investigates the real-time comprehension of pronominals in Broca's
aphasia patients. The findings indicate that syntactic structure
formation is a prerequisite for any kind of pronominal-antecedent
dependency, regardless of the level, at which interpretation is
ultimately established. Chapter 6 reports a series of event-related
brain potential studies. The results support the distinction between
syntactic and discourse dependencies and further reveal that different
discourse-internal mechanisms elicit distinct processing
patterns. Finally, chapter 7 summarizes the findings.
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