Effects of phonological overlap on fluency, speech rate, and word order in unscripted sentence production
The last two papers based on Katrina Furth’s and Caitie Hilliard’s work back when they were at Rochester just came out in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition and the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
The JEP:LMC paper investigates how lemma selection (i.e., word choice) is affected by phonological overlap. We find evidence for a (weak) bias against sequences of phonologically onset overlapping words. That is, when speakers have a choice, they seem to prefer sentences like “Hannah gave the hammer to the boy”, rather than “Hannah handed the hammer to the boy”. This suggests very early effects of phonology on lexical production, which seem to be incompatible with strictly serial models of word production.
Jaeger, T. F., Furth, K., and Hilliard, C. 2012. Phonological overlap affects lexical selection during sentence production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38(5), 1439-1449. [doi: 10.1037/a0027862]
The Frontiers paper investigates Read the rest of this entry »
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
- Thanks to the extended podcast coverage by the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, which present an interesting take on our study (a couple of details about ambiguity vs. uncertainty are a bit off, but the general message is captured well). Have a look at minutes 13:30 to 22:02. Thanks to Nick Kloehn for making us aware of this piece.
- www.eurekalert.org (e.g., here).
- Check out an extended article on ScienceOmega (Language learning balances clarity and effort)
- Universities at which the research was conducted:
- University of Rochester (Language is shaped by brain’s desire for clarity and ease)
- Georgetown University (PNAS Study: Language Structure Arises from Balance of Clear and Effective Communication).
- Blogs and more: Futurity, Phys.org, ScienceBlog, Science Daily, E-Science News , Sify, TruthDive , BioSpace
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.
Check out this article in ScienceNews summarizing commentaries on two recent language studies in Science (Atkinson, 2011: ) and Nature (Dunn et al., 2011). Each of the studies has received a lot of attention and they are the subject of two special issues in press for Linguistic Typology, to which HLP Lab contributed on three articles. I will add a link to the special issue(s) once it comes out. Read the rest of this entry »
We presented the results of our artificial language learning study on the use of case-marking and word order as cues in processing and learning at the LSA annual meeting. This is work done with Florian Jaeger and Elissa Newport. We investigated whether functional pressures (e.g., ambiguity reduction) operate during language acquisition, biasing learners to (subtly) deviate from the input they receive. Our results suggest that language learners indeed have a bias to reduce uncertainty (or ambiguity) in the input language: The learners are more likely to fix the word order if a language does not have case. See the image below for the details of the study or download the poster as a pdf here. Feedback welcome!
Update 11/29/11: This work was published in the 2011 CogSci Proceedings as
- Fedzechkina, M., Jaeger, T. F., and Newport, E. L. 2011. Functional Biases in Language Learning: Evidence from Word Order and Case-Marking Interaction. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci11), 318-323.
We presented the results of the animacy and accessibility study on Yucatec on March 18, 2010 at the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference in New York (see image below, or download the poster pdf file here: CUNY 2010 Sentence Processing poster Yucatec. See poster pdf file for additional data, abbreviations and references). We encountered a lot of support for our project and a lot of enthusiasm for continuing research. Soooooooo, stay tuned for more production studies on Yucatec to be carried out this summer.
Good news! We’ve analyzed the previously mentioned experiment on animacy and word order in Yucatec. We coded animacy of the Agent and Patient referents (human, animal, inanimate), transitivity (transitive, intransitive) and voice (active, passive, other) of the verb. We also coded the definiteness of the Agent and Patient referents (definite, indefinite).
Overall, Agent-Verb-Patient word order was strongly preferred (see Table 1). Moreover, human subjects were more likely to appear earlier in the sentence (ps<0.0001, interaction n.s., N=597), which is predicted by direct accessibility accounts. Human agents and patients were were more likely to be described as definite (ps<0.0002), and definite NPs showed a tendency to be mentioned earlier (agent: p<0.0001; patient: n.s., interaction p<0.0001). Still, the effect of animacy held independently (ps<0.002; interaction n.s.). The agent animacy effect was somewhat mediated by an effect on transitivity (whether participants described an event as e.g. an apple hitting a man or an apple falling on a man in that inanimate agents were less often described transitively (p<0.0001; no patient effects). The agent animacy effect remained significant even for transitive sentences (p<0.004; no interaction, N=502). In terms of the effects of voice, human agents correlated with the use of active voice (p<0.0001), and human patients correlated with the use of passive voice, though not at strongly (p<0.03, N=604).
What does this mean? Good news! Interesting results. In Yucatec, the passive voice is encoded by verbal morphology. Passive voice does not presuppose or preclude a word order change. When a patient was human, sentences were more likely to be in the passive voice. Moreover, human patients were more likely to be mentioned earlier. So, we’ve seen the use of passive voice morphology and earlier mention with human patients.