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
To apply, please visit our Join our Lab! page and fill out the application form.
The California Meeting on Psycholinguistics is being held at UCLA on December 2nd-3rd, and our lab will be there to give three talks:
This is the structure that we wonder why anyone produces it: Resumptive pronouns in English hinder comprehension.
Talk by Adam Morgan, Titus von der Malsburg, Victor S. Ferreira, & Eva Wittenberg.
Subcategorization preferences of verbs reveal syntactic processing in evoked intracranial potentials.
Talk by Adam Morgan, Erik Kaestner, Victor S. Ferreira, Meilin Zhan, & Eric Halgren.
The mess reveals the system: People use top-down cues to resolve errors in contexts with highly random noise, but not with highly structured noise.
Talk by Suhas Arehalli & Eva Wittenberg.
Clearly, structural priming is a valuable tool for probing linguistic
representation. But we don’t think that the existing results provide strong
support for Branigan & Pickering’s (B&P’s) model, largely because the
priming effects are more confusing and diverse than their theory would
suggest. Fortunately, there are a number of other experimental tools
available, and linguists are increasingly making use of them.
Read the commentary here!
Alessandro Caiola, a Ph.D. student in Linguistics at Sapienza Università di Roma and Università degli Studi Roma Tre, is visiting the Language Comprehension Lab for four months, until February.
Alessandro’s work focuses on the theory and processing of phenomena at the semantics-syntax interface. While here, he is developing a number of studies investigating the construal of event structure in different light verb constructions.
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.
, one of our lab’s collaborators, is visiting us and giving a CRL talk on 5/9!
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.
Eva Wittenberg has been awarded a UC San Diego Social Sciences Divisional Research Grant for her project “Linguistic Anaphora to Situations And Grammatically Neuter Entities (LASAGNE)”!