Comprehension of semantically related sentences



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Recent theories of semantic representation posit that information is represented by a set of propositions similar to those proposed by Fillmore (1968) and that comprehension of sentences involves syntactic and semantic transformations of the information provided by the sentences (Kintsch, 1974; Simmons, 1973). More specifically, Simmons' (1973) model of sentence comprehension represents information in terms of particular lexical meanings and their case relationships. Simmons defined syntactic paraphrases as transformations that did not alter the basic lexical items and semantic transformations as paraphrases that did alter the lexical items. It was hypothesized that the larger the number of syntactic and/ or semantic transformations required for a subject to match a test sentence with information presented in a previously presented passage, the more difficult the task would be. A significant main effect for the syntactic transformation, for semantic changes, and for the interaction of syntactic and semantic factors was obtained for the error score dependent variable and a significant main effect of the semantic factor was obtained for the reaction time dependent variable. The hypothesis that the larger the number of syntactic and/or semantic transformations the larger the number of errors would be was supported. The hypothesis that the larger the number of transformations the longer the response times would be was contradicted by the finding that tasks involving the substitution of the subject of the sentence in the passive voice took less time than tasks with no lexical changes in the passive voice.