Memory structures that subserve sentence comprehension

Brian McElree, Stephani Foraker, Lisbeth Dyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Measures of the speed and accuracy of processing sentences with nonadjacent dependencies derived from the response-signal speed-accuracy tradeoff procedure were used to examine the nature of the memory system that underlies sentence comprehension. Three experiments with different sentence structures demonstrated that the accuracy of processing a dependency decreased as more material was interpolated between nonadjacent constituents. However, processing speed was unaffected by the amount of interpolated material, indicating that memory representations for previously processed constituents can be accessed directly. These results suggest that a content-addressable memory system mediates sentence comprehension, in which syntactic and semantic information provide direct access to memory representations without the need to search through extraneous representations. Notably, content-addressability appears to underlie the interpretation of sentence structures that also require the recovery of order information, a type of operation that has been shown to necessitate a slow search process in list-learning experiments (McElree, 2001; McElree & Dosher, 1993).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-91
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2003

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comprehension
Data storage equipment
Processing
Associative storage
Syntactics
Semantics
experiment
Experiments
Learning
Recovery
semantics
interpretation
Sentence Comprehension
learning
Dependency (Psychology)
Experiment
Constituent

Keywords

  • Memory retrieval
  • Sentence comprehension
  • Speed-accuracy tradeoff
  • Unbounded dependencies
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Memory structures that subserve sentence comprehension. / McElree, Brian; Foraker, Stephani; Dyer, Lisbeth.

In: Journal of Memory and Language, Vol. 48, No. 1, 01.2003, p. 67-91.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

McElree, Brian ; Foraker, Stephani ; Dyer, Lisbeth. / Memory structures that subserve sentence comprehension. In: Journal of Memory and Language. 2003 ; Vol. 48, No. 1. pp. 67-91.
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