Probabilistic expectations and memory limitations are central factors
governing the real-time comprehension of natural language, but how the two
factors interact remains poorly understood. One respect in which the two factors
have come into theoretical conflict is the documentation of both
locality effects, in which more dependents preceding a
governing verb increase processing difficulty at the verb, and
anti-locality effects, in which more preceding dependents
facilitate processing at the verb. However, no controlled study has previously
demonstrated both locality and anti-locality effects in the same type of
dependency relation within the same language. Additionally, many previous
demonstrations of anti-locality effects have been potentially confounded with
lexical identity, plausibility, and sentence position. Here, we provide new
evidence of both locality and anti-locality effects in the same type of
dependency relation in a single language—verb-final constructions in
German—while controlling for lexical identity, plausibility, and
sentence position. In main clauses, we find clear anti-locality effects, with
the presence of a preceding dative argument facilitating processing at the final
verb; in subject-extracted relative clauses with identical linear ordering of
verbal dependents, we find both anti-locality and locality effects, with
processing facilitated when the verb is preceded by a dative argument alone, but
hindered when the verb is preceded by both the dative argument and an adjunct.
These results indicate that both expectations and memory limitations need to be
accounted for in any complete theory of online syntactic comprehension.
•We reconcile conflicting theories about vowels and consonants in early perception.•Mispronunciation sensitivity is modulated by the size and structure of the lexicon.•Asymmetries in mispronunciation can be explained with a fully specified phonology.•Inhibition at a phoneme level and/or at a lexical level is likely reduced in infancy.•Claim that words from dense neighbourhoods are harder to learn needs a stronger test.
The TRACE model of speech perception (McClelland & Elman, 1986) is used to simulate results from the infant word recognition literature, to provide a unified, theoretical framework for interpreting these findings. In a first set of simulations, we demonstrate how TRACE can reconcile apparently conflicting findings suggesting, on the one hand, that consonants play a pre-eminent role in lexical acquisition (Nespor, Peña & Mehler, 2003; Nazzi, 2005), and on the other, that there is a symmetry in infant sensitivity to vowel and consonant mispronunciations of familiar words (Mani & Plunkett, 2007). In a second series of simulations, we use TRACE to simulate infants’ graded sensitivity to mispronunciations of familiar words as reported by White and Morgan (2008). An unexpected outcome is that TRACE fails to demonstrate graded sensitivity for White and Morgan’s stimuli unless the inhibitory parameters in TRACE are substantially reduced. We explore the ramifications of this finding for theories of lexical development. Finally, TRACE mimics the impact of phonological neighbourhoods on early word learning reported by Swingley and Aslin (2007). TRACE offers an alternative explanation of these findings in terms of mispronunciations of lexical items rather than imputing word learning to infants. Together these simulations provide an evaluation of Developmental (Jusczyk, 1993) and Familiarity (Metsala, 1999) accounts of word recognition by infants and young children. The findings point to a role for both theoretical approaches whereby vocabulary structure and content constrain infant word recognition in an experience-dependent fashion, and highlight the continuity in the processes and representations involved in lexical development during the second year of life.
Phonological specificity; Vowels; Consonants; Lexical representation; Lexical competition; TRACE model
Two experiments employing an auditory priming paradigm were conducted to test predictions of the Neighborhood Activation Model of spoken word recognition (Luce & Pisoni, 1989, Neighborhoods of words in the mental lexicon. Manuscript under review). Acoustic–phonetic similarity, neighborhood densities, and frequencies of prime and target words were manipulated. In Experiment 1, priming with low frequency, phonetically related spoken words inhibited target recognition, as predicted by the Neighborhood Activation Model. In Experiment 2, the same prime-target pairs were presented with a longer inter-stimulus interval and the effects of priming were eliminated. In both experiments, predictions derived from the Neighborhood Activation Model regarding the effects of neighborhood density and word frequency were supported. The results are discussed in terms of competing activation of lexical neighbors and the dissociation of activation and frequency in spoken word recognition.
Linear mixed-effects models (LMEMs) have become increasingly prominent in psycholinguistics and related areas. However, many researchers do not seem to appreciate how random effects structures affect the generalizability of an analysis. Here, we argue that researchers using LMEMs for confirmatory hypothesis testing should minimally adhere to the standards that have been in place for many decades. Through theoretical arguments and Monte Carlo simulation, we show that LMEMs generalize best when they include the maximal random effects structure justified by the design. The generalization performance of LMEMs including data-driven random effects structures strongly depends upon modeling criteria and sample size, yielding reasonable results on moderately-sized samples when conservative criteria are used, but with little or no power advantage over maximal models. Finally, random-intercepts-only LMEMs used on within-subjects and/or within-items data from populations where subjects and/or items vary in their sensitivity to experimental manipulations always generalize worse than separate F1 and F2 tests, and in many cases, even worse than F1 alone. Maximal LMEMs should be the ‘gold standard’ for confirmatory hypothesis testing in psycholinguistics and beyond.
linear mixed-effects models; generalization; statistics; Monte Carlo simulation
Performance on a wide variety of memory tasks can be hypothesized to be influenced by processes associated with controlling the contents of memory. In this project 328 adults ranging from 18 to 93 years of age performed six tasks (e.g., multiple trial recall with an interpolated interference list, directed forgetting, proactive interference, and retrieval inhibition) postulated to yield measures of the effectiveness of memory control. Although most of the patterns from earlier studies were replicated, only a few of the measures of memory control were reliable at the level of individual differences. Furthermore, the memory control measures had very weak relations with the age of the participant. Analyses examining the relations between established cognitive abilities and variables from the experimental tasks revealed that most of the variables were related only to episodic memory ability.
Control of memory contents; Aging; Individual differences; Memory processing
Behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures are reported for a study in which relatively proficient Chinese-English bilinguals named identical pictures in each of their two languages. Production occurred only in Chinese (the first language, L1) or only in English (the second language, L2) in a given block with the order counterbalanced across participants. The repetition of pictures across blocks was expected to produce facilitation in the form of faster responses and more positive ERPs. However, we hypothesized that if both languages are activated when naming one language alone, there might be evidence of inhibition of the stronger L1 to enable naming in the weaker L2. Behavioral data revealed the dominance of Chinese relative to English, with overall faster and more accurate naming performance in L1 than L2. However, reaction times for naming in L1 after naming in L2 showed no repetition advantage and the ERP data showed greater negativity when pictures were named in L1 following L2. This greater negativity for repeated items suggests the presence of inhibition rather than facilitation alone. Critically, the asymmetric negativity associated with the L1 when it followed the L2 endured beyond the immediate switch of language, implying long-lasting inhibition of the L1. In contrast, when L2 naming followed L1, both behavioral and ERP evidence produced a facilitatory pattern, consistent with repetition priming. Taken together, the results support a model of bilingual lexical production in which candidates in both languages compete for selection, with inhibition of the more dominant L1 when planning speech in the less dominant L2. We discuss the implications for modeling the scope and time course of inhibitory processes.
lexical selection; language production; inhibition; bilingualism
Words like church are polysemous, having two related senses (a building and an organization). Three experiments investigated how polysemous senses are represented and processed during sentence comprehension. On one view, readers retrieve an underspecified, core meaning, which is later specified more fully with contextual information. On another view, readers retrieve one or more specific senses. In a reading task, context that was neutral or biased towards a particular sense preceded a polysemous word. Disambiguating material consistent with only one sense followed, in a second sentence (Experiment 1) or the same sentence (Experiments 2 & 3). Reading the disambiguating material was faster when it was consistent with that context, and dominant senses were committed to more strongly than subordinate senses. Critically, following neutral context, the continuation was read more quickly when it selected the dominant sense, and the degree of sense dominance partially explained the reading time advantage. Similarity of the senses also affected reading times. Across experiments, we found that sense selection may not be completed immediately following a polysemous word but is completed at a sentence boundary. Overall, the results suggest that readers select an individual sense when reading a polysemous word, rather than a core meaning.
polysemy; lexical semantics; ambiguity; underspecified representation; eye movements; psycholinguistics
Four experiments investigated the classic issue in semantic memory of whether people organize categorical information in hierarchies and use inference to retrieve information from them, as proposed by Collins & Quillian (1969). Past evidence has focused on RT to confirm sentences such as “All birds are animals” or “Canaries breathe.” However, confounding variables such as familiarity and associations between the terms have led to contradictory results. Our experiments avoided such problems by teaching subjects novel materials. Experiment 1 tested an implicit hierarchical structure in the features of a set of studied objects (e.g., all brown objects were large). Experiment 2 taught subjects nested categories of artificial bugs. In Experiment 3, subjects learned a tree structure of novel category hierarchies. In all three, the results differed from the predictions of the hierarchical inference model. In Experiment 4, subjects learned a hierarchy by means of paired associates of novel category names. Here we finally found the RT signature of hierarchical inference. We conclude that it is possible to store information in a hierarchy and retrieve it via inference, but it is difficult and avoided whenever possible. The results are more consistent with feature comparison models than hierarchical models of semantic memory.
We aimed to determine whether semantic relatedness between an incoming word and its preceding context can override expectations based on two types of stored knowledge: real-world knowledge about the specific events and states conveyed by a verb, and the verb’s broader selection restrictions on the animacy of its argument. We recorded event-related potentials on post-verbal Agent arguments as participants read and made plausibility judgments about passive English sentences. The N400 evoked by incoming animate Agent arguments that violated expectations based on real-world event/state knowledge, was strongly attenuated when they were semantically related to the context. In contrast, semantic relatedness did not modulate the N400 evoked by inanimate Agent arguments that violated the preceding verb’s animacy selection restrictions. These findings suggest that, under these task and experimental conditions, semantic relatedness can facilitate processing of post-verbal animate arguments that violate specific expectations based on real-world event/state knowledge, but only when the semantic features of these arguments match the coarser-grained animacy restrictions of the verb. Animacy selection restriction violations also evoked a P600 effect, which was not modulated by semantic relatedness, suggesting that it was triggered by propositional impossibility. Together, these data indicate that the brain distinguishes between real-world event/state knowledge and animacy-based selection restrictions during online processing.
animacy; ERP; event; language; latent semantic analysis; N400; P600; real-world knowledge; selection restriction; semantics; semantic association; semantic attraction; semantic illusion; semantic relatedness; sentence; prediction; syntax
A classic question in the recognition memory literature is whether retrieval is best described as a continuous-evidence process consistent with signal detection theory (SDT), or a threshold process consistent with many multinomial processing tree (MPT) models. Because receiver operating characteristics (ROCs) based on confidence ratings are typically curved as predicted by SDT, this model has been preferred in many studies of recognition memory (Wixted, 2007). Recently, Bröder and Schütz (2009) argued that curvature in ratings ROCs may be produced by variability in scale usage; therefore, ratings ROCs are not diagnostic in deciding between the two approaches. From this standpoint, only ROCs constructed via experimental manipulations of response bias (‘binary’ ROCs) are predicted to be linear by threshold MPT models. The authors claimed that binary ROCs are linear, consistent with the assumptions of threshold MPT models. We compared SDT and the double high-threshold MPT model using binary ROCs differing in target strength. Results showed that the SDT model provided a superior account of both the ROC curvature and the effect of strength compared to the MPT model. Moreover, the bias manipulation produced differences in RT distributions that were well described by the diffusion model (Ratcliff, 1978), a dynamic version of SDT.
Recognition Memory; Signal Detection; Diffusion Model; Response Times
The present study explored when and how the top-down intention to speak influences the language production process. We did so by comparing the brain’s electrical response for a variable known to affect lexical access, namely word frequency, during overt object naming and non-verbal object categorization. We found that during naming, the event-related brain potentials elicited for objects with low frequency names started to diverge from those with high frequency names as early as 152 ms after stimulus onset, while during non-verbal categorization the same frequency comparison appeared 200 ms later eliciting a qualitatively different brain response. Thus, only when participants had the conscious intention to name an object the brain rapidly engaged in lexical access. The data offer evidence that top-down intention to speak proactively facilitates the activation of words related to perceived objects.
Language production; Lexical access; Task intention; ERPs; Top-down processing
The response-signal speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) procedure was used to provide an in-depth investigation of the impact of aging on the dynamics of short-term memory retrieval. Young and older adults studied sequentially presented 3-item lists, immediately followed by a recognition probe. Analyses of composite list and serial position SAT functions found no differences in overall accuracy, but indicated slower retrieval speed for older adults. Analysis of false alarms to recent negatives (lures from the previous study list) revealed no differences in the timing or magnitude of early false alarms that are thought to reflect familiarity-based judgments. However, onset and accrual of recollective processing required for resolving interference was slower for older adults. These findings suggest that older adults have a selective impairment on controlled and recollective retrieval operations, and further specify this impairment to arise primarily from delayed onset of cognitive control potentially coupled with reduced availability of recollective information.
Aging; memory retrieval; item-recognition; interference; recent negative; response-deadline speed-accuracy trade-off procedure
•Open bigrams are ordered-letter pairs that code local order.•We tested two core assumptions of open bigram models using bigram primes.•Reversed bigrams and bigrams spanning three letters produced robust priming.•The results provide no support for the role of open bigrams in coding letter order.
Open bigram (OB) models (e.g., SERIOL: Whitney, 2001, 2008; Binary OB, Grainger & van Heuven, 2003; Overlap OB, Grainger et al., 2006; Local combination detector model, Dehaene et al., 2005) posit that letter order in a word is coded by a set of ordered letter pairs. We report three experiments using bigram primes in the same-different match task, investigating the effects of order reversal and the number of letters intervening between the letters in the target. Reversed bigrams (e.g., fo-OF, ob-ABOLISH) produced robust priming, in direct contradiction to the assumption that letter order is coded by the presence of ordered letter pairs. Also in contradiction to the core assumption of current open bigram models, non-contiguous bigrams spanning three letters in the target (e.g., bs-ABOLISH) showed robust priming effects, equivalent in size to contiguous bigrams (e.g., bo-ABOLISH). These results question the role of open bigrams in coding letter order.
Orthographic representation; Letter order; Open bigrams
Complex networks describe how entities in systems interact; the structure of such networks is argued to influence processing. One measure of network structure, clustering coefficient, C, measures the extent to which neighbors of a node are also neighbors of each other. Previous psycholinguistic experiments found that the C of phonological word-forms influenced retrieval from the mental lexicon (that portion of long-term memory dedicated to language) during the on-line recognition and production of spoken words. In the present study we examined how network structure influences other retrieval processes in long- and short-term memory. In a false-memory task—examining long-term memory—participants falsely recognized more words with low- than high-C. In a recognition memory task—examining veridical memories in long-term memory—participants correctly recognized more words with low- than high-C. However, participants in a serial recall task—examining redintegration in short-term memory—recalled lists comprised of high-C words more accurately than lists comprised of low-C words. These results demonstrate that network structure influences cognitive processes associated with several forms of memory including lexical, long-term, and short-term.
network science; STM; LTM; clustering coefficient; mental lexicon
Bilinguals who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and English often produce code-blends - simultaneously articulating a sign and a word while conversing with other ASL-English bilinguals. To investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying code-blend processing, we compared picture-naming times (Experiment 1) and semantic categorization times (Experiment 2) for code-blends versus ASL signs and English words produced alone. In production, code-blending did not slow lexical retrieval for ASL and actually facilitated access to low-frequency signs. However, code-blending delayed speech production because bimodal bilinguals synchronized English and ASL lexical onsets. In comprehension, code-blending speeded access to both languages. Bimodal bilinguals’ ability to produce code-blends without any cost to ASL implies that the language system either has (or can develop) a mechanism for switching off competition to allow simultaneous production of close competitors. Code-blend facilitation effects during comprehension likely reflect cross-linguistic (and cross-modal) integration at the phonological and/or semantic levels. The absence of any consistent processing costs for code-blending illustrates a surprising limitation on dual-task costs and may explain why bimodal bilinguals code-blend more often than they code-switch.
bilingualism; lexical access; sign language
Recent research has demonstrated that knowledge of real-world eventsplays an important role inguiding online language comprehension. The present study addresses the scope of event knowledge activation during the course of comprehension, specifically investigating whether activation is limited to those knowledge elements that align with the local linguistic context.The present study addresses this issue by analyzing event-related brain potentials (ERPs) recorded as participants read brief scenariosdescribing typical real-world events. Experiment 1 demonstratesthat a contextually anomalous word elicits a reduced N400 if it is generally related to the described event, even when controlling for the degree of association of this word with individual words in the preceding context and with the expected continuation. Experiment 2 shows that this effect disappears when the discourse context is removed.These findings demonstrate that during the course of incremental comprehension, comprehenders activate general knowledge about the described event, even at points at which this knowledge would constitute an anomalous continuation of the linguistic stream. Generalized event knowledge activationcontributes to mental representations of described events, is immediately available to influence language processing, and likely drives linguistic expectancy generation.
sentence processing; psycholinguistics; language comprehension; event knowledge; event-related potentials; expectancy generation
We investigated the development of dual-retrieval processes with a low-burden paradigm that is suitable for research with children and neurocognitively impaired populations (e.g., older adults with mild cognitive impairment or dementia). Rich quantitative information can be obtained about recollection, reconstruction, and familiarity judgment by defining a Markov model over simple recall tasks like those that are used in clinical neuropsychology batteries. The model measures these processes separately for learning, forgetting, and reminiscence. We implemented this procedure in some developmental experiments, whose aims were (a) to measure age changes in recollective and nonrecollective retrieval during learning, forgetting, and reminiscence and (b) to measure age changes in content dimensions (e.g., taxonomic relatedness) that affect the two forms of retrieval. The model provided excellent fits in all three domains. Concerning (a), recollection, reconstruction, and familiarity judgment all improved during the child-to-adolescent age range in the learning domain, whereas only recollection improved in the forgetting domain, and the processes were age-invariant in the reminiscence domain. Concerning (b), although some elements of the adult pattern of taxonomic relatedness effects were detected by early adolescence, the adult pattern differs qualitatively from corresponding patterns in children and adolescents.
recollection; reconstruction; familiarity; forgetting; reminiscence; Markov models
Four experiments examined listeners’ segmentation of ambiguous schwa-initial sequences (e.g., a long vs. along) in casual speech, where acoustic cues can be unclear, possibly increasing reliance on contextual information to resolve the ambiguity. In Experiment 1, acoustic analyses of talkers’ productions showed that the one-word and two-word versions were produced almost identically, regardless of the preceding sentential context (biased or neutral). These tokens were then used in three listening experiments, whose results confirmed the lack of local acoustic cues for disambiguating the interpretation, and the dominance of sentential context in parsing. Findings speak to the H&H theory of speech production (Lindblom, 1990), demonstrate that context alone guides parsing when acoustic cues to word boundaries are absent, and demonstrate how knowledge of how talkers speak can contribute to an understanding of how words are segmented.
Word segmentation; Casual speech; Speech production; Speech perception
In three experiments, we evaluated remembering and intentional forgetting of attitude statements that were either congruent or incongruent with participants’ own political attitudes. In Experiment 1, significant directed forgetting was obtained for incongruent statements, but not for congruent statements. In addition, in the remember group, recall was better for incongruent statements than congruent statements. To explain these findings, we propose a contextual competition at retrieval hypothesis, according to which incongruent statements become more strongly associated with their episodic context during encoding than do congruent statements. At the time of retrieval, incongruent statements compete with congruent statements due to the greater amount of contextual information stored in their memory trace. We tested this hypothesis in Experiment 2 by studying free recall of congruent and incongruent statements in a mixed-pure list design. In Experiment 3, memory for incongruent and congruent statements was tested under recognition test conditions that varied in terms of how much direct retrieval of contextual details they required. Overall, the results supported the contextual competition hypothesis, and they indicate the importance of context strength in both the remembering and intentional forgetting of attitude information.
directed forgetting; attitude memory; context strength; congeniality effect
Previous research has found that a speaker’s native phonological system has a great influence on perception of another language. In three experiments, we tested the perception and representation of Mandarin phonological contrasts by Guangzhou Cantonese speakers, and compared their performance to that of native Mandarin speakers. Despite their rich experience using Mandarin Chinese, the Cantonese speakers had problems distinguishing specific Mandarin segmental and tonal contrasts that do not exist in Guangzhou Cantonese. However, we found evidence that the subtle differences between two members of a contrast were nonetheless represented in the lexicon. We also found different processing patterns for non-native segmental versus non-native tonal contrasts. The results provide substantial new information about the representation and processing of segmental and prosodic information by individuals listening to a closely-related, very well-learned, but still non-native language.
sibling languages; non-native language processing; segmental versus tonal perception; lexical representation of L2 contrasts
People often falsely recognize items that are similar to previously encountered items. This robust memory error is referred to as gist-based false recognition. A widely held view is that this error occurs because the details fade rapidly from our memory. Contrary to this view, an initial experiment revealed that, following the same encoding conditions that produce high rates of gist-based false recognition, participants overwhelmingly chose the correct target rather than its related foil when given the option to do so. A second experiment showed that this result is due to increased access to stored details provided by reinstatement of the originally encoded photograph, rather than to increased attention to the details. Collectively, these results suggest that details needed for accurate recognition are, to a large extent, still stored in memory and that a critical factor determining whether false recognition will occur is whether these details can be accessed during retrieval.
false memory; false recognition; gist; recognition memory
When an elided constituent and its antecedent do not match syntactically, the presence of a word implying the non-actuality of the state of affairs described in the antecedent seems to improve the example (This information should be released but Gorbachev didn’t. vs This information was released but Gorbachev didn’t.) We model this effect in terms of Non-Actuality Implicatures (NAIs) conveyed by non-epistemic modals like should and other words such as want to and be eager to that imply non-actuality. We report three studies. A rating and interpretation study showed that such implicatures are drawn and that they improve the acceptability of mismatch ellipsis examples. An interpretation study showed that adding a NAI trigger to ambiguous examples increases the likelihood of choosing an antecedent from the NAI clause. An eye movement study shows that a NAI trigger also speeds online reading of the ellipsis clause. By introducing alternatives (the desired state of affairs vs. the actual state of affairs), the NAI trigger introduces a potential Question Under Discussion (QUD). Processing an ellipsis clause is easier, the processor is more confident of its analysis, when the ellipsis clause comments on the QUD.
ellipsis; syntax; semantics; implicatures; parallelism; sentence acceptability; question under discussion
A gating technique was used in two studies of spoken word identification that investigated the relationship between the available acoustic–phonetic information in the speech signal and the context provided by meaningful and semantically anomalous sentences. The duration of intact spoken segments of target words and the location of these segments at the beginnings or endings of words in sentences were varied. The amount of signal duration required for word identification and the distribution of incorrect word responses were examined. Subjects were able to identify words in spoken sentences with only word-initial or only word-final acoustic–phonetic information. In meaningful sentences, less word-initial information was required to identify words than word-final information. Error analyses indicated that both acoustic–phonetic information and syntactic contextual knowledge interacted to generate the set of hypothesized word candidates used in identification. The results provide evidence that word identification is qualitatively different in meaningful sentences than in anomalous sentences or when words are presented in isolation: That is, word identification in sentences is an interactive process that makes use of several knowledge sources. In the presence of normal sentence context, the acoustic–phonetic information in the beginnings of words is particularly effective in facilitating rapid identification of words.
False memories arising from associatively related lists are a robust phenomenon that resists many efforts to prevent it. However, a few variables have been shown to reduce this form of false memory. Explanations for how the reduction is accomplished have focused on either output monitoring processes or constraints on access, but neither idea alone is sufficient to explain extant data. Our research was driven by a framework that distinguishes item-based and event-based distinctive processing to account for the effects of different variables on both correct recall of study list items and false recall. We report the results of three experiments examining the effect of a deep orienting task and the effect of visual presentation of study items, both of which have been shown to reduce false recall. The experiments replicate those previous findings and add important new information about the effect of the variables on a recall test that eliminates the need for monitoring. The results clearly indicate that both post-access monitoring and constraints on access contribute to reductions in false memories. The results also showed that the manipulations of study modality and orienting task had different effects on correct and false recall, a pattern that was predicted by the item-based/event-based distinctive processing framework.