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Comprehension of complex sentences conjoined with "before" and "after" Doke, Wendy Lynne


The purpose of this investigation is to examine the effects of certain factors on adults auditory comprehension of complex sentences conjoined with before and after. The factors investigated are: conjunction choice, order of mention, clause placement, and general-knowledge constraints. The sentences used in the study fall into four syntactic categories (Before-1, Before-2, After-1, After-2) and two semantic categories (constrained by general knowledge and unconstrained). Sixteen subjects each participated in two tasks designed to elicit varying reaction times. Stimuli consisted of 160 pre-recorded sentences describing 40 sequences of two events, with corresponding slide illustrations. Reaction time to task stimuli was recorded to the nearest hundredth of a second. Square roots of the reaction times were subjected to analysis of variance. Results indicate that only the placement of the main clause produces a significant effect on subjects' responses, thus lending support to a growing body of data which suggests that the main clause holds a privileged position in the comprehension of complex sentences. Results are discussed with respect to experimental design, previous research and theories of sentence comprehension.

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