Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Irina A. Sekerina

Committee Members

Jason Kandybowicz

William McClure

Jiwon Yun

Subject Categories

Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics | Syntax


Korean reflexive caki, dependency formation, memory retrieval


This dissertation aims to reveal cognitive mechanisms and factors that underlie the reflexive dependency formation. In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to the question of how our mind works in building linguistic dependencies (including an antecedent-reflexive dependency) because relevant research has proved promising and illuminating in regard to the properties (e.g., system architecture, computational algorithms, etc.) of human language processor and its close connection with other cognitive functions such as memory (Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; Lewis, Vasishth, & Van Dyke, 2006; McElree, 2000; McElree, Foraker, & Dyer, 2003; Van Dyke & Johns, 2012; Wagers, Lau, & Phillips, 2009). Building upon this line of research, the present dissertation provides empirical evidence to show that the parser can directly access potential antecedents (stored in memory) in forming an antecedent-reflexive dependency, using various linguistic cues and contextual knowledge available at the reflexive.

In order to make this claim, this dissertation examines the Korean mono-morphemic reflexive caki ‘self’ (also known as a long-distance anaphor), using acceptability judgment and self-paced reading methodologies, and asks (i) what linguistic factors guide its reference resolution and (ii) how they are applied to cognitive processes for memory retrieval and phrase structure building.

A series of acceptability judgment experiments (Experiments 1 through 5) show that caki has a very robust referential bias: it strongly prefers a subject antecedent. Moreover, it is established that syntactic constraints (e.g., binding constraints) are not the only available source of information during caki’s reference resolution. Indeed, various non-syntactic sources of information (or cues) can also determine caki’s reference resolution. Three self-paced reading experiments (Experiments 6 through 8) provide evidence compatible with the direct-access content-addressable memory retrieval model (Lewis & Vasishth, 2005; Lewis et al., 2006; McElree, 2000; Van Dyke & McElree, 2011)

Based on these experimental findings, I present an explanation of why caki preferentially forms a dependency with a subject antecedent. I argue that caki’s subject antecedent bias is driven both externally (i.e., syntactic prominence of a grammatical subject and first-mention advantage) and internally (i.e., frequency-based prediction on caki-subject dependency relation). Finally, I showcase how a referential dependency between caki and a potential antecedent can be constructed by the cue-based retrieval parser (Lewis et al., 2006; Van Dyke & Lewis, 2003).