Another reason to learn German! Read Eva’s review of Andreas Trotzke’s introduction to the study of language evolution in Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft here.
The UCSD Language Comprehension Lab will be represented at the 28th Colloquium on Generative Grammar 2018 in Tarragona, Spain, together with a long list of lovely co-authors, talking about priming argument structure at the Workshop “Ars-Ling: Argument Structure and Linguistic Processing”:
Bjorn Lundquist, Martin Corley, Antonella Sorace, Mai Tungseth, Eva Wittenberg and Gillian Ramchand: Adventures in Structural Priming: The Search for Effects of Argument Structure.
On Tuesday, March 6th, Eva gave a San Diego Nerd Nite talk on The World of Words at 32 North Brewing Co. What can we say — tip-of-the-tongue states are simply better with beer. Here is what Eva talked about:
Words are curious creatures. Ever looked for one and couldn’t find it? Where exactly did you look? Did you look for its sound or its meaning? Or did you accidentally create a Frankenword by misunderestimating how hard it is to put the parts of the words together? These are signs that you are utterly normal … but maybe it’d be good to learn a thing or two about words. We’re going to do just that.
How do speakers get from thought to language? How do comprehenders get from form to meaning? What is the best way to test our hypotheses on language and cognition?
Those are the questions that the Language Comprehension Lab at UCSD seeks to answer. We are especially looking for:
- native or near-native speakers of Hindi, Italian, Farsi, French, or German
- Computer Science, Linguistics, Psychology, or Cognitive Science majors or minors
Eva Wittenberg, Manizeh Khan & Jesse Snedeker just had an article accepted in Frontiers in Psychology:
Investigating thematic roles through implicit learning: Evidence from light verb constructions
The syntactic structure of a sentence is usually a strong predictor of its meaning: Each argument noun phrase (i.e., Subject and Object) should map onto exactly one thematic role (i.e., Agent and Patient, respectively). Some constructions, however, are exceptions to this pattern. This paper investigates how the syntactic structure of an utterance contributes to its construal, using ditransitive English light verb constructions, such as “Nils gave a hug to his brother”, as an example of such mismatches: Hugging is a two-role event, but the ditransitive syntactic structure suggests a three-role event. Data from an eye-tracking experiment and behavioral categorization data reveal that listeners learn to categorize sentences according to the number of thematic roles they convey, independent of their syntax. Light verb constructions, however, seem to form a category of their own, in which the syntactic structure leads listeners down an initial incorrect assignment of thematic roles, from which they only partly recover. These results suggest an automatic influence of syntactic argument structure on semantic interpretation and event construal, even in highly frequent constructions.
Read the paper here (Open Access)!
The Language Comprehension Lab will have a talk at AMLaP 2017 in Lancaster, UK:
Complexity matters only when it matters: Pronominal object and event reference rapidly access different aspects of situation models.
Talk by Eva Wittenberg, Shota Momma, Elsi Kaiser, & Jeremy Skipper.
CRL Happy Half Hour @ 3:30 in CSB 215
CRL Talk @ 4:00 in CSB 280
Investigating semantic structure with structural priming
Structural priming, or the tendency to repeat aspects of sentence structure across utterances, provides strong evidence for the existence of abstract structural representations in language (Bock, 1986; for reviews, see, e.g., Branigan & Pickering, 2016; Pickering & Ferreira, 2008). Despite a general consensus that structural priming is primarily a syntactic phenomenon (Bock, 1989; Bock & Loebell, 1990; Chang et al., 2006; Branigan & Pickering, 2016; Branigan et al., 1995), I’ll present (further) evidence that semantic structure can be isolated and primed independently of syntax. Then, I’ll leverage structural priming as a tool to ask specific questions about the nature of these semantic representations—specifically, to what degree do different classes of verbs share or not share the same semantic core? And what, if anything, can this tell us about the mental representation of linguistic meaning? For this, I’ll use datives and locatives as a particularly compelling test case (think: Localist Hypothesis; Jackendoff, 1983). I’ll conclude with lessons learned and future directions.