Disentangling principle C: A contribution from individuals with brain damage

Noga Balaban, Adriana Belletti, Naama Friedmann*, Luigi Rizzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We suggest a disentangling approach according to which the use of referring expressions obeys two types of guidelines. Deviance in repeating referential expressions (R-expressions) can result from two possible sources: one is the violation of the syntactic principle C, ruling out configurations in which c-command holds between the two identical R-expressions; the other is a Go-Lighter (GL) economy principle, applying in discourse and arguably based on shared knowledge and theory of mind (TOM), operative also in environments in which c-command does not hold. To examine this disentangling approach, we tested 36 brain-damaged patients: 20 who had aTOMia, a deficit in TOM, and 16 brain-damaged patients with good TOM, and 29 healthy control participants. Experiment 1 tested the comprehension of principles A and B using a sentence-picture-matching task. Experiment 2 tested principles C and GL using a sentence-choice task. Experiment 3 tested sentence interpretation according to principles C and GL using sentence-picture matching. In line with the disentangling approach, the individuals with poor TOM (and good syntax) failed to rule out and interpret repeating expressions that rely solely on the Go-Lighter principle, but succeeded in judging and interpreting sentences in which the repetition is ruled out by the syntactic principle C.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


FundersFunder number
Israel Foundation Trustees
Lieselotte Adler Laboratory for Research on Child Development
European Cooperation in Science and Technology
Israel Science Foundation1066/14


    • ATOMia
    • Binding principles
    • Hebrew
    • Principle C
    • Repeated name penalty
    • Right hemisphere damage
    • Syntax
    • Theory of mind


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