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The processing of agreement attraction in temporarily ambiguous sentences in Brazilian Portuguese

Grant number: 17/13038-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2017
Effective date (End): June 30, 2018
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Linguistics - Psycholinguistics
Principal Investigator:Thiago Oliveira da Motta Sampaio
Grantee:Patrícia Perina de Oliveira
Host Institution: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem (IEL). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


Sentence Processing is a field of Psycholinguistics aiming at describing the cognitive mechanism of reading and producing sentences in natural languages. Some phenomena studied by the field are Structural Ambiguity and Verbal Agreement. Research on ambiguities studies sentences that can be processed through two different syntactic structures, such as "the man saw the boy with the binocular". Even though the sentence is grammatical, it is impossible to be sure, who owns the binocular. In one of the possible meanings, the man saw the boy through the binocular. This meaning is achieved by attaching [the binocular] to the farthest noun [the man], this operation is coined High Attachment. In a second meaning, however, the boy the man saw has a binocular. Now, [the binoculars] is attached to the closest noun [the boy] in an operation coined Low Attachment. Research on Agreement describes the processing of gender or number agreement between two related words on a sentence such as "John loves sports", and "John, who is friends with the athletes and the cheerleaders, loves sports". When we insert a syntagmatic between the name and its verb, it may agree with the closest names "the athletes and the cheerleaders". In this case, it is not rare to find in letters and other documents sentences like "John, who is friends with the athletes and the cheerleaders, love sports"; this occurrence is called Agreement Attraction. Our research arises to unite both of these fields and verify the existence of an interaction between the agreement attraction and the preference for low attachment in Brazilian Portuguese. (AU)

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