sentence production

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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CUNY 2015 plenary

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As requested by some, here are the slides from my 2015 CUNY Sentence Processing Conference plenary last week:

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I’m posting them here for discussion purposes only. During the Q&A several interesting points were raised. For example Read the rest of this entry »

Some thoughts on Healey et al (2014) failure to find syntactic priming in conversational speech

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In a recent PLoS one article, Healey, Purver, and Howes (2014) investigate syntactic priming in conversational speech, both within speakers and across speakers. Healey and colleagues follow Reitter et al (2006) in taking a broad-coverage approach to the corpus-based study of priming. Rather than to focus on one or a few specific structures, Healey and colleagues assess lexical and structural similarity within and across speakers. The paper concludes with the interesting claim that there is no evidence for syntactic priming within speaker and that alignment across speakers is actually less than expected by chance once lexical overlap is controlled for. Given more than 30 years of research on syntactic priming, this is a rather interesting claim. As some folks have Twitter-bugged me (much appreciated!), I wanted to summarize some quick thoughts here. Apologies in advance for the somewhat HLP-lab centric view. If you know of additional studies that seem relevant, please join the discussion and post. Of course, Healey and colleagues are more than welcome to respond and correct me, too.

First, the claim by Healey and colleagues that “previous work has not tested for general syntactic repetition effects in ordinary conversation independently of lexical repetition” (Healey et al 2014, abstract) isn’t quite accurate.

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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 »

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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HLP Lab is looking for graduate researchers

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The Human Language Processing (HLP/Jaeger) Lab in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester is looking for PhD researchers to join the lab. Admission is through the PhD program in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, which offers full five-year scholarship. International applications are welcome.

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Optional plural-marking in Yucatec

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After many years of data collection, translation, annotation, and analysis, our first longer paper based on our field-based studies of language production in Yucatec Maya is about to appear in print:

The paper discusses speakers’ production preferences in optional plural-marking on nouns and verbs in Yucatec. Yucatec plural-marking is typologically interesting in that there seem to be environments in which plural-marking on either or even both the noun and verb can be omitted without loss of plural meaning.

Lindsay Butler’s thesis (at the University of Arizona) focused on the syntactic theory behind optional plural-marking in Yucatec and what it tells us about the typology of plural-marking. If you’re interested in this topic, you might also find the following article of interest, which provides a broader introduction to the relevant grammatical constraints in Yucatec plural-marking. I will add links soon, but in the meantime feel to ask for a copy:

  • Bohnemeyer, J. B., Butler, L. K., and Jaeger, T. F. submitted. Head-marking and agreement: Evidence from Yucatec Maya.