Psy 369 psycholinguistics
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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics. Language Comprehension: Sentence comprehension. Center embedded structures The house burned down. Center embedded structures The house burned down. The house the handyman painted burned down.

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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics

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PSY 369: Psycholinguistics

Language Comprehension:

Sentence comprehension


  • Center embedded structures

    • The house burned down.


  • Center embedded structures

    • The house burned down.

  • The house the handyman painted burned down.


This one may be legal, but that doesn’t mean that it is (easily) comprehensible

  • Center embedded structures

    • The house burned down.

    • The house the handyman painted burned down.

  • The house the handyman the teacher hired painted burned down.

  • (the handyman that the teacher hired painted the house that burned down)


dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

S

NP

det

N

The

man


dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

S

NP

VP

V

det

N

The

man

hit


dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

S

NP

VP

V

NP

NP

det

N

det

N

The

man

hit

the

dog


PP

with

the

leash

dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

S

NP

VP

V

NP

NP

Modifier

det

N

det

N

The

man

hit

the

dog


PP

with

the

leash

dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

S

NP

VP

V

NP

Instrument

NP

det

N

det

N

The

man

hit

the

dog


dog

The

man

hit

the

with

the

leash.

  • How do we know which structure to build?


Parsing

  • The syntactic analyser or “parser”

    • Main task: To construct a syntactic structure from the words of the sentence as they arrive


Different approaches

  • Serial Analysis (Modular): Build just one based on syntactic information and continue to try to add to it as long as this is still possible

  • Interactive Analysis: Use multiple levels (both syntax and semantics) of information to build the “best” structure

  • Parallel Analysis: Build both alternative structures at the same time

  • Minimal Commitment: Stop building - and wait until later material clarifies which analysis is the correct one.


Sentence Comprehension

  • Modular


  • Interactive models

Sentence Comprehension

  • Modular


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • A garden path sentence invites the listener to consider one possible parse, and then at the end forces him to abandon this parse in favor of another.


S

NP

VP

The horse

Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

S

NP

VP

V

The horse

raced


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn

fell


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

  • raced is initially treated as a past tense verb

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn


Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

  • raced is initially treated as a past tense verb

  • This analysis fails when the verb fell is encountered

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn

fell


S

VP

NP

V

NP

RR

PP

V

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn

fell

Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

    • The horse raced past the barn fell.

  • raced is initially treated as a past tense verb

  • This analysis fails when the verb fell is encountered

  • raced can be re-analyzed as a past participle.

S

NP

VP

V

PP

P

NP

The horse

raced

past

the barn

fell


Real Headlines

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  • Miners Refuse to Work after Death

  • Retired priest may marry Springsteen

  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

  • Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

  • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

  • Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim

  • Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors


A serial model

  • Formulated by Lyn Frazier (1978, 1987)

    • Build trees using syntactic cues:

      • phrase structure rules

      • plus two parsing principles

        • Minimal Attachment

        • Late Closure


A serial model

  • Minimal Attachment

    • Prefer the interpretation that is accompanied by the simplest structure.

      • simplest = fewest branchings (tree metaphor!)

      • Count the number of nodes = branching points

        Marcie kissed Ernie and his brother…

        The girl hit the man with the umbrella.


Minimal attachment

S

8 Nodes

NP

VP

the girl

V

NP

Preferred

S

hit

NP

PP

NP

VP

the man

P

NP

the girl

V

NP

PP

with

the umbrella

hit

the man

P

NP

with

the umbrella

9 nodes

The girl hit the man with the umbrella.


Modular prediction

Interactive prediction

Minimal attachment

  • Garden path sentences

The spy saw the cop with a telescope.

minimal attach

Build this structure first

non-minimal attach

Build this structure first


Modular prediction

Lexical information rules this one out

Interactive prediction

Sentence Comprehension

  • Garden path sentences

The spy saw the cop with a revolver.

minimal attach

Build this structure first

non-minimal attach

Build this structure first


S

S

NP

VP

NP

the spy

V

NP

VP

S’

S’

the spy

saw

NP

PP

V

PP

NP

the cop

P

NP

saw

P

NP

with

the revolver

but the cop didn’t see him

the cop

but the cop didn’t see him

with

the revolver

MA

Non-MA

The spy saw the cop with the binoculars..

The spy saw the cop with the revolver …

(Rayner & Frazier, ‘83)

<- takes longer to read


A serial model

  • Late Closure

    • Incorporate incoming material into the phrase or clause currently being processed.

      OR

    • Associate incoming material with the most recent material possible.

      She said he tickled her yesterday

      Tom said that Bill had written his paper yesterday.

      They were cooking apples.


Parsing Preferences .. late closure

S

Preferred

S

np

vp

np

vp

she

v

S'

adv

she

v

S'

said

np

vp

yesterday

said

np

vp

he

v

np

he

v

np

adv

tickled

her

tickled

her

yesterday

(Both have 10

nodes, so use LC

not MA)

She said he tickled her yesterday


evidence typically gets questioned, but can’t do the questioning

Interactive Models

  • Other factors (e.g., semantic context, co-occurrence of usage & expectation) may provide cues about the likely interpretation of a sentence

  • The evidence questioned in the trial …

  • The person questioned in the trial …


Interactive Models

  • Other factors (e.g., semantic context, co-occurrence of usage & expectation) may provide cues about the likely interpretation of a sentence

  • The evidence questioned in the trial …

  • The person questioned in the trial …

A lawyer often asks questions (more often than answering them)


Semantic expectations

  • Taraban & McCelland (1988)

    • Expectation

  • Other factors (e.g., semantic context, co-occurrence of usage & expectation) may provide cues about the likely interpretation of a sentence

  • The couple admired the house with a friendbut knew that it was over-priced.

  • The couple admired the house with a gardenbut knew that it was over-priced.


Semantic expectations

  • Taraban & McCelland, 1988

  • The couple admired the house with a friendbut knew that it was over-priced.

  • The couple admired the house with a gardenbut knew that it was over-priced.

The Non-MA structure may be favoured


Intonation as a cue

A: I’d like to fly to Davenport, Iowa on TWA.

B: TWA doesn’t fly there ...

B1: They fly to Des Moines.

B2: They fly to Des Moines.

A1: I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday.

A2: I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday.


Chunking, or “phrasing”

A1: I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday.

A2: I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday.


Phrasing can disambiguate

Mary & Elena’s mother

mall

I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday

One intonation phrase with relatively flat overall pitch range.


Phrasing can disambiguate

Elena’s mother

mall

Mary

I met Mary and Elena’s mother at the mall yesterday

Separate phrases, with expanded pitch movements.


Summing up

  • Is ambiguity resolution a problem in real life?

    • Yes (Try to think of a sentence that isn’t partially ambiguous)

  • Many factors might influence the process of making sense of a string of words. (e.g. syntax, semantics, context, intonation, co-occurrence of words, frequency of usage, …)


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