Investigating the Processing of Relative Clauses in Mandarin Chinese: Evidence from Eye-Movement Data

Yao Ting Sung, Jih Ho Cha, Jung Yueh Tu*, Ming Da Wu, Wei Chun Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A number of previous studies on Chinese relative clauses (RC) have reported conflicting results on processing asymmetry. This study aims to revisit the prevalent debate on whether subject-extracted RCs (SRC) or object-extracted RCs (ORC) are easier to process by using the eye-movement technique. In the current study, the data are analyzed in terms of the gaze duration and regression of eye-movement in three critical areas: head noun, embedded verb, and RC-modifying noun phrase as subject. The results show an ORC preference for the processing of RC structures, which supports the word-order account and the Dependency Locality Theory, and a better cross-clausal integration for SRC, which supports the perspective-shift account. The processing asymmetry in Chinese RCs are discussed under relevant theoretical accounts, such as structure-based, memory-based, and perspective shift accounts. We argue that the findings are associated with the syntactic nature of Chinese (a head-initial language with pre-nominal RCs).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1089-1113
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 1


  • Eye-movement
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Processing asymmetry
  • Relative clauses
  • Sentence complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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