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System of communication using sounds or symbols that enables us to express our feelings, thoughts, ideas, and experiences



Sounds that comprise a language
Smallest unit of language



Smallest unit of language that have meaning
Often word and ending of word
Example: "cats" has 2 of these ("cat" and "s")



Knowledge of what words mean, how they sound, and how they are used in relation to other words


Phonemic restoration study

Participants listened to a recording that contained the word legislatures
Cut out first "s" in legislatures and put in someone coughing (heard "legi-cough-latures")
Participants didn't even notice that the "s" was gone (put back in without even noticing; thought that cough had occurred after complete word was said)
Conclusion: people use context for perception (top-down processing)


Context conditioned variation/coarticulation

Pattern of stresses and silences as people say particular words
Looks different for first "b" in "baby" than for second "b"
Emphasis is different, depending on what comes next


Speech segmentation

Process of perceiving individual words in the continuous flow of the speech signal
We don't actually make spaces in between words that we say


Transitional probability

Related to speech segmentation problem
Probability that one is transitioning between 2 words vs. still saying the same word
Learn to do this by second year of life



Words that can be pronounced similarly, but have different meanings (such as "bear the cross" and "teddy bear")
Phrases containing these sound similar, but can be carved up in different places: must use context to figure out
Example: "a girl with kaleidoscope eyes" becomes "a girl with colitis goes by"


Mad gab: factors that make it difficult to understand correct phrase

Oronyms: the given and answer phrase sound similar, but can be carved up in different places
Context conditioned variation: articulation is different for specific words in phrases, depending on what comes next (emphasis differs for phrases)


Mad gab: how concept of speech segmentation applies

Phrases (given and answer) sound similar, but can be carved up in different places
Transitional probabilities are needed


Word frequency effect

Some words are more frequently used (and, for, have) than others (antifungal, farsighted, proofread)
Respond more rapidly to high-frequency words than low-frequency words


Lexical ambiguity

One word can have more than 1 meaning (ex-bug), so context is needed to determine definition


Lexical decision task

Participants are given a list of words to read (real words and nonwords): must identify whether word is real or not
Faster to identify high frequency words as words than low frequency; same with primed words than words that aren't related to primer


Lexical priming

First time that you encounter a specific word, all the definitions will be activated
Quick to recognize any word related to any of the definitions



Meaning of words


ERP study with semantics

Measured electrical activity in brain
Looked at N400: negative waveform at 400 milliseconds
Given 2 sentences: "the cat won't eat" (okay semantically) or "the cat won't bake" (not okay semantically)
Biggest separation of waves (okay sentence and semantically-errored sentence) at 400 milliseconds



Grammatical correctness of sentence


ERP study with syntax

Looked at P600: positive waveform at 600 milliseconds
Given 2 sentences: "the cat won't eat" and "the cat won't eating"
Biggest separation of waves (okay sentence and syntactically-errored sentence) at 600 milliseconds


What ERP studies show

Double dissociation of syntax and semantics



Process of mentally grouping words in a sentence into meaningful phrases


Syntax-first approach to parsing

Parsing is determined by syntax
Semantics is used only if necessary (when a dead end is reached, semantics are used to clear up syntactic ambiguity)


Principle of late closure

When hearing or reading a sentence, we tend to try to keep the phrase open as long as possible


Garden path sentences

Sentence that leads the reader down one path that seems to be right, but turns out to be wrong
"While the woman cleaned the dog that was big and slobbery"- okay
"While the woman cleaned the dog that was big and slobbery ran"- not okay (people stare longest at ran, where the grammatical error began)
Solution: "While the woman cleaned, the dog that was big and slobbery ran"


Interactionist approach to parsing

All information, both syntactic and semantic, is taken into account simultaneously as we read or listen to a sentence, so that any corrections that need to occur can take place as the sentence is unfolding
Semantics is used first, then context is used


Eye tracking experiment with interactionist approach

Participants wear eye tracker and see pictures that represent a sentence that they are hearing
Hear "put the apple on the towel into the box"
One apple condition: eyes go from apple on towel to plain towel back to apple on towel to box (correction occurs midsentence)
Two apple condition: eyes go from apple to apple on towel to box (no correction is needed)


Situation models

Mental representation of what a text is about
Example: when hearing "he hammered the nail into the wall", nail is seen as horizontal, but when "he hammered the nail into the floor", nail is seen as vertical (participants of experiment were faster to recognize picture of object in correct orientation as the object in the sentence than picture of object in incorrect orientation)


Situation models: Melanie and TV scene

Participants were asked to imagine scene that they were reading
"A horror movie was on TV. Melanie watched a vampire stalk a victim..."
Blocked condition: "Melanie's mother appeared in front of the TV. She told Melanie not to forget about her homework."
Unblocked condition: "Melanie's mother appeared behind the TV. She told Melanie not to forget about her homework."
Participants in both conditions were asked if the vampire stalked the vicitim
Blocked condition participants took longer to respond than unblocked condition participants
Conclusion: participants put themselves in the position of Melanie


fMRI Experiment

People were asked to both perform actions and read about actions
Perform actions: primary motor cortex (frontal lobe) was activated
Read action words: not exact matchup, but some similar areas of primary motor cortex activated
Example of spreading activation


Semantic coordination: given-new contract

Conversations go more smoothly when the speakers have knowledge of the topic
Give information before presenting new information ("You remember Bob from class? I was out with him the other night...")
Example: "We checked the picnic supplies. The beer was warm." is more difficult to understand (violates rule) than "We got some beer out of the trunk. The beer was warm."