Self-Paced Reading Task of Garden Path Sentences in Slovenian Language


  • Alenka Žumer University of Ljubljana
  • Georgia Roumpea University of Ljubljana
  • Tatjana Marvin University of Ljubljana
  • Christina Manouilidou University of Ljubljana


Psycholinguistics is a discipline that studies the process of humans comprehending and mastering a language. The study aims to research language processing in Slovene. Garden path (GP) sentences are language structures used to discover and illustrate how a reader processes the meaning in a written sentence [1]. They are grammaticallycorrectandusuallyusedas experimental sentences. GP sentences show that a reader builds an interpretation word by word, while a syntactic parser leads a reader in the wrong direction. Sentences are structured in a subject, a verb, and an object, with a critical point following the next word. At this point, the object transits into a subject regarding the last segments of the sentence [2]. The comma can divide sentences into a main and a dependent one, while no comma makes a critical point of reinterpretation. The examples below show the structure:

»John enjoys writing songs does not like too much.«
»Janeza veseli pisanje pesmi pa ne mara preveč.«

If the comma is between “writing” and “songs,” the reader will know that the dependent clause ends with the comma and that “songs” belongs to the second main clause.

One of the methods for understanding the process of natural language comprehension is self-paced reading (SPR), which is a computer-assisted measuring reaction time through keypress. Sentences used in the SPR method are presented word by word and into segments [3]. The experiment is divided into two groups of sentences, one using a comma and the other without one. This way, groups are checking each other’s results.

In the current research, we have included 30 participants so far. We are working with 110 experimental and 55 filler sentences with typical structure, keeping the reader’s focus. The research is still ongoing, making us predict that the results are similar to GP research in other languages. We expect longer reaction times at the critical point/segment of the GP sentence, where the reinterpretation happens.

Much research on Garden path sentences exists for English, German, and other common languages, while rarely for Slovene. Current research brings more insights into readers’ comprehension of the Slovenian language and understanding of its specifics.


[1] B. L. Pritchett, “Garden Path Phenomena and the Grammatical Basis of Language Processing,” Language, vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 539–576, Sept. 1988,

[2] Z. Qian, S. Garnsey and K. Christianson, “A comparison of online and offline measures of good-enough processing in garden-path sentences,” Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 33:2, pp. 227– 254, Sept. 2017,

[3] J. Warner and A. L. Glass, »Context and Distance-to-Disambiguation Effects in Ambiguity Resolution: Evidence from Grammaticality Judgments of Garden Path Sentences,” Journal of Memory and Language, vol. 26, pp. 714–738, July 1987. Doi:10.1016/0749–596X(87)90111–2