The effects of restrictiveness on relative clause processing in Farsi

Pouran Seifi*, Hanneke Loerts, Pim Mak

*Corresponding author for this work

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With an eye-tracking experiment, we investigated the processing of Farsi object and subject relative clauses. Since restrictive relative clauses in Farsi are marked and distinguished clearly by the enclitic particle ی /−i/ attached to the head noun, we also compared the processing of restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. Seifi (2021) conducted a corpus analysis that showed that object relative clauses are in general less frequent than subject relative clauses. However, while non-restrictive relative clauses are predominantly subject relative clauses, restrictive relative clauses are more balanced in the corpus. In an eye-tracking experiment, Farsi speakers processed restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses differently. In non-restrictive relative clauses, the effect is similar to that found in most other languages: a clear processing delay in object relative clauses, compared to subject relative clauses. This effect was visible both at the relative clause verb and at the end of the matrix sentence. In restrictive relative clauses, on the other hand, the picture is different: Just as for the non-restrictive relative clauses object relative clauses had long reading times in the relative clause, but at the end of the sentence a reverse effect was found. Thus, the processing data reflected the pattern found in the corpus. We discuss these findings in terms of the distinct functions of restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104299
Number of pages15
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2024


  • 2700 Communication Systems
  • 2720 Linguistics & Language & Speech
  • Eye-movements
  • Farsi relative clauses
  • First language
  • Frequency distribution
  • Non-restrictive
  • Restrictive
  • Sentence processing


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