Papers

Special issue in “Cross-linguistic Psycholinguistics”

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At long last! It’s my great pleasure to announce the publication of the special issue on “Laboratory in the field: advances in cross-linguistic psycholinguistics”, edited by Alice Harris (UMass), Elisabeth Norcliffe (MPI, Nijmegen), and me (Rochester), in Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience. It is an exciting collection of cross-linguistic studies on language production and comprehension and it feels great to see the proofs for the whole shiny issue:

Front cover of special issue
Front cover of special issue

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Speech perception and generalization across talkers

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We recently submitted a research review on “Speech perception and generalization across talkers and accents“, which provides an overview of the critical concepts and debates in this domain of research. This manuscript is still under review, but we wanted to share the current version. Of couse, feedback is always welcome.

In this paper, we review the mixture of processes that enable robust understanding of speech across talkers despite the lack of invariance. These processes include (i) automatic pre-speech adjustments of the distribution of energy over acoustic frequencies (normalization); (ii) sensitivity to category-relevant acoustic cues that are invariant across talkers (acoustic invariance); (iii) sensitivity to articulatory/gestural cues, which can be perceived directly (audio-visual integration) or recovered from the acoustic signal (articulatory recovery); (iv) implicit statistical learning of talker-specific properties (adaptation, perceptual recalibration); and (v) the use of past experiences (e.g., specific exemplars) and structured knowledge about pronunciation variation (e.g., patterns of variation that exist across talkers with the same accent) to guide speech perception (exemplar-based recognition, generalization).

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Language is shaped by brain’s desire for clarity and ease

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Congratulations to Masha Fedzechkina on her article on a bias for efficient information transfer during language learning that has just appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (link to article).

Here’s some news coverage

More to come soon.

Errata: We are sorry that in our paper we forgot to acknowledge the help of three undergraduate research assistants, Andy Wood, Irene Minkina, and Cassandra Donatelli, in preparing the video animations used during our artificial language learning task.

R code for Jaeger, Graff, Croft and Pontillo (2011): Mixed effect models for genetic and areal dependencies in linguistic typology: Commentary on Atkinson

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Below I am sharing the R code for our paper on the serial founder effect:
This paper is a commentary on Atkinson’s 2011 Science article on the serial founder model (see also this interview with ScienceNews, in which parts of our comment in Linguistic Typology and follow-up work are summarized). In the commentary, we provide an introduction to linear mixed effect models for typological research. We discuss how to fit and to evaluate these models, using Atkinson’s data as an example.We illustrate the use of crossed random effects to control for genetic and areal relations between languages. We also introduce a (novel?) way to model areal dependencies based on an exponential decay function over migration distances between languages.
Finally, we discuss limits to the statistical analysis due to data sparseness. In particular, we show that the data available to Atkinson did not contain enough language families with sufficiently many languages to test whether the observed effect holds once random by-family slopes (for the effect) are included in the model. We also present simulations that show that the Type I error rate (false rejections) of the approach taken in Atkinson is many times higher than conventionally accepted (i.e. above .2 when .05 is the conventionally accepted rate of Type errors).
The scripts presented below are not intended to allow full replication of our analyses (they lack annotation and we are not allowed to share the WALS data employed by Atkinson on this site anyway). However, there are many plots and tests in the paper that might be useful for typologists or other users of mixed models. For that reason, I am for now posting the raw code. Please comment below if you have questions and we will try to provide additional annotation for the scripts as needed and as time permits. If you find (parts of the) script(s) useful, please consider citing our article in Linguistic Typology.