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Eye Movements and Spoken Language Comprehension: effects of visual context on syntactic ambiguity resolution. Spivey et al. (2002) Psych 526 Eun-Kyung Lee. Research Question. Does referential context affect initial parsing of syntactically ambiguous sentences?

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Eye Movements and Spoken Language Comprehension: effects of visual context on syntactic ambiguity resolution

Spivey et al. (2002)

Psych 526

Eun-Kyung Lee

research question
Research Question
  • Does referential context affect initial parsing of syntactically ambiguous sentences?
    • When referential context supports less preferred syntactic structure, could it eliminate processing difficulty in early phrases?
    • The role of nonlinguistic factors in sentence processing
    • Garden path model vs. Constraint-based model
previous research 1 limitations
Previous Research[1]Limitations
  • Reading time measures restricted to measuring processing difficulty
    • No information about what is being processed how
  • Misleading notion of referential context
    • Not just equated with the preceding linguistic context
    • Salient information in the environment, the set of presuppositions shared by discourse participants
previous research 2 two paradigms
Previous Research[2]Two Paradigms
  • Language-as-action
    • Interactive settings
    • Real-world referents
    • Clear behavioral goals
    • Offline methods
  • Language-as-product
    • Online measures

(Response measures time-locked to the linguistic input)

    • Decontextualized input
    • Not goal-directed
current study
Current Study
  • Combines the two paradigms
    • Communication task, well-defined context, clear behavioral goal (Language-as-action)
    • On-line measure of eye-movement (Language-as-product)
target sentence
Target Sentence
  • A temporarily ambiguous prepositional phrase
  • Put the apple on the towelin the box
  • Preference for a goal argument over an optional adjunct
    • Syntactically simpler (Frazier 1987)
    • General preference for arguments over adjuncts (Abney 1989)
    • Linguistic presupposition of uniqueness associated with a definite noun phrase (Crain & Steedman 1985)

Ambiguous region

Disambiguating region

linguistic presupposition referential context
Linguistic Presupposition& Referential Context
  • When there is a single entity in the context
    • Modification is redundant  favor argument analysis
  • When there is more than one entity in the context
    • Referential indeterminacy is created
    • Modification is required to establish a unique referent
  • Multiple-referent contexts eliminate processing difficulty for the otherwise less-preferred modification analysis (Crain & Steedman 1985, Altmann & Steedman 1988)
  • What if there is no referential indeterminacy in multiple-referent contexts?
method
Method
  • 6 participants
  • Listen to a spoken instruction read out from a script
  • Move objects in a visual workspace following the instruction
  • Lightweight headband-mounted eyetracker to monitor the participant’s attentional shifts
  • 3 types of context (one-referent, two-referent, three-and-one referent context) with ambiguous and unambiguous instructions
    • Put the apple on the towel in the box
    • Put the box that’s on the towel in the box
  • 18 experimental, 90 filler instructions in 36 trials (or instruction triplets)
example of an instruction set
Example of an instruction set

Look at the cross

Put the apple on the towel in the box

Now put the pencil on the other towel

Now put it in the box

  • Critical instructions were always the first instruction in the set
3 types of visual context 1
One-referent context

Single referent

If there is a garden path effect, more looks to the empty towel for “on the towel” in the ambiguous instruction compared to the unambiguous instruction

3 types of Visual Context [1]
3 types of visual context 2
Two-referent context

Multiple referents (eliciting referential indeterminacy)

whether referential context eliminates garden path effect

If a referential account is correct, looks to the incorrect goal should be eliminated in the ambiguous instruction

 modifier interpretation

3 types of Visual Context[2]
3 types of visual context 3
Three-and-one-referent context

Multiple referents (eliciting no referential indeterminacy)

Whether linguistic presuppositions with definite NPs are used on-line in resolving syntactic ambiguity

If yes, looks to the incorrect goal should be eliminated in the ambiguous instruction  modifier interpretation

3 types of Visual Context[3]
results 1
Results[1]

Distractor Object

IncorrectGoal

results 2
Results[2]
  • One-referent context
    • More frequent saccade (55%) out of the target referent region and into the incorrect goal region in the ambiguous instruction
  • Two-referent context
    • Rare looks at the incorrect goal (14%) in the ambiguous instruction
    • No difference between the ambiguous and unambiguous instructions
  • Three-and-one referent context
    • No significant difference in looks at the incorrect goal between the ambiguous (0%) and unambiguous instructions (22%)
    • The decision to modify the noun phrase is not purely due to the presence or absence of referential indeterminacy
    • Reflects on-line access to specific presuppositions associated with definiteness and modification
results 3
Results[3]
  • Referential contexts influence an initial interpretation of ambiguous sentences
  • However,

Possible confounding effects by some intonational patterns

method18
Method
  • The same stimuli and instructions as Experiment 1, but with prerecorded instructions
  • 6 participants
  • Ambiguous instructions were digitally converted from the unambiguous versions by editing out “that’s”

e.g. Put the apple that’s on the towel in the box

 What about the prosodic cues in the critical regions?

results 119
Results[1]
  • Parallel results with those of experiment 1
results 2 combined analysis of exp 1 2
Results[2]Combined Analysis of Exp 1,2

One-Referent

IncorrectGoal

> Correct Goal

Garden Path Effect

in the ambi. condition

results 3 combined analysis of exp 1 2
Results[3]Combined analysis of Exp 1,2

Two-Referent

fixation to the distractor

referent due to

Referential indeterminacy

No difference b/w

ambi. and unambi.

conditions

results 4 combined analysis of exp 1 2
Results[4]Combined analysis of Exp 1,2

Three & One

Referent

Fewer fixation to

distractor reference

Only a few fixation to

Incorrect Instrument

No difference b/w

ambi. and unambi.

conditions

summary
Summary
  • Referential contexts play an initial role in parsing (even when the verb takes an obligatory verb argument)
  • The online use of linguistically coded presuppositions even in the absence of referential indeterminacy (Three & one reference context)
  • Supports a constraint-based model of parsing