Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Daniel Parker

Committee Members

Kaitlyn Harrigan

Anya Hogoboom

Robert Barnet


Though the interplay of syntax and semantics is key to understanding the human language system, the challenge of separating the two for analysis remains difficult. It has proven especially challenging to study syntax in the absence of meaning since changes in syntax are often confounded with changes in meaning. This thesis examines the interconnection of the semantic and syntactic language systems using both conventional and novel methods from psycholinguistics centered around Jabberwocky sentences (lexically ambiguous sentences). The methods deployed in this project suggest that (1) the loss of meaning reduces syntactic encoding quality, though it has little effect on online processing speed or the speed of syntactic evaluation, and (2) individuals’ increased ability to extract a syntactic structure in a semantically impoverished environment may be related to a lack of attention to distracting details (i.e. the meaninglessness of non-words). The two experiments outlined in this thesis provide new insights into the interactions between syntax and meaning and how those interactions vary between individuals.

On-Campus Access Only