Grammar is background in sentence processing

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Boye and Harder (2012) claim that the grammatical-lexical distinction has to do with discourse prominence: lexical elements can convey discursively primary (or foreground) information, whereas grammatical elements cannot (outside corrective contexts). This paper reports two experiments that test this claim. Experiment 1 was a letter detection study, in which readers were instructed to mark specific letters in the text. Experiment 2 was a text-change study, in which participants were asked to register omitted words. Experiment 2 showed a main effect of word category: readers attend more to words in lexical elements (e.g. full verbs) than to those in grammatical elements (e.g. auxiliaries). Experiment 1 showed an interaction: attention to letters in focused constituents increased more for grammatical words than for lexical words. The results suggest that the lexical-grammatical contrast does indeed guide readers’ attention to words.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage and Cognition
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)128-153
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - grammar, attention, lexicon, focus, letter detection, change blindness, sentence processing

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 248233294