Stage salience and situational likelihood in the formation of situation models during sentence comprehension

David J. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Two experiments examined the relation between event structure, situational likelihood and eye fixation time while reading predicate modifiers in isolated sentences. Experiment 1 used activity predicates and preparatory process predicates (climbed a mountain), which make salient the process that leads to a culmination. Preparatory process predicates increased first pass time on durative modifiers (for several years) and decreased total time on frequency modifiers (e.g., every year). Situational likelihood was associated with fixation times on frame modifiers (last year) but not with fixation times on durative or frequency modifiers. Experiment 2 used activity predicates and result state predicates (halted a class), which make salient the result that follows from a culmination. Result state predicates had no effect on fixation times on durative modifiers and decreased total time on frequency modifiers. Situational likelihood was associated only with total time on durative modifiers. These results demonstrate that readers use the meanings of predicates and modifiers to form an initial model of a sentence and that the likelihood of the reported situation is related to reading time relatively late. The results are discussed in terms of type coercion theory and situation models in sentences and narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Event structure
  • Eye movements
  • Sentence processing
  • Situation model
  • Situational likelihood
  • Type coercion theory


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