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Lexicon, experimental. Oct 22, 2008. Psycholinguistic ways of examining the lexicon/syntax. Three things we will look at: Mental Lexicon Collocates Influence of lexicon on sentence structure. 1. Mental Lexicon. How can we investigate the mental lexicon?

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psycholinguistic ways of examining the lexicon syntax
Psycholinguistic ways of examining the lexicon/syntax

Three things we will look at:

  • Mental Lexicon
  • Collocates
  • Influence of lexicon on sentence structure
1 mental lexicon
1. Mental Lexicon

How can we investigate the mental lexicon?

Main question: how is the mental lexicon organized? How do we retrieve words?

a aphasia
a. aphasia

T: Now then, what’s this a picture of? (showing a picture of an apple)

P: Ra-ra-rabbit.

T: No, not a rabbit . . . It’s a kind of fruit.

P: Fruit

T: What kind of fruit is it?

P: Oh this is a lovely rabbit.

T: Not a rabbit. It’s an apple.

P: Apple, yes.

T: Can you name any other pieces of fruit? What other kinds of fruit would you have in a dish with an apple.

P: Beginning with an A?

T: No, not necessarily.

P: O well rhubarb.

T: Perhaps, yes.

P: Rhubarb.

T: What’s this boy doing? (showing a picture of a boy swimming.)

P: O he’s in the sea.

T: yes.

P: Driving. . . driving. It’s not very deep. He’s driving with his feet, his legs driving. Well, er driving er diving.

T: In fact, he’s . . .

P: Swimming.

T: Good, what about this one? (showing a picture of a boy climbing over a wall).

P: Driving on a wall.

T: He’s what?

P: Dr . . . driving, he’s climbing on a wall.

b semantic verification task
Is a robin a bird?

Is a bad a bird?

Is a goose a computer?

Is a horse a mammal?

Does a monkey have teeth?

Does a pickle have fingernails?

Does a bird have feet?

Is a cow a bird?

Is a tomato a vegetable?

Does a bird have wings?

Does an octopus run on batteries?

Is a horse a mammal?

Is robbery a crime?

Is murder a crime?

Is libel a crime?

Is a shark dangerous?

Is a cow dangerous?

Is a cat dangerous?

Did Abraham Lincoln have a beard?

Is corn a vegetable?

Which were easy to reject? Which were more difficult?

b. Semantic Verification Task
2 collocates
2. Collocates

What are some psycholinguistic ways to look at collocates?

Psycholinguists usually take information from corpora and use it to create stimuli . . . .

a response times
a. response times

research question: Are collocates stored as a single unit in the mental lexicon?

Sosa & McFarlane, 2002

a response times9
a. response times

Why are response times slower for high frequency words?

b eye movements
b. eye movements

Research question: Do native and non-native speakers of English process collocates and non-collocates similarly?

Looked at eye movement response times (and what they looked at for both native and non-native speakers AND at both collocates and non-collocates


Both groups processed one faster than the other

The freaky thing is that natives processed collocates faster . . .

Non native speakers processed non-collocates faster


Gerard, 2008

3 lexicon and sentence structure
3. Lexicon and sentence structure

a. lexical priming

b. syntactic priming

main question: what aspects of the lexicon/syntax determines what sentence structure we use?

what else we know
What else we know. . .
  • Animate objects chosen as subjects
  • Humans chosen as subjects
  • More frequent word chosen as subjects
  • Phonological priming (especially rhyming) more likely to cause word to be chosen than semantic priming
  • Age that word is learned determines which word is chosen as subject
b syntax
b. syntax
  • a: The ghost sold the werewolf a flower
  • a: The man gave the woman a box
  • Bock (1986): syntactic persistance tested by picture naming
  • b: The ghost sold a flower to the werewolf
  • b: The man gave a box to the woman
b syntax23
b. syntax
  • Bock (1989): global syntactic role matters, syntactic priming

does not depend on lexical similarity

  • a: The werewolf baked a cake for the witch
  • b: The snowman brought a book to the boy
  • NP V NP PP
  • c: The snowman brought a book to study
b syntax24
b. syntax
  • Manipulations of roles:

The foreigner was loitering by the traffic light

The boy is being woken by the alarm clock

  • Manipulations of verb form:

Same vs different tense (hands/handed)

Same vs different number (hands/hand)

Same vs different aspect (hands/is handing)

Bock & Loebell (1990)

b syntax25
b. syntax

How long does syntax priming last?

Bock & Griffin (2000) used same stimuli but varied

the amount of time between stimuli and showing

Picture from 0 to 2 sentences

Bock & Griffin (2000)

b syntax26
b. syntax

How long does syntax priming last?

Bock & Griffin (2000

b syntax28
b. syntax

In real life, syntactic priming seems to occur as well

Branigan, Pickering, & Cleland (2000): Speakers tend to reuse syntactic constructions of other speakers

Potter & Lombardi (1998):

Speakers tend to reuse syntactic constructions of just read materials

It may be a feature that helps us to learn language . . . . Researchers are now using priming to teach second languages