Spoken relative clause processing in Chinese: Measure from an alternative task

Tuyuan CHENG, Hin Tat CHEUNG, Jei-Tun WU

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2 Citations (Scopus)


A cross-modal lexical decision (CMLD) task was conducted to measure subjects’ reaction times (RTs) at three probe sites simultaneously with their comprehending auditory Mandarin relative clause (RC) sentences. A baseline was first established by asking participants to complete a lexical decision task (LDT) based on a set of visual stimuli, which was then used as visual probes in the CMLD task. Since RTs for the visual targets in conjunction with spoken RC sentences were longer than RTs for the same targets in isolation in the pure LDT task, the RTs for these visual targets under different RC sentences in the CMLD task were hypothesized to index the degree of processing difficulty of different RC sentences. Significant RT differences between subject-extracted RC (SRC) sentences and object-extracted RC (ORC) sentences were found at the main clause (MC) verb: At the post-main-verb site, subjects spent significantly less time in the case of SRC sentences. The subjects’ comprehension performance demonstrated no differences in the interpretation errors between SRC sentences and ORC sentences. However, subjects had a higher percentage of errors in the RC domain than in the main clause (MC) domain and this effect was more obvious in ORC sentences. Our results conform to previous findings that suggest the locus of processing difficulty is at the MC verb, as listeners must complete multiple thematic role assignments at this point. Therefore, a thematic fit between the RC and the MC might play a particular role in spoken RC processing.
本文採用「跨模組真詞判斷作業」(CMLD),檢測受試者在聽到中文關係子句歷程中同時目視目標詞,並決定其是否為真詞的反應時間 (RT)。由於受試者在單純真詞判斷作業 (LDT) 下之 RT,顯著快於有 LDT 干擾作業的 CMLD 情境下之 RT。據此我們推論該反應時間差為 CMLD 情境下聽覺處理關係子句的困難度指標。
研究結果顯示:主詞提出式關係子句 (SRC) 比受詞提出式關係子句(ORC)在主要子句動詞後有顯著較快的 RT。受試者在 ORC 句型中,關係子句 (RC) 與主要子句 (MC) 範疇內的理解錯誤率差距較大。因而,我們主張文獻中「RC/MC 間論旨相符」是決定中文關係子句聽覺處理困難度的重要因素。Copyright © 2011 中央研究院語言學研究所.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-705
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Cheng, T., Cheung, H., & Wu, J.-T. (2011). Spoken relative clause processing in Chinese: Measure from an alternative task. Language and Linguistics, 12(3), 669-705.


  • Sentence processing
  • Relative clauses
  • Auditory relative clause comprehension
  • Mandarin relative clause comprehension
  • 語句處理
  • 關係子句
  • 關係子句聽覺理解
  • 中文關係子句理解
  • Alt. title: 中文關係子句聽覺處理:一個干擾作業的測量結果


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