Priority information used for the processing of Japanese sentences: Thematic roles, case particles or grammatical functions?

Katsuo Tamaoka, Hiromu Sakai, Jun Ichiro Kawahara, Yayoi Miyaoka, Hyunjung Lim, Masatoshi Koizumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigated scrambling effects on the processing of Japanese sentences and priority information used among thematic roles, case particles and grammatical functions. Reaction times for correct sentence decisions were significantly prolonged for scrambled active sentences with transitive verbs in the first experiment and with ditransitive verbs in the second experiment. Errors were made with scrambled sentences more than canonical sentences in both experiments, which suggested that scrambling effects were apparent in active sentences. Passive sentences in the third experiment indicated that canonical order defined based on case particles, not thematic roles, was more quickly and accurately identified than scrambled order. Potential sentences in the fourth experiment and causative sentences in the fifth experiment indicated that the processing of scrambled sentences based on grammatical functions, but not on case particles, required longer reaction times and resulted in higher error rates than canonical sentences. Consequently, scrambling effects in the present study indicated that neither thematic roles nor case particles can provide fully-satisfactory information for canonical phrase order, and that only grammatical functions offer satisfactory information in all types of sentences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-332
Number of pages52
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005 May


  • Case particles
  • Grammatical functions
  • Japanese sentence processing
  • Priority information
  • Thematic roles


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