Evidence for online repair of Escher sentences


  • Ellen O'Connor
  • Roumyana Pancheva
  • Elsi Kaiser


Illusory “Escher” sentences (More people have been to Russia than I have) are a unique puzzle for theories assuming full and thorough grammatical analysis and semantic composition during processing, since people generally appear to accept them before noticing that the meaning is incoherent. Prior work has shown, however, that meaning is extracted from the illusion: in particular, reactions to the illusion are sensitive to whether a comparison of events is possible (Wellwood et al. 2009, 2012), suggesting that the perception of grammaticality is related to the fact that determiners may sometimes count events (Krifka 1990). The series of selfpaced reading experiments reported here suggest the illusion is ambiguous between an individual and a (less salient) event quantification interpretation, since reading times are generally slower for comparatives with plural predicates. Reading times indicate that the meaning of the illusion is plausibly shifted to a comparison of events at the point of anomaly – a costly process that causes observably slowed reading times. The success of this operation determines how felicitous an interpretation comprehenders can obtain for an essentially ungrammatical sentence.


How to Cite

O’Connor, E., Pancheva, R., & Kaiser, E. (2019). Evidence for online repair of Escher sentences. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 17, 363–380. Retrieved from https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/350

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