It has recently been argued that public linguistic norms are implicated in the epistemology of testimony by way of underwriting the reliability of languagecomprehension. This paper argues that linguistic normativity, as such, makes no explanatory contribution to the epistemology of testimony, but instead emerges naturally out of a collective effort to maintain language as a reliable medium for the dissemination of knowledge. Consequently, the epistemologies of testimony and languagecomprehension are deeply intertwined from the (...) start, and there is no room for grounding the one in terms of the other. (shrink)
It has been shown that when participants are asked to make sensibility judgments on sentences that describe a transfer of an object toward or away from their body, they are faster to respond when the response requires a movement in the same direction as the transfer described in the sentence. This phenomenon is known as the action compatibility effect. This study investigates whether the ACE exists for volunteers with Alzheimer's disease, whether the ACE can facilitate languagecomprehension, and (...) also whether the ACE can still be produced if the order of the two events is inverted, that is, whether overt movement can prime comprehension of transfer sentences. In Study 1, participants with AD, younger, and older adults were tested on an adaptation of the ACE Paradigm. In Study 2, the same paradigm was modified to include an arm movement that participants had to perform prior to sentence exposure on screen. In Study 1, young, older adults, and individuals with AD were faster to respond when the direction of the response movement matched the directionality implied by the sentence. In Study 2, no traditional ACE was found; participants were faster when the direction of the movement immediately preceding the sentence matched the directionality of the sentence. It was found that compatibility effects generated a relative advantage, that transfer schemata are easier to process, and that an ACE-like effect can be the result of mutual priming between language and movement. Results suggested preservation in AD of the neural systems for action engaged during languagecomprehension, and conditions under which comprehension in AD can be facilitated in real life may be identified. (shrink)
In infancy, maternal socioeconomic status is associated with real-time language processing skills, but whether or not this relationship carries into adulthood is unknown. We explored the effects of maternal SES in college-aged adults on eye-tracked, spoken sentence comprehension tasks using the visual world paradigm. When sentences ended in highly plausible, expected target nouns, higher SES was associated with a greater likelihood of considering alternative endings related to the action of the sentence. Moreover, for unexpected sentence endings, individuals from (...) higher SES backgrounds were sensitive to whether the ending was action-related or unrelated, showing a benefit for plausible endings. Individuals from lower SES backgrounds did not show this advantage. This suggests maternal SES can influence the dynamics of sentence processing even in adulthood, with consequences for processing unexpected content. These findings highlight the importance of early lexical experience for adult language skills. (shrink)
Typical spatial descriptions, such as “The car is in front of the house,” describe the position of a located object (LO; e.g., the car) in space relative to a reference object (RO) whose location is known (e.g., the house). The orientation of the RO affects spatial languagecomprehension via the reference frame selection process. However, the effects of the LO's orientation on spatial language have not received great attention. This study explores whether the pure geometric information of (...) the LO (e.g., its orientation) affects spatial languagecomprehension using placing and production tasks. Our results suggest that the orientation of the LO influences spatial languagecomprehension even in the absence of functional relationships. (shrink)
Languagecomprehension requires a simulation that uses neural systems involved in perception, action, and emotion. A review of recent literature as well as new experiments support five predictions derived from this framework. 1. Being in an emotional state congruent with sentence content facilitates sentence comprehension. 2. Because women are more reactive to sad events and men are more reactive to angry events, women understand sentences about sad events with greater facility than men, and men understand sentences about (...) angry events with greater facility than women. 3. Because it takes time to shift from one emotion to another, reading a sad sentence slows the reading of a happy sentence more for women than men, whereas reading an angry sentence slows the reading of a happy sentence more for men than for women. 4. Because sad states motivate affiliative actions and angry states motivate aggressive action, gender and emotional content of sentences interact with the response mode. 5. Because emotion simulation requires particular action systems, adapting those action systems will affect comprehension of sentences with emotional content congruent with the adapted action system. These results have implications for the study of language, emotion, and gender differences. (shrink)
Perceptual symbol systems form a theoretically plausible alternative to amodal symbol systems. At this point it is unclear whether there is any truly diagnostic empirical evidence to decide between these systems. We outline some possible avenues of research in the domain of languagecomprehension that might yield such evidence. Languagecomprehension will be an important arena for tests of the two types of symbol systems.
Barsalou proposes (sect. 4.1.6) that perceptual symbols play a role in language processing. Data from our laboratory document this role and suggest the sorts of constraints used by simulators during languagecomprehension.
Natural language processing involves a tight coupling between action (the production of language) and perception (the comprehension of language). We argue that similar theoretical principles apply to language processing as to action/perception in general. Language production is not driven solely by the speaker's intentions; languagecomprehension is not only input-driven; production and perception use common representations. We will relate recent findings from our language production lab to the Theory of Event Coding (...) (TEC)'s principle of feature binding. (shrink)
The paper aims to show how and to what extent social and cultural cues influence figurative language understanding. In the first part of the paper, we argue that social-contextual knowledge is organized in “schemas” or stereotypes, which act as strong bias in speaker’s meaning comprehension. Research in Experimental Pragmatics has shown that age, gender, race and occupation stereotypes are important contextual sources of information to interpret others’ speech and provide an explanation of their behavior. In the second part (...) of the paper, we focus on gender stereotypes and their influence on the comprehension of figurative language, to show how the social functions of figurative language are modulated by gender stereotypes. We provide then an explanation of gender stereotypical bias on figurative language in terms of possible outcomes in the social context. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for a modified version of what Devitt calls the Representational Thesis. According to RT, syntactic rules or principles are psychologically real, in the sense that they are represented in the mind/brain of every linguistically competent speaker/hearer. I present a range of behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for the claim that the human sentence processing mechanism constructs mental representations of the syntactic properties of linguistic stimuli. I then survey a range of psychologically plausible computational models of (...) class='Hi'>comprehension and show that they are all committed to RT. I go on to sketch a framework for thinking about the nature of the representations involved in sentence processing. My claim is that these are best characterized not as propositional attitudes but, rather, as subpersonal states whose representational properties are determined by their functional role. Finally, I distinguish between explicit and implicit representations and argue that the latter can be drawn on as data by the algorithms that constitute our sentence processing routines. I conclude that skepticism concerning the psychological reality of grammars cannot be sustained. (shrink)
Recent research has demonstrated an asymmetry between the origins and endpoints of motion events, with preferential attention given to endpoints rather than beginnings of motion in both language and memory. Two experiments explore this asymmetry further and test its implications for language production and comprehension. Experiment 1 shows that both adults and 4-year-old children detect fewer within-category changes in source than goal objects when tested for memory of motion events; furthermore, these groups produce fewer references to source (...) than goal objects when describing the same motion events. Experiment 2 asks whether the specificity of encoding source/goal relations differs in both spatial memory and the comprehension of novel spatial vocabulary. Results show that endpoint configuration changes are detected more accurately than source configuration changes by both adults and young children. Furthermore, when interpreting novel motion verbs, both age groups expect more fine-grained lexical distinctions in the domain of endpoint configurations compared to that of source configurations. These studies demonstrate that a cognitive-attentional bias in spatial representation and memory affects both the detail of linguistic encoding during the use of spatial language and the specificity of hypotheses about spatial referents that learners build during the acquisition of the spatial lexicon. (shrink)