International Doctorate for
Experimental Approaches to Language And Brain

  • Nermina Čordalija
    n.cordalija [at]

    The Processing of Unaccusative Verbs 

    My PhD project is concerned with verb argument structure and a specific class of verbs - unaccusative verbs. Unaccusative verbs are a class of intransitive verbs that have unique syntactic and semantic characteristics. They have Theme as a subject and denote situations where there is no active engagement on the part of the subject (fall, sink, appear). Their Theme subjects are initially merged in the complement V position, postverbally, and then moved to the preverbal position ([Fell] [The girl] The girl fell.) The reason for this is case checking. The objective of this research is to investigate how these syntactic and semantic peculiarities of unaccusative verbs affect their processing. Since unaccusative verbs are structurally more complex compared to intransitive unergative verbs for example as their derivation includes an additional step – movement of a constituent, it is worth investigating whether due to this syntactic complexity they also necessitate more processing load compared to other classes of intransitive verb with a more straightforward syntactic structure. In my research, I also investigate if unaccusative verbs in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian show preference for (perfective) aspect. I plan to answer these questions by revisiting extensive literature about the processing of unaccusative verbs and designing three experiments using different techniques – Cross-Modal Lexical Priming (CMLP), Cross-Modal Picture Priming (CMPP), electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking. Apart from bridging the gap between the theoretical and experimental linguistics and providing insights into language processing in real time, my research will also make an original contribution to the experimental investigation of a South Slavic language – Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian.

    Prof. dr. Roelien Bastiaanse (University of Groningen)
    Dr. Srđan Popov (University of Groningen)

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