Three experiments examined the effects in sentence reading of varying the frequency and length of an adjective on (a) fixations on the adjective and (b) fixations on the following noun. The gaze duration on the adjective was longer for low frequency than for high frequency adjectives and longer for long adjectives than for short adjectives. This contrasted with the spillover effects: Gaze durations on the noun were longer when adjectives were low frequency but were actually shorter when the adjectives were long. The latter effect, which seems anomalous, can be explained by three mechanisms: (a) Fixations on the noun are less optimal after short adjectives because of less optimal targeting; (b) shorter adjectives are more difficult to process because they have more neighbors; and (c) prior fixations before skips are less advantageous places to extract parafoveal information. The viability of these hypotheses as explanations of this reverse length effect on the noun was examined in simulations using an updated version of the E-Z Reader model
reading; eye movements; attention; models; E-Z Reader
In two experiments, we investigated age-related changes in how prosodic pitch accents affect memory. Participants listened to recorded discourses that contained two contrasts between pairs of items (e.g. one story contrasted British scientists with French scientists and Malaysia with Indonesia). The end of each discourse referred to one item from each pair; these references received a pitch accent that either denoted contrast (L+H* in the ToBI system) or did not (H*). A contrastive accent on a particular pair improved later recognition memory equally for young and older adults. However, older adults showed decreased memory if the other pair received a contrastive accent (Experiment 1). Young adults with low working memory performance also showed this penalty (Experiment 2). These results suggest that pitch accents guide processing resources to important information for both older and younger adults, but diminish memory for less important information in groups with reduced resources, including older adults.
pitch accenting; language comprehension; discourse; cognitive aging; recognition memory
The effects of pitch accenting on memory were investigated in three experiments. Participants listened to short recorded discourses that contained contrast sets with two items (e.g. British scientists and French scientists); a continuation specified one item from the set. Pitch accenting on the critical word in the continuation was manipulated between non-contrastive (H* in the ToBI system) and contrastive (L+H*). On subsequent recognition memory tests, the L+H* accent increased hits to correct statements and correct rejections of the contrast item (Experiments 1–3), but did not impair memory for other parts of the discourse (Experiment 2). L+H* also did not facilitate correct rejections of lures not in the contrast set (Experiment 3), indicating that contrastive accents do not simply strengthen the representation of the target item. These results suggest comprehenders use pitch accenting to encode and update information about multiple elements in a contrast set.
discourse; language comprehension; pitch accenting; focus; recognition memory
Children's ability to interpret color adjective noun phrases (e.g., red butterfly) as contrastive was examined in an eyetracking study with 6-year-old Russian children. Pitch accent placement (on the adjective red, or on the noun butterfly) was compared within a visual context containing two red referents (a butterfly and a fox) when only one of them had a contrast member (a purple butterfly) or when both had a contrast member (a purple butterfly and a grey fox). Contrastiveness was enhanced by the Russian-specific ‘split constituent’ construction (e.g., Red put butterfly . . .) in which a contrastive interpretation of the color term requires pitch accent on the adjective, with the nonsplit sentences serving as control. Regardless of the experimental manipulations, children had to wait until hearing the noun (butterfly) to identify the referent, even in splits. This occurred even under conditions for which the prosody and the visual context allow adult listeners to infer the relevant contrast set and anticipate the referent prior to hearing the noun (accent on the adjective in 1-Contrast scenes). Pitch accent on the adjective did facilitate children's referential processing, but only for the nonsplit constituents. Moreover, visual contexts that encouraged the correct contrast set (1-Contrast) only facilitated referential processing after hearing the noun, even in splits. Further analyses showed that children can anticipate the reference like adults but only when the contrast set is made salient by the preceding supportive discourse, that is, when the inference about the intended contrast set is provided by the preceding utterance.
children; eyetracking; prosody; referential processing; Russian contrastiveness; scrambling
Listeners expect that a definite noun phrase with a pre-nominal scalar adjective (e.g., the big …) will refer to an entity that is part of a set of objects contrasting on the scalar dimension, e.g., size (Sedivy, Tanenhaus, Chambers & Carlson, 1999). Two visual world experiments demonstrate that uttering a referring expression with a scalar adjective makes all members of the relevant contrast set more salient in the discourse model, facilitating subsequent reference to other members of that contrast set. Moreover, this discourse effect is caused primarily by linguistic mention of a scalar adjective and not by the listener’s prior visual or perceptual experience. These experiments demonstrate that language processing is sensitive to which information was introduced by linguistic mention, and that the visual world paradigm can be use to tease apart the separate contributions of visual and linguistic information to reference resolution.
Three studies investigated how 24-month-olds and adults resolve temporary ambiguity in fluent speech when encountering prenominal adjectives potentially interpretable as nouns. Children were tested in a looking-while-listening procedure to monitor the time course of speech processing. In Experiment 1, the familiar and unfamiliar adjectives preceding familiar target nouns were accented or deaccented. Target word recognition was disrupted only when lexically ambiguous adjectives were accented like nouns. Experiment 2 measured the extent of interference experienced by children when interpreting prenominal words as nouns. In Experiment 3, adults used prosodic cues to identify the form class of adjective/noun homophones in string-identical sentences before the ambiguous words were fully spoken. Results show that children and adults use prosody in conjunction with lexical and distributional cues to ‘listen through’ prenominal adjectives, avoiding costly misinterpretation.
Language development; Speech processing; Ambiguity resolution; Eye movements; Eye-tracking; On-line measures; Speed of processing; Adjectives; Prenominal adjectives; Form class; Prosody; Lexical development; Grammatical development
Two eye-tracking experiments examine whether adults and 4 and 5 year old children use the presence or absence of accenting to guide their interpretation of noun phrases (e.g., the bacon) with respect to the discourse context. Unaccented nouns tend to refer to contextually accessible referents, while accented variants tend to be used for less accessible entities. Experiment 1 confirms that accenting is informative for adults, who show a bias toward previously-mentioned objects beginning 300 msec after the onset of unaccented nouns and pronouns. But contrary to findings in the literature, accented words produced no observable bias. In Experiment 2, 4 and 5 year olds were also biased toward previously-mentioned objects with unaccented nouns and pronouns. This builds on findings of limits on children’s on-line reference comprehension (Arnold, Brown-Schmidt, & Trueswell, in press), showing that children’s interpretation of unaccented nouns and pronouns is constrained in contexts with one single highly accessible object.
Two experiments investigated the development of fluency in interpreting adjective-noun phrases in 30- and 36-month-old English-learning children. Using online processing measures, children’s gaze patterns were monitored as they heard the familiar adjective/noun phrases (e.g. blue car) in visual contexts where the adjective was either informative (e.g. blue car paired with red car or red house) or uninformative (e.g. blue car paired with blue house). Thirty-six-month-olds processed adjective-noun phrases incrementally as adults do, orienting more quickly to the target picture on informative-adjective trials than on control trials. Thirty-month-olds did not make incremental use of informative adjectives, and experienced disruption on trials when the two potential referents were identical in kind. In the younger children, difficulty in integrating prenominal adjectives with the subsequent noun was associated with slower processing speed across conditions. These findings provide evidence that skill in putting color word knowledge to use in real-time language processing emerges gradually over the third year.
language development; lexical development; sentence processing; eye movements; online comprehension; processing speed; adjectives; prenominal adjectives; adjective-noun integration
Previous work has found that listeners prefer to attach ambiguous syntactic constituents to nouns produced with a pitch accent (Schafer et al., 1996). This study examines what factors underlie previously established accent attachment effects by testing whether these effects are driven by a preference to attach syntactic constituents to new or important information (the Syntax Hypothesis) or whether there is a bias to respond to post-sentence probe questions with an accented word (the Salience Hypothesis). One of the predictions of the Salience Hypothesis is that selection of accented words should be greater when a sentence is complex and processing resources are limited. The results from the experiments presented here show that the probability of listeners’ selecting accented words when asked about the interpretation of a relative clause varies with sentence type: listeners selected accented words more frequently in long sentences than in short sentences, consistent with the predictions of the Salience Hypothesis. Furthermore, Experiment 4 demonstrates that listeners are more likely to respond to post-sentence questions with accented words than with non-accented words, even when no ambiguity is present, and even when the response results in an incorrect answer. These findings suggest that accent-driven attachment effects found in earlier studies reflect a post-sentence selection process rather than a syntactic processing mechanism.
pitch accents; prosody; relative clauses; syntactic processing
When multiple adjectives are used to modify a noun, they tend to be sequenced in the following way according to semantic class: value > size > dimension > various physical properties > color. To investigate the neural substrates of these semantic constraints on adjective order, we administered a battery of three tests to 34 brain-damaged patients and 19 healthy participants. Six patients manifested the following performance profile. First, they failed a test that required them to discriminate between semantically determined correct and incorrect sequences of adjectives—e.g., thick blue towel vs. *blue thick towel. Second, they passed a test that assessed their knowledge of two purely syntactic aspects of adjective order—specifically, that adjectives can precede nouns, and that adjectives can precede other adjectives. Finally, they also passed a test that assessed their knowledge of the categorical (i.e., class-level) features of adjective meanings that interact with the semantic constraints underlying adjective order—e.g., that thick is a dimensional adjective and that blue is a color adjective. Taken together, these behavioral findings suggest that the six patients have selectively impaired knowledge of the abstract principles that determine how different semantic classes of adjectives are typically mapped onto different syntactic positions in NPs. To identify the neuroanatomical lesion patterns that tend to correlate with defective processing of adjective order, we combined lesion data from the six patients just described with lesion data from six other patients who we reported in a previous study as having similar impairments [Kemmerer, D. (2000). Selective impairment of knowledge underlying adjective order: Evidence for the autonomy of grammatical semantics. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 13, 57–82.] We found that the most common areas of damage included the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus and the left inferior parietal lobule. Overall, these results shed new light on the neural substrates of the syntax-semantics interface.
adjective; syntax-semantics interface; iconicity; Broca’s area; inferior parietal lobule
The present study tests whether listeners use F0, duration, or some combination of the two to identify the presence of an accented word in a short discourse. Participants’ eye movements to previously mentioned and new objects were monitored as participants listened to instructions to move objects in a display. The name of the target object on critical trials was resynthesized from naturally-produced utterances so that it had either high or low F0 and either long or short duration. Fixations to the new object were highest when there was a steep rise in F0. Fixations to the previously mentioned object were highest when there was a steep drop in F0. These results suggest that listeners use F0 slope to make decisions about the presence of an accent, and that F0 and duration by themselves do not solely determine accent interpretation.
Recently several studies have shown that people use contextual information to make predictions about the rest of the sentence or story as the text unfolds. Using event related potentials (ERPs) we tested whether these on-line predictions are based on a message-level representation of the discourse or on simple automatic activation by individual words. Subjects heard short stories that were highly constraining for one specific noun, or stories that were not specifically predictive but contained the same prime words as the predictive stories. To test whether listeners make specific predictions critical nouns were preceded by an adjective that was inflected according to, or in contrast with, the gender of the expected noun.
When the message of the preceding discourse was predictive, adjectives with an unexpected gender inflection evoked a negative deflection over right-frontal electrodes between 300 and 600 ms. This effect was not present in the prime control context, indicating that the prediction mismatch does not hinge on word-based priming but is based on the actual message of the discourse.
When listening to a constraining discourse people rapidly make very specific predictions about the remainder of the story, as the story unfolds. These predictions are not simply based on word-based automatic activation, but take into account the actual message of the discourse.
In spoken English, pitch accents can convey the focus associated with new or contrasted constituents. Two listening experiments were conducted to determine whether accenting a subject makes its predicate a more tempting antecedent for an elided verb phrase, presumably because the accent helps focus the subject of the antecedent clause, increasing its likelihood of contrasting with the subject of the elided clause. The results of Experiment 1 supported the predictions of this “contrasted remnant hypothesis” but in principle could also be caused by listeners avoiding antecedents containing a focused (F-marked) constituent. Experiment 2 disconfirmed the hypothesis that listeners avoid antecedents containing a focused constituent, although pitch accents within a potential antecedent VP affected ellipsis resolution.
Propositional content is often incomplete but comprehenders appear to adjust meaning and add unarticulated meaning constituents effortlessly. This happens at the propositional level (The baby drank the bottle) but also at the phrasal level (the wooden turtle). In two ERP experiments, combinatorial processing was investigated in container/content alternations and adjective-noun combination transforming an animate entity into a physical object. Experiment 1 revealed that container-for-content alternations (The baby drank the bottle) engendered a Late Positivity on the critical expression and on the subsequent segment, while content-for-container alternations (Chris put the beer on the table) did not exert extra costs. In Experiment 2, adjective-noun combinations (the wooden turtle) also evoked a Late Positivity on the critical noun. First, the Late Positivities are taken to reflect discourse updating demands resulting from reference shift from the original denotation to the contextually appropriate interpretation (e.g., the reconceptualization form animal to physical object). This shift is supported by the linguistic unavailability of the original meaning, exemplified by copredication tests. Second, the data reveal that meaning alternations differ qualitatively. Some alternations involve (cost-free) meaning selection, while others engender processing demands associated with reconceptualization. This dissociation thus calls for a new typology of metonymic shifts that centers around the status of the involved discourse referents.
ERP; metonymy; discourse updating; reference shift; late positivity; experimental pragmatics
Humans use kinematic temporal and spatial information from the environment to infer the causal dynamics (e.g., force) of an event. We hypothesize that the basis for these inferences are malleable and modulated by contextual temporal and spatial information. Specifically, the present research investigates whether the extent of a person’s ongoing experience with direct causal events (e.g., temporally contiguous and spatially continuous) alters their use of time and space in judgments of causality. Participants made inferences of causality on animated launching events depicting a blue ball colliding with and then “launching” a red ball. We parametrically manipulated temporal contiguity and spatial continuity by varying the duration of contact between the balls and the angle of the second ball’s movement. We manipulated participants’ level of exposure to direct causal events (i.e., events with no delay or angle change) between experiments (Experiment 1: 2%, Experiment 2: 25%, Experiment 3: 75%). We found that participants adjust the temporal and spatial parameters they use to judge causality to accommodate the context in which they apprehended launching events. Participants became more conservative in their use of temporal and spatial parameters to judge causality as their exposure to direct causal events increased. People use time and space flexibly to infer causality based on their ongoing experiences. Such flexibility in making causal inferences may have adaptive significance.
causality; causal inference and perception; contextual information; decision-making; time; space; temporal contiguity; spatial continuity
The literature on advance phonological planning in adjective-noun phrases (NPs) presents diverging results: while many experimental studies suggest that the entire NP is encoded before articulation, other results favor a span of encoding limited to the first word. Although cross-linguistic differences in the structure of adjective-NPs may account for some of these contrasting results, divergences have been reported even among similar languages and syntactic structures. Here we examined whether inter-individual differences account for variability in the span of phonological planning in the production of French NPs, where previous results indicated encoding limited to the first word. The span of phonological encoding is tested with the picture-word interference (PWI) paradigm using phonological distractors related to the noun or to the adjective of the NPs. In Experiment 1, phonological priming effects were limited to the first word in adjective NPs whichever the position of the adjective (pre-nominal or post-nominal). Crucially, phonological priming effects on the second word interacted with speakers' production speed suggesting different encoding strategies for participants. In Experiment 2, we tested this hypothesis further with a larger group of participants. Results clearly showed that slow and fast initializing participants presented different phonological priming patterns on the last element of adjective-NPs: while the first word was primed by a distractor for all speakers, only the slow speaker group presented a priming effect on the second element of the NP. These results show that the span of phonological encoding is modulated by inter-individual strategies: in experimental paradigms some speakers plan word by word whereas others encode beyond the initial word. We suggest that the diverging results reported in the literature on advance phonological planning may partly be reconciled in light of the present results.
speech production; phonological encoding; speech processing; advance planning; variability
During the grammatical encoding of spoken multiword utterances, various kinds of information must be used to determine the order of words. For example, whereas in adjective-noun utterances like “red car”, word order can be determined on the basis of the word's grammatical class information, in noun-noun utterances like “…by car, bus, or…”, word order cannot be determined on the basis of a word's grammatical class information. We investigated whether a word's phonological properties play a role in grammatical encoding. In four experiments participants produced multiword utterances in which the words' onset phonology was manipulated. Phonological-onset relatedness yielded inhibitory effects in noun-noun utterances, no effects in noun-adjective utterances, and facilitatory effects in adjective-noun, noun-verb, and adjective-adjective-noun utterances. These results cannot be explained by differences in the stimulus displays used to elicit the utterances and suggest that grammatical encoding is sensitive to the phonological properties of words.
Seven high-school trainees each conducted training sessions with two profoundly retarded children. Each trainee was asked to teach one child to follow the instruction "Bring ball" and the other child to follow the instructions "Sit down" and "Come here". During baseline sessions, before the trainees had been instructed in behavior-modification techniques, no trainee successfully taught either child to follow the instructions. After differing numbers of baseline sessions, trainees were exposed to training procedures designed to teach them to teach one child to follow the instruction "Bring ball". The training procedures consisted of videotaped modelling, rehearsal, and corrective feedback and praise. Following the training procedures, four of the seven trainees successfully taught their child the instruction "Bring ball". Further, all trainees were able to teach their other children to follow the instructions "Sit down" and "Come here", even though they had received no modelling, rehearsal, or feedback on how to teach the children to follow these instructions. The ability of the trainees to teach new behaviors to different children indicates the development of generalized skills in behavior modification.
The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between pitching ball velocity and segmental (trunk, upper arm, forearm, upper leg, and lower leg) and whole-body muscle volume (MV) in high school baseball pitchers. Forty-seven male high school pitchers (40 right-handers and seven left-handers; age, 16.2 ± 0.7 years; stature, 173.6 ± 4.9 cm; mass, 65.0 ± 6.8 kg, years of baseball experience, 7.5 ± 1.8 years; maximum pitching ball velocity, 119.0 ± 9.0 km/hour) participated in the study. Segmental and whole-body MV were measured using segmental bioelectrical impedance analysis. Maximum ball velocity was measured with a sports radar gun. The MV of the dominant arm was significantly larger than the MV of the non-dominant arm (P < 0.001). There was no difference in MV between the dominant and non-dominant legs. Whole-body MV was significantly correlated with ball velocity (r = 0.412, P < 0.01). Trunk MV was not correlated with ball velocity, but the MV for both lower legs, and the dominant upper leg, upper arm, and forearm were significantly correlated with ball velocity (P < 0.05). The results were not affected by age or years of baseball experience. Whole-body and segmental MV are associated with ball velocity in high school baseball pitchers. However, the contribution of the muscle mass on pitching ball velocity is limited, thus other fundamental factors (ie, pitching skill) are also important.
pitching; ball velocity; muscle volume; body composition; trunk; upper and lower extremities
Two visual ERP experiments were conducted to investigate topic and contrast assigned by various cues such as discourse context, sentential position, and marker during referential processing in Japanese. Experiment 1 showed that there was no N400-difference for new vs. given noun phrases (NPs) when the new NP was expected (contrastively focused) based on its preceding context and sentential position. Experiment 2 further revealed that the N400 for new NPs can be modulated by the NP's contrastive meaning (exhaustivity) induced from the marker. Both experiments also showed that new NPs engendered an increased Late Positivity. The reduced N400 for new vs. given supports an expectation-based linking mechanism. In addition, costs that were consistently observed for new vs. given entities emerged in a subsequent process, in which the new NP's occurrence requires updating and correcting of the discourse representation built so far, which is indexed by an enhanced Late Positivity. We argue that the overall data pattern should be best explained within a multi-stream model of discourse processing.
Japanese; topic; contrast; exhaustivity; expectation; updating; N400; Late Positivity
Prosody has a large impact on language processing. We contrast two views of how prosody and intonation might exert their effects. On a ‘prosodic packaging’ approach, prosodic boundaries structure the linguistic input into perceptual and memory units, with the consequence that material in earlier packages is less accessible for linguistic processing than material in the current package. This approach claims that such lessened accessibility holds true for the comprehension of all constructions, regardless of the particular kind of linguistic dependency that needs to be established using the earlier constituent. A ‘specialized role’ approach, by contrast, attributes to prosodic boundaries a role in making grouping decisions when building hierarchical structure, but attributes to pitch accents the major role in determining the accessibility of a constituent. The results of four listening studies with replacive sentences (Diane thought Patrick was entertaining, not Louise) support the predictions of the specialized role hypothesis over the prosodic packaging approach.
Speech processing requires sensitivity to long-term regularities of the native language yet demands listeners to flexibly adapt to perturbations that arise from talker idiosyncrasies such as nonnative accent. The present experiments investigate whether listeners exhibit dimension-based statistical learning of correlations between acoustic dimensions defining perceptual space for a given speech segment. While engaged in a word recognition task guided by a perceptually unambiguous voice-onset time (VOT) acoustics to signal beer, pier, deer, or tear, listeners were exposed incidentally to an artificial “accent” deviating from English norms in its correlation of the pitch onset of the following vowel (F0) to VOT. Results across four experiments are indicative of rapid, dimension-based statistical learning; reliance on the F0 dimension in word recognition was rapidly down-weighted in response to the perturbation of the correlation between F0 and VOT dimensions. However, listeners did not simply mirror the short-term input statistics. Instead, response patterns were consistent with a lingering influence of sensitivity to the long-term regularities of English. This suggests that the very acoustic dimensions defining perceptual space are not fixed and, rather, are dynamically and rapidly adjusted to the idiosyncrasies of local experience, such as might arise from nonnative-accent, dialect, or dysarthria. The current findings extend demonstrations of “object-based” statistical learning across speech segments to include incidental, online statistical learning of regularities residing within a speech segment.
speech perception; perceptual learning; statistical learning; talker adaptation; dimension-based learning
Baseball and softball pitch types are distinguished by the path and speed of the ball which, in turn, are determined by the angular velocity of the ball and the velocity of the ball center at the instant of release from the pitcher's hand. While radar guns and video-based motion capture (mocap) resolve ball speed, they provide little information about how the angular velocity of the ball and the velocity of the ball center develop and change during the throwing motion. Moreover, mocap requires measurements in a controlled lab environment and by a skilled technician. This study addresses these shortcomings by introducing a highly miniaturized, wireless inertial measurement unit (IMU) that is embedded in both baseballs and softballs. The resulting “ball-embedded” sensor resolves ball dynamics right on the field of play. Experimental results from ten pitches, five thrown by one softball pitcher and five by one baseball pitcher, demonstrate that this sensor technology can deduce the magnitude and direction of the ball's velocity at release to within 4.6% of measurements made using standard mocap. Moreover, the IMU directly measures the angular velocity of the ball, which further enables the analysis of different pitch types.
inertial measurement unit; wireless sensor; baseball; softball; pitching; training
This event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated brain activity elicited by emotional adjectives during silent reading without specific processing instructions. Fifteen healthy volunteers were asked to read a set of randomly presented high-arousing emotional (pleasant and unpleasant) and low-arousing neutral adjectives. Silent reading of emotional in contrast to neutral adjectives evoked enhanced activations in visual, limbic and prefrontal brain regions. In particular, reading pleasant adjectives produced a more robust activation pattern in the left amygdala and the left extrastriate visual cortex than did reading unpleasant or neutral adjectives. Moreover, extrastriate visual cortex and amygdala activity were significantly correlated during reading of pleasant adjectives. Furthermore, pleasant adjectives were better remembered than unpleasant and neutral adjectives in a surprise free recall test conducted after scanning. Thus, visual processing was biased towards pleasant words and involved the amygdala, underscoring recent theoretical views of a general role of the human amygdala in relevance detection for both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. Results indicate preferential processing of pleasant information in healthy young adults and can be accounted for within the framework of appraisal theory.
emotion; perception; re-entrant processing; reading; amygdala; extrastriate cortex; neuroimaging
Research on pause duration has mainly focused on the impact of syntactic structure on the duration of pauses within an utterance and on the impact of syntax, discourse, and prosodic structure on the likelihood of pause occurrence. Relatively little is known about what factors play a role in determining the duration of pauses between utterances or phrases. Two experiments examining the effect of prosodic structure and phrase length on pause duration are reported. Subjects read sentences varying along the following parameters: a) the length in syllables of the intonational phrase preceding and following the pause, and b) the prosodic structure of the intonational phrase preceding and following the pause, specifically whether or not the intonational phrase branches into smaller phrases. In order to minimize variability due to speech rate and individual differences, speakers read sentences synchronously in dyads. The results showed a significant post-boundary effect of prosodic branching and significant pre- and post-boundary phrase length effects. The results are discussed in terms of production units.
prosody; pause duration; synchronous speech; prosodic complexity; prosodic length; production unit