Verb gapping: an action-gap compatibility study.

Research paper by Berry B Claus

Indexed on: 12 Aug '14Published on: 12 Aug '14Published in: Acta Psychologica


This study addresses the processing of verb-gapping sentences, e.g., John closes a juice bottle and Jim [ ] a lemonade bottle. The goal was to explore if there would be an interaction between language comprehension and motor action not only for overt action verbs but also for gapped verbs. Participants read gapping sentences that either described clockwise or counter-clockwise manual rotations (e.g., closes vs. opens a juice bottle). Adopting a paradigm developed by Zwaan and Taylor (2006), sentence presentation was frame-by-frame. Participants proceeded from frame to frame by turning a knob either clockwise or counter clockwise. Analyses of the frame reading-times yielded a significant effect of compatibility between the linguistically conveyed action and the knob turning for the overt-verb (e.g., closes/opens a juice bottle) as well as for the gapped-verb frame (e.g., a lemonade bottle) - with longer reading times in the match condition than in the mismatch condition - but not for any of the other frames (e.g., and Jim). The results are promising in providing novel evidence for the real-time reactivation of gapped verbs and in suggesting that action simulation is not bound to the processing of overt verbs.