HLP Lab at the LSA and congratulations to Judith Degen and Masha Fedzechkina

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Congratulations to Judith Degen and Masha Fedzechkina for having their two abstracts be among only twelve selected to be “media-worthy” by LSA reviewers:

  • Degen, J. and Jaeger, T. F. 2011.  Speakers sacrifice some (of the) precision in conveyed meaning to accommodate robust communication. Talk to be presented at the 2011 Meeting of the LSA.
    • Session: Pragmatics II  31
    • Room: Le Batea
    • Time: Friday 2pm

The process of encoding an intended meaning into a linguistic utterance is well-known to be affected by production pressures. We present corpus data suggesting that the choice between even two seemingly non-meaning-equivalent forms as in (1a) and (1b) can be affected by speakers’ preference to distribute information uniformly across the linguistic signal (Uniform Information Density (UID), Jaeger 2006). This suggests that even when two forms do not encode the same (but a similar enough) message, speakers may sacrifice precision in meaning for increased processing efficiency.

(1a) Alex ate some chard.
(1b) Alex ate some of the chard

  • Fedzechkina, M., Jaeger. T. F. , and Newport, E. 2011. Word order and case marking in language acquisition and processing. Poster to be presented at the 2011 Meeting of the LSA.
    • Session: Language Acquisition/Psycholinguistics/Syntax
    • Room: Grand Ballroom Foyer
    • Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM.

To understand a sentence, comprehenders must identify its actor and patient. In principle, these relationships can be signaled using a single cue, but most languages employ several redundant cues, including word order and case marking. In artificial language learning experiments we investigate word order and case as cues in processing and learning. In languages without case marking, learners regularize word order; but when case marking is present, it is favored and limits word order regularization. Case-marking comes with a disadvantage: it is more complex to acquire. But the present results suggest that this may be outweighed by clarity for processing.

There are some other usual suspects among the twelve abstracts, including some really exciting looking work by Max Bane, Morgan Sonderegger, and Peter Graff on phonetic adaptation, work by Lindsay Butler on Yucatec agreement marking, and work by Mark Ettlinger and colleagues on the relation between natural and artificial language learning that I am particularly looking forward to. For more, follow the link to the LSA page.

While we’re at it: If you’ll be at the LSA,

  • please join us for our Workshop on “Empirically examining parsimony and redundancyin usage-based models”, co-organized with Neal Snider, Daniel Wiechman, Elma Kerz.
  • Robin Melnick will give a talk on his work on the correlation between production preference and acceptability measures in the lab and over the web (a nice methodological comparison):
    • Robin Melnick (Stanford University), T. Florian Jaeger (University of Rochester), Thomas Wasow (Stanford University): Speakers employ fine-grained probabilistic knowledge, Fr. 2:30pm (right after Judith Degen’s talk mentioned above).

If you’ll be in the area after the LSA,

  • maybe you come to Ohio State to join us for more talks? Judith Degen will present work with Mike Tanenhaus on the processing of scalar implicature; Masha Fedzechkina will present additional studies on functional biases on language acquisition; and I will give an overview of other work in the lab over the last couple of years. We’ll be at Ohio State 1/10-11 (the two days right after the LSA).
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