The transposed-word effect revisited: the role of syntax in word position coding


  • Wen Yun
  • Mirault Jonathan
  • Grainger Jonathan


  • Transposed words
  • Word position coding
  • Grammatical decision task
  • Parallel processing
  • Reading

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Skilled readers may misinterpret "you that read wrong" for "you read that wrong": a transposedword effect. This relatively novel finding, which supports parallel word processing during sentence reading, is attributed to a combination of noisy bottom-up word position coding and top-down syntactic constraints. The present study focussed on the contribution of syntactic constraints in driving transposed-word effects. In a speeded grammatical decision experiment, two types of ungrammatical transposed-word sequences were compared, namely a transposition either across a syntactic phrase ("the have girls gone home") or within a syntactic phrase ("the girls gone have home"). We found longer response times and lower accuracy rates for within-phrase transpositions than across-phrase transpositions, demonstrating a direct influence of syntactic structures on the transposed-word effect. We conclude that the assignment of words to positions in a sentence is guided by top-down syntactic constraints.

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