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).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Linguistics and Language