The purpose of the present study is twofold: (1) To examine whether the syntactic category constraint can determine the semantic resolution of Chinese syntactic category ambiguous words; and (2) to investigate whether the syntactic category of alternative meanings of Chinese homographs can influence the subordinate bias effect (SBE) during lexical ambiguity resolution. In the present study, four types of Chinese biased homographs (NN, VV, VN, and NV) were embedded into syntactically and semantically subordinate-biased sentences. Each homograph was assigned a frequency-matched unambiguous word as control, which could fit into the same sentence frame. Participants’ eye movements were recorded as they read each sentence. In general, the results showed that in a subordinate-biased context, (1) the SBE for the four types of homograph was significant only in the second-pass reading on the post-target words and (2) numerically, the NV homographs revealed a larger effect size of SBE than VN homographs on both target and post-target words. Our findings support the constraint-satisfaction models, suggesting that the syntactic category constraint is not the only factor influencing the semantic resolution of syntactic category ambiguous words, which is opposed to the prediction of the syntax-first models.
Language and Linguistics., Vol.16, No.4, pp.555-586