Spanish is not different: On the universality of minimal structure and locality principles

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A sensible assumption in psycholinguistics is that universal principles of optimal computation guide structural decisions made during sentence processing. This idea was questioned by the apparent cross-linguistic variation in Relative Clause attachment: a wealth of experimental results from the nineties showed that speakers of Spanish, among other languages, more readily converged towards the least optimal structural resolution (i.e. non-local attachment) challenging the universality of parsing principles of locality. A more recent development in this literature demonstrated that previous results were confounded by the availability of an additional parse, the so-called Pseudo-Relative, in the ill-behaved languages (Grillo 2012; Grillo & Costa 2014). Grillo and colleagues further suggested that the parser more readily disambiguates in favour of the Pseudo-Relative reading, when possible, because of its structural and interpretive simplicity in comparison to Relative Clauses and that non-local attachment is a direct consequence of this independent preference. We present novel results in support of this account from two offline forced-choice attachment questionnaires in Spanish. The results show that Pseudo-Relative availability significantly affects attachment preferences and that cross-linguistic variation in Relative Clause attachment is likely to be epiphenomenal and largely attribu table to underlying grammatical differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalGlossa: A Journal of General Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Universality of parsing principles
  • Optimal Computation
  • Locality
  • Relative Clause Attachment
  • Pseudo-Relatives
  • Aspect


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