Factors that influence the comprehension of Spanish relative clauses: exploratory study

Laura M. V. Manoiloff – CIECS-CONICET / U. Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Daiana B. Cesaretti – CIECS-CONICET / U. Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Pablo E. Requena – University of Montana, United States of America
Cecilia Ferrero – CIECS-CONICET / U. Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Ma. Constanza Carando – CIECS-CONICET / U. Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Adrian Ramírez – CIECS-CONICET / U. Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Cecilia M. Defagó – Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
Juan Segui – CNRS-Paris 5 / EFL Labex, Francia
Laura Alonso Alemany – Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina



Laura M. V. Manoiloff, Daiana B. Cesaretti, Pablo E. Requena, Cecilia Ferrero, Ma. Constanza Carando, Adrian Ramírez, Cecilia M. Defagó, Juan Segui y Laura Alonso Alemany 2018: "Factores que influyen en la comprensión de las cláusulas subordinadas de relativo en español: estudio exploratorio",
Onomázein 42, 23-52.
DOI: 10.7764/onomazein.42.01

Abstract:
Most of the comprehension of sentential meaning depends on how easily speakers assign thematic roles (such as Agent or Patient) to noun phrases. This process is particularly useful for comprehending relative clauses given that when processing them speakers need to discern if they are dealing with a Subject (S) relative clause (El joven1 [que1Sujeto vino] trajo una valija, ‘The young man1 [that1Subject came] brought the suitcase’) or an Object (O) relative clause (El joven1 [que1Objetoyosaludé] trajo una valija, ‘[The young man1 [that1ObjectI greeted] brought the suitcase]’). Previous research has shown that the former type is easier to process than the latter type and it has been suggested that factors such as word order and the presence or absence of Case marking could impact the processing of O relative clauses. The present exploratory study is the first one to exploit the morphosyntactic flexibility of Spanish in order to examine four structures that combine different word orders with the presence or absence of Case marking. Following the presentation of a frequency analysis of these structures in a written corpus of Spanish, this paper presents two studies: one about spontaneous comprehension (thematic role assignment) without time limit and another one in which responses were timed. Results suggest that both canonical word order and Case marking positively impact comprehension.