Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Michelle Indarjit, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Aspect refers to the different ways of viewing time-based characteristics of situations. Two types of aspect exist: grammatical and lexical. Grammatical aspect consists of two parts: perfective and imperfective. The perfective form presents an event as completed or finished (e.g., rescued); the imperfective form presents an event as in progress (e.g., rescuing). Lexical aspect divides into two parts as well: telic and atelic. Telic verbs denote an event with an inherent endpoint (e.g., rescue); atelic verbs denote an event without an inherent endpoint (e.g., tickle). The aspect hypothesis maintains that children use perfective forms with telic verbs before they use them with atelic verbs; this pattern reverses with imperfective forms. The present study tested whether these developmental patterns appear when English-speaking adults read sentences. We measured eye-fixation times while 52 college students read 28 sentences such as The mother {rescued / was rescuing / tickled / was tickling} the kitten in which verbs differed in grammatical and lexical aspect. When a telic verb appears in the imperfective form (was rescuing), the end-point is less obvious, and the reader must remove or subtract the inherent endpoint. The subtraction hypothesis states that if removing the endpoint from the representation of an inherently bounded event is costly, then eye-fixation times for imperfective forms will be longer for telic verbs compared to atelic verbs. When an atelic verb appears in the perfective form (tickled), the reader must add a temporal boundary. The addition hypothesisstates that if adding a temporal boundary to the representation of a temporally unbounded event requires mental effort, then eye-fixation times for perfective forms will be longer for atelic predicates compared to telic predicates. We tested the subtraction and addition hypotheses by comparing the effects of lexical aspect on first pass time for perfective and imperfective forms. First pass time is the sum of eye fixation durations from the moment eyes first fixate on a region until the eyes leave that region. We tested for differences using analysis of variance by participants (p1) and by items (p2). The results showed strong support for the subtraction hypothesis and weak support for the addition hypothesis. For imperfectives, first pass time on the object (the kitten) was longer for telic verbs than for atelic verbs. For perfectives, first pass time on the verb was longer for atelic verbs than for telic verbs. We discuss the implications of these results for theories language acquisition.