The psychological reality of linguistically defined gaps

Brian McElree, Thomas G. Bever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In five experiments, recognition times for an adjective from a sentence-initial noun phrase were examined following the processing of coreferential gaps in syntactic structure as a means of determining whether linguistically defined gaps access their antecedents. Recognition latencies and/or error rates following the processing of gaps were found to be lower than a nonanaphoric control in a number of constructions, including two instances of constructions with NP-movement gaps-namely, the passive and raising-to-subject-and constructions with a PRO gap in an infinitival clause. Additionally, NP-movement gaps were found to produce lower latencies and error rates than PRO-gaps. The results are interpreted as evidence for the psychological reality of representational assumptions of Government and Binding Theory (Chomsky, 1981).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1989


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Language and Linguistics

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