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Does main clause word order affect attention to change in subordinate clauses?

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In modern Danish, main clauses have the word order X > Verb >Adverb (i.e. V2) whereas subordinate clauses are generally characterized by the‘subordinate clause’ word order Subject > Adverb > Verb. Spoken Danish hasa high frequency of ‘main clause’ word order in subordinate clauses, however,and in the article we argue that this ‘Main Clause Phenomena’ (cf. Aelbrechtet al. 2012) functions as a foregroundingdevice, signaling that the more important information of the clause complex isto be found in the subordinate clause instead of in its matrix clause.

Aprediction from the foregrounding hypothesis is that a subordinate clause withVerb>Adverb word order will attract more attention than a clause withAdverb>Verb word order. To test this, we conducted an experiment under the textchange paradigm. 59 students each read 24 constructions twice, each containinga subordinate clause with either Verb>Adverb or Adverb>Verb word order.Half of the subordinate clauses were governed by a semifactive predicate (opento both word orders) and the other half by a semantically secondary sentence(in itself strongly favoring Verb>Adverb word order). Attention to thesubordinate clause was tested by measuring how disinclined the participantswere to notice change of a word in the subordinate clause when re-reading it.

Resultsshowed significantly more attention to Verb>Adverb clauses than toAdverb>Verb clauses (though only under semifactive predicates), and moreattention to subordinate clauses under semantically secondary than semifactivepredicates. We consider this as strongly supporting the hypothesis thatVerb>Adv word order functions as a foregrounding signal in subordinateclauses.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLinguistics
ISSN0024-3949
StateAccepted/In press - 2018

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - change blindness, subordinate clauses, Danish, foregrounding, word order

ID: 154761917