Not all grammar errors are equally noticed. Error detection of naturally occurring errors and implications for eye tracking models of everyday texts

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Grammar errors are a natural part of everyday written communication. They are not a uniform group, but vary from morphological errors to ungrammatical word order and involve different types of word classes. In this study, we examine whether some types of naturally occurring errors attract more attention than others during reading, measured by detection rates. Data from 211 Danish high school students were included in the analysis. They each read texts containing different types of errors: syntactic errors (verb-third word order), morphological agreement errors (verb conjugations; gender mismatches in NPs) and orthographic errors. Participants were asked to underline all errors they detected while reading for comprehension. We examined whether there was a link between the type of errors that participants did not detect, the type of errors which they produce themselves (as measured in a subsequent grammar quiz), and the type of errors that are typical of high school students in general (based on error rates in a corpus). If an error is infrequent in production, it may cause a larger surprisal effect and be more attended to. For the three subtypes of grammar errors (V3 word order, verb errors, NP errors), corpus error rates predicted detection rates for most conditions. Yet, frequency was not the only possible explanation, as phonological similarity to the correct form is entangled with error frequency. Explicit grammatical awareness also played a role. The more correct answers participants had in the grammar tasks in the quiz, the more errors they detected. Finally, we found that the more annoyed with language errors participants reported to be, the more errors they detected. Our study did not measure eye movements, but the differences in error detection patterns point to shortcomings of existing eye-tracking models. Understanding the factors that govern attention and reaction to everyday grammar errors is crucial to developing robust eye-tracking processing models which can accommodate non-standard variation. Based on our results, we give our recommendations for current and future processing models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 347481279