Scholman, Merel; Rohde, Hannah; Demberg, Vera

„On the one hand“ as a cue to anticipate upcoming discourse structure

Journal of Memory and Language, 97, pp. 47-60, 2017.

Research has shown that people anticipate upcoming linguistic content, but most work to date has focused on relatively short-range expectation-driven processes within the current sentence or between adjacent sentences. We use the discourse marker On the one hand to test whether comprehenders maintain expectations regarding upcoming content in discourse representations that span multiple sentences. Three experiments show that comprehenders anticipate more than just On the other hand; rather, they keep track of embedded constituents and establish non-local dependencies. Our results show that comprehenders disprefer a subsequent contrast marked with On the other hand when a passage has already provided intervening content that establishes an appropriate contrast with On the one hand. Furthermore, comprehenders maintain their expectation for an upcoming contrast across intervening material, even if the embedded constituent itself contains contrast. The results are taken to support expectation-driven models of processing in which comprehenders posit and maintain structural representations of discourse structure.