ITRW on Experimental Linguistics

Athens, Greece
August 28-30, 2006

Processing Causal and Diagnostic Uses of so

Sharmaine Seneviratne

Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, UK

This study compares the processing of causal and diagnostic uses of the connective so. In an experiment measuring reading times, it is shown that diagnostic so constructions, (e.g. Carl has been limping lately. So he was injured in the accident.) take longer to read than causal ones (e.g. Carl didn’t wear his seatbelt. So he was injured in the accident.). This difference is reduced in parallel constructions where so is absent. It is proposed that readers are strongly biased towards a default causal reading of so and therefore anticipate a consequence when they encounter so. In diagnostic constructions, since so is followed by an antecedent, processing is more effortful and complex because the default expectation has to be reversed.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Seneviratne, Sharmaine (2006): "Processing causal and diagnostic uses of so", In ExLing-2006, 217-220.