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STAGES OF COMPREHENSION. discourse modelling. semantic analysis. syntactic “parsing”. lexical access. phonemic analysis. sensory processing. THE IMMEDIACY PRINCIPLE OF LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION. comprehension involves building a “model” of meaning, based on word type, meaning and order

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Stages of comprehension
STAGES OF COMPREHENSION

discourse modelling

semantic analysis

syntactic “parsing”

lexical access

phonemic analysis

sensory processing


The immediacy principle of language comprehension
THE IMMEDIACY PRINCIPLEOF LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION

  • comprehension involves building a “model” of meaning, based on

    • word type, meaning and order

    • prior context and prior knowledge

  • to minimize load, build as much of this structure as possible “on line”

    • resolve ambiguities as they’re encountered:

      • lexical: PLANE?

      • syntactic:visiting relatives can be difficult

  • this can result in “garden path” errors

    • the conductor stood before the audience left the hall.

    • after visiting his parents left.


Headline ambiguities
Headline Ambiguities

  • Man charged with battery

  • Czech leader meets with opposition

  • Teenage prostitution problem is mounting

  • Lawyers let fly in court

  • Police: Fighting robber is foolish

  • The police officer saw that the lightning bolt hit the child and dialed 911..

  • Bill banning nude dancing on governor’s desk

  • American man sentenced to 10 years in Scotland


Context and word recognition speed fischler bloom 1979
CONTEXT AND WORD RECOGNITION SPEEDFischler & Bloom, 1979

Task: read sentence context frames,

“As soon as they entered the room, they turned on the . . “

then make word-nonword decision to:

TYPE OFspeed of

COMPLETION examplelexical decision

expected LIGHT 600 msec

unexpected SWITCH 650 msec

incongruous SNAKE 800 msec

nonword SNOBE 910 msec


Context effects and the n400 kutas hillyard 1981
CONTEXT EFFECTS AND THE“N400” (Kutas & Hillyard, 1981)

task: read sentences while EEG is recorded and later averaged:

  • semantically unexpected completions elicit a negative “wave” peaking at 400 msec after word onset (N400)

  • differences can be seen as early as 250 msec after onset


Does context affect lexical access swinney 1979

or or or

200 msec

700 msec

SPY

ANT

PEN

WID

DOES CONTEXT AFFECT “LEXICAL ACCESS?”Swinney, 1979

task: listen to spoken sentences, watch for word/nonword strings

“. . the

electronic

detector

found

a

bug

in

the

.

. . “

at 200 msec, both SPY and ANT faster than PEN

(so: access of both meanings of homophone)

at 700 msec, only SPY is faster than PEN

(so: rapid selection of appropriate meaning)


Syntactic structure and sentence processing
SYNTACTIC STRUCTURE ANDSENTENCE PROCESSING

  • perceived location of “click” drifts toward clause boundaries:

    • “ . . the man who cheated lost the hand.” actual reported

  • perception of rapidly shown sentences better if words are grouped in syntactic constituent “chunks”:

    • The man Thewho cheated vs man whoin class cheated inlost class lost


Syntax effort and eeg king kutas 1995
SYNTAX, EFFORT, AND EEG(King & Kutas, 1995)

subject-relative:

“The secretary who gladly married the senator typed the letter”

object-relative:

“The secretary who the senator gladly married typed the letter”


A minimal attachment strategy for building syntax frazier 1979

as in (A): VP

PP

NP V NP

The spy saw the cop with the binoculars..

but not in (B): VP

NP

NP V NP PP

The spy saw the cop with the revolver . .

(B) takes longer to read (Rayner & Frazier, ‘83) - though (A) is ambiguous

A “MINIMAL ATTACHMENT STRATEGY” FOR BUILDING SYNTAX (Frazier, 1979)

attach each new phrase to the current “node” if possible (“late closure”)


Syntactic structure and semantic processing
SYNTACTIC STRUCTURE ANDSEMANTIC PROCESSING

  • Meaning can constrain parsing:

    The bird saw the cop with the binoculars

    Read as quickly as (A) above

    (C) The cop [that was] arrested by the detective was guilty of taking bribes

    (D) The crook [that was] arrested by the detective was guilty of taking bribes

    (C) Is read more slowly; (D) no more difficult than the “unreduced” version – why?

    [McRae et al, 1998]