For 50 years, syntacticians have attempted to explain why one center-embedded relative clause (RC) adds mildly to the effort of sentence processing (The rat [the cat killed] ate the malt), but adding a second RC pushes the cost sky-high (The rat [the cat [the dog chased] killed] ate the malt) - which doesn’t even sound like a grammatical sentence, though it is!
In collaboration with graduate students at CUNY, Janet Fodor has uncovered a novel explanation: A mismatch between syntactic structure (hierarchical) and prosodic structure (flat). It’s not syntax or prosody that makes center-embedding difficult; it’s just that these two modalities have conflicting structural needs.
Special thanks to: Stefanie Nickels, Esther Schott, Ben Macaulay, Danielle Ronkos, Tally Callahan, Tyler Peckenpaugh
Janet Fodor, Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, CUNY Graduate Center
Liina Pylkkanen, Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, NYU; Co-Principal Investigator of the Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, NYUAD
Alec Marantz, Silver Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, NYU; Co-Principal Investigator of the Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, NYUAD
In Collaboration with
Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, NYUAD
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