Functional priority of syntax over semantics in Chinese ‘ba’ construction: evidence from eye-tracking during natural reading


Studies on sentence processing in inflectional languages support that syntactic structure building functionally precedes semantic processing. Conversely, most studies of Chinese sentence processing do not support the priority of syntax, possibly due to the use of rapid serial visual presentation in previous studies. To address this, the present study investigated the priority of syntactic construction in Chinese young adults using eye tracking in a natural reading context. Evidence supporting the functional priority of syntax over semantics was limited to only the natural reading context in which syntactic violations blocked the processing of semantics. Additionally, we observed a later stage of integrating plausible semantics with a failed syntax. Together, our findings extend the functional priority of syntax to the Chinese language and highlight the importance of adopting more ecologically valid methods when investigating sentence reading.

Language and Cognition
Adam John Privitera
Adam John Privitera
Research Fellow

Dr. Adam John Privitera is a cognitive scientist and currently a Research Fellow in the Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE).