The role of clefting, word order and given-new ordering in sentence comprehension: Evidence from Hindi

Shravan Vasishth, Rukshin Shaher, Naryanan Srinivasan

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Two Hindi eyetracking studies show that clefting a noun results in greater processing difficulty initially, due to the extra processing steps involved in encoding a clefted noun (e.g., for computing the exhaustiveness interpreta- tion). However, this extra difficulty in encoding a clefted noun results in a processing advantage when the clefted noun needs to be retrieved later on in the sentence – the clefted noun is retrieved faster in subsequent processing compared to its non-clefted counterpart. We also show that given-new ordering yields a processing advantage over new-given order, but this is only seen after the whole sentence is processed, i.e., it may be a late effect that occurs after syntactic processing is completed. Finally, following up on work on German by Hörnig et al. (2005), we present evidence that non-canonical order can be processed more easily than canonical order given appropriate context.

Journal of South Asian Linguistics