The Syntax-Semantics Interface: On-Line Composition of Sentence Meaning

Liina Pylkkänen, Brian McElree

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter presents a discussion on the syntax–semantics interface. The task of a theory of semantic interpretation is to characterize how elements in a syntactic string semantically relate to one another. Clearly, this depends on how one conceptualizes the meaning of the elementary building blocks—that is, the terminal nodes of a syntactic tree. Interpreting an expression typically requires integrating it into an evolving discourse model. Frequently, this requires resolving ambiguities at conceptually distinct levels, fixing reference, and drawing inferences to align local and global aspects of the discourse. To fully accomplish this task, it is uncontroversial that, in addition to lexical and syntactic constraints, comprehenders must draw upon pragmatic knowledge. The importance of high-level constraints has been illustrated by the finding that comprehenders sometimes adopt a pragmatically plausible interpretation even if it is incongruent with lexical and syntactic constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Psycholinguistics
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9780123693747
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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