Processing let alone coordination in silent reading


Processing research on coordination indicates that simpler conjuncts are preferred over more complex ones, and that positing ellipsis structure in the second conjunct is taxing to process when a simpler non-ellipsis structure exists. The present study investigates let alone coordination, which is argued to require clausal ellipsis in the second conjunct. It is proposed that the processor always projects a clausal structure for the second conjunct for the ellipsis, obviating a general preference for a less complex conjunct. Experiment 1 consists of several sentence-completion questionnaires testing whether a DP or VP conjunct is preferred in let alone structures as in John doesn’t like Mary, let alone (Sue | love her). The results found a bias towards VP remnants that was weakly affected by syntactic placement of the focus particle even, as well as by prior context. Experiment 2 examined the effect of remnant type on eye movements during silent reading, revealing only distinct processing patterns, rather than major processing penalties, for different remnant types, and a general facilitation when even was present to signal upcoming scalar contrast.

Lingua, 169, 70-94