An Analysis of Frequency- and Memory-Based Processing Costs

Marten van Schijndel and William Schuler

The frequency of words and syntactic constructions has been observed to have a substantial effect on language processing. This begs the question of what causes certain constructions to be more or less frequent. A theory of grounding (Phillips, 2010) would suggest that cognitive limitations might cause languages to develop frequent constructions in such a way as to avoid processing costs. This paper studies how current theories of working memory fit into theories of language processing and what influence memory limitations may have over reading times. Measures of such limitations are evaluated on eye-tracking data and the results are compared with predictions made by different theories of processing.

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