Author: Tim Florian Jaeger

Presentation at CNS symposium on “Prediction, adaptation and plasticity of language processing in the adult brain”

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Earlier this week, Dave Kleinschmidt and I gave a presentation as part of a mini-symposium at Cognitive Neuroscience Conference  on “Prediction, adaptation and plasticity of language processing in the adult brain” organized by Gina Kuperberg.  For this symposium we were tasked to address the following questions:

  1. What is prediction and why do we predict?
  2. What is adaptation and why do we adapt?
  3. How do prediction and adaptation relate?

Although we address these questions in the context of language processing, most of our points are pretty general. We aim to provide intuitions about the notions of distribution, prediction, distributional/statistical learning and adaptation. We walked through examples of belief-updating, intentionally keeping our presentation math-free. Perhaps some of the slides are of interest to some of you, so I attached them below. A more in-depth treatment of these questions is also provided in Kleinschmidt & Jaeger (under review, available on request).

Comments welcome. (sorry – some of the slides look strange after importing them and all the animations got lost but I think they are all readable).

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It was great to see these notions discussed and related to ERP, MEG, and fMRI research in the three other presentations of the symposium by Matt Davis, Kara Federmeier and Eddy Wlotko, and Gina Kuperberg. You can read their abstracts following the link to the symposium I included above.

Post-doctoral position available (speech perception, language comprehension, implicit distributional learning, inference under uncertainty, hierarchical predictive systems)

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The Human Language Processing (HLP) Lab at the University of Rochester is looking for a post-doctoral researcher interested in speech perception and adaptation. Possible start dates for this 1-3 year position range from mid August 2014 to mid June 2015 (the current post-doctoral researcher funded under this grant will leave HLP lab in late August to start a tenure-track position in Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh). International students are welcome to apply (NIH research grants are not limited to nationals).

We will start reviewing applications May 25th 2014 though later submissions are welcome. Applications should contain (1) a cover letter clearly indicated possible start dates, (2) a CV, (3) research statement detailing qualifications and research interests, and (4) 2 or more letters of recommendation. Applications and letters should be emailed to Kathy Corser (, subject line “application for post-doc position (HLP Lab)”.

This is an NIH funded project (NIHCD R01 HD075797), currently scheduled to end in 2018. The project is a collaboration between Florian Jaeger (PI), Mike Tanenhaus (co-PI), Robbie Jacobs and Dick Aslin. We are interested in Read the rest of this entry »

A good start to Klinton Bicknell at Northwestern

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A belated congratulations and a good start to Klinton Bicknell, who just started his tenure-track position in Linguistics at Northwestern. To quote his website, his research:

… seeks to understand the remarkable efficiency of language comprehension, using the tools of probability theory and statistical decision theory as explanatory frameworks. My work suggests that we achieve communicative efficiency by utilizing rich, structured probabilistic information about language: leveraging linguistic redundancy to fill in details absent from the perceptual signal, to spend less time processing more frequent material, and to make predictions about language material not yet encountered.

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Another example of recording spoken productions over the web

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A few days ago, I posted a summary of some recent work on syntactic alignment with Kodi Weatherholtz and Kathryn Campell-Kibler (both at The Ohio State University), in which we used the WAMI interface to collect speech data for research on language production over Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

JaegerGrimshaw_poster_v3-final corrected (after print)
Jaeger and Grimshaw (2013). Poster presented at AMLaP, Marseilles, France.

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Socially-mediated syntactic alignment

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The first step in our OSU-Rochester collaboration on socially-mediated syntactic alignment has been submitted a couple of weeks ago. Kodi Weatherholtz in Linguistics at The Ohio State University took the lead in this project together with Kathryn Campbell-Kibler (same department) and me.

Welcome screen with sound  check from our web-based speech recording experiment.
Welcome screen with sound check from our web-based speech recording experiment.

We collected spoken picture descriptions via Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk to investigate how social attitude towards an interlocutor and conflict management styles affected syntactic priming. Our paradigm combines Read the rest of this entry »

Ways of plotting map data in R (and python)

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Thanks to Scott Jackson, Daniel Ezra Johnson, David Morris, Michael Shvartzman, and Nathanial Smith for the recommendations and pointers to the packages mentioned below.

  • R:
    • The maps, mapsextra, and maptools packages provide data and tools to plot world, US, and a variety of regional maps (see also mapproj and mapdata). This, combined with ggplot2 is also what we used in Jaeger et al., (2011, 2012) to plot distributions over world maps. Here’s an example from ggplot2 with maps.
    Example of using ggplot2 combined with the maps package.
    Example use of ggplot2 combined with the maps package (similar to the graphs created for Jaeger et al., 2011, 2012).

Join me at the 15th Texas Linguistic Society conference?

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I’ll be giving a plenary presentation at the 15th Texas Linguistic Society conference to be held in October in Austin, TX. Philippe Schlenker from NYU and David Beaver from Austin will be giving plenaries, too. The special session will be on the “importance of experimental evidence in theories of syntax and semantics, and focus on research that highlights the unique advantages of the experimental environment, as opposed to other sources of data” (from their website). Submit an abstract before May 1st and I see you there.

Perspective paper on second (and third and …) language learning as hierarchical inference

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We’ve just submitted a perspective paper on second (and third and …) language learning as hierarchical inference that I hope might be of interest to some of you (feedback welcome).

Figure 1: Just as the implicit knowledge about different speakers and groups of speakers (such as dialects or accents) contains hierarchical relations across different language models, the implicit knowledge about multiple languages can be construed as a hierarchical inference process.

We’re building on Read the rest of this entry »

Your thoughts on second, third, etc. language learning

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After a recent discussion in the lab, I’m curious to hear your speculative or informed opinions about the factors that determine someone’s proficiency in a second (or third, …) language. I’ve put together a brief survey (5-10 minutes) and if you have some time, it’d be great to hear your thoughts. Experts’ and non-experts’ opinions are equally welcome. I will post the results of the survey here.

Thank you for your participation.

And a belated welcome to Scott Grimm

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Scott Grimm just joined our faculty in Linguistics at Rochester last month. So today he got his belated Rochester welcome:

South Wedge represents
The South Wedge sends a warm welcome to Scott Grimm

Scott joins the Center of Language Sciences at Rochester with an unnecessary number of degrees. Read the rest of this entry »

Updated slides on GLM, GLMM, plyr, etc. available

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Some of you asked for the slides to the Mixed effect regression class I taught at the 2013 LSA Summer Institute in Ann Arbor, MI. The class covered some Generalized Linear Model, Generalized Linear Mixed Models, extensions beyond the linear model, simulation-based approaches to assessing the validity (or power) of your analysis, data summarization and visualization, and reporting of results. The class included slides from Maureen Gillespie, Dave Kleinschmidt, and Judith Degen (see above link). Dave even came by to Ann Arbor and gave his lecture on the awesome power of plyr (and reshape etc.), which I recommend. You might also just browse through them to get an idea of some new libraries (such as Stargazer for quick and nice looking latex tables). There’s also a small example to work through for time series analysis (for beginners).

Almost all slides were created in knitr and latex (very conveniently integrated into RStudio — I know some purists hate it, but comm’on), so that the code on the slides is the code that generated the output on the slides. Feedback welcome.



Workshop announcement (Tuebingen): Advances in Visual Methods for Linguistics

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This workshop on data visualization might be of interest to a lot of you. I wish I could just hop over the pond.

  • Date: 24-Sept-2014 – 26-Sept-2014
  • Location: Tuebingen, Germany
  • Contact Person: Fabian Tomaschek (
  • Web Site:
  • Call Deadlines: 21 March / 18 April

The AVML-meeting offers a meeting place for all linguists from all fields who are interested in elaborating and improving their data visualization skills and methods. The meeting consists of a one-day hands-on workshop Read the rest of this entry »

Is my analysis problematic? A simulation-based example

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This post is in reply to a recent question on in ling-R-lang by Meredith Tamminga. Meredith was wondering whether an analysis she had in mind for her project was circular, causing the pattern of results predicted by the hypothesis that she was interested in testing. I felt her question (described below in more detail) was an interesting example that might best be answered with some simulations. Reasoning through an analysis can, of course, help a lot in understanding (or better, as in Meredith’s case, anticipating) problems with the interpretation of the results. Not all too infrequently, however, I find that intuition fails or isn’t sufficiently conclusive. In those cases, simulations can be a powerful tool in understanding your analysis. So, I decided to give it a go and use this as an example of how one might approach this type of question.

Results of 16 simulated priming experiments with a robust priming effect (see title for the true relative frequency of each variant in the population).
Figure 1: Results of 16 simulated priming experiments with a robust priming effect (see title for the true relative frequency of each variant in the population). For explanation see text below.

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A few reflections on “Gradience in Grammar”

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In my earlier post I provided a summary of a workshop on Gradience in Grammar last week at Stanford. The workshop prompted many interesting discussion, but here I want to talk about an (admittedly long ongoing) discussion it didn’t prompt. Several of the presentations at the workshop talked about prediction/expectation and how they are a critical part of language understanding. One implication of these talks is that understanding the nature and structure of our implicit knowledge of linguistic distributions (linguistic statistics) is crucial to advancing linguistics. As I was told later, there were, however, a number of people in the audience who thought that this type of data doesn’t tell us anything about linguistics and, in particular, grammar (unfortunately, this opinion was expressed outside the Q&A session and not towards the people giving the talks, so that it didn’t contribute to the discussion). Read the rest of this entry »

“Gradience in Grammar” workshop at CSLI, Stanford (#gradience2014)

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A few days ago, I presented at the Gradience in Grammar workshop organized by Joan Bresnan, Dan Lassiter , and Annie Zaenen at Stanford’s CSLI (1/17-18). The discussion and audience reactions (incl. lack of reaction in some parts of the audience) prompted a few thoughts/questions about Gradience, Grammar, and to what extent the meaning of generative has survived in the modern day generative grammar. I decided to break this up into two posts. This summarizes the workshop – thanks to Annie, Dan, and Joan for putting this together!

The stated goal of the workshop was (quoting from the website):

For most linguists it is now clear that most, if not all, grammaticality judgments are graded. This insight is leading to a renewed interest in implicit knowledge of “soft” grammatical constraints and generalizations from statistical learning and in probabilistic or variable models of grammar, such as probabilistic or exemplar-based grammars. This workshop aims to stimulate discussion of the empirical techniques and linguistic models that gradience in grammar calls for, by bringing internationally known speakers representing various perspectives on the cognitive science of grammar from linguistics, psychology, and computation. 

Apologies in advance for butchering the presenters’ points with my highly subjective summary; feel free to comment. Two of the talks demonstrated

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