Fernanda Ferreira presentations on Thursday 4/25 and Friday 4/26

Fernanda Ferreira is delivering a talk in the Five College Cognitive Science Speaker Series Thurs. April 25 at 2:45, and this year’s Freeman Lecture in Linguistics Fri. April 26th at 3:30. The CogSci talk will be aimed at a more specialist audience; the Freeman lecture is targeted more broadly. Details, and abstracts, are below.
Getting a head in language processing: Psychollinguistic effects of pre- versus postnominal modification
Five College Cognitive Science Speaker Series

ILC S131, 2:45 Thurs. April 25

Planning and Deciding during Language Production
Annual Freeman Lecture
ILC N151, 3:30 Fri. April 26th
Abstract: Getting a head in language processing: Psychollinguistic effects of pre- versus postnominal modification
Languages provide speakers with structural options for expressing the same idea, and psycholinguistic investigations have focused on the basis for speakers’ selection of one form over another and the consequences of those choices for comprehension. One alternation that has received relatively little attention is the choice between prenominal versus postnominal modification (the popular candidate versus the candidate who’s popular). Work done in collaboration with John Henderson in the 1990s showed that head position modulates garden-path effects, leading us to hypothesize that syntactic and semantic phrasal roles are assigned at heads. In current work done in collaboration with Hossein Karimi, we have demonstrated that modified noun phrases are encoded more deeply than non-modified phrases, and we also provided evidence for facilitated retrieval of postmodified NPs over NPs that are premodified. These results have implications for memory based theories of language processing and for theories that emphasize discourse status and information structure in language processing.
Abstract: Planning and Deciding during Language Production

Speakers must decide how to convert unordered thoughts and ideas into a structured sequence of linguistic forms that communicates their intended message. One solution to this linearization problem is for speakers to begin with information that is easy to access and encode, allowing them to retrieve more difficult material during articulation and minimizing the need for pauses and other disfluencies. On this view, the syntactic form of a sentence emerges as a byproduct of speakers’ attempts to accommodate the early placement of a constituent. This incremental strategy is also thought to characterize multi-utterance production, which implies that the initial utterance of a discourse will reflect easily accessed or primed content. However, evidence for this kind of incremental planning strategy during multi-utterance production is sparse. Based on a new line of research using scene description tasks, we have developed a competing theory which assumes that speakers build a detailed macro-plan for the upcoming sequence of utterances. This work shows that speakers do not begin their descriptions with information that is salient or easy, but instead start with what is most meaningful. One key innovation of this work is our application of new techniques for quantifying the spatial distribution of meaning over a scene to the challenge of explaining linearization during language production. Our results suggest that a linearization plan guides speakers’ attention during language production and determines the sequencing of utterances, in contrast to “see-say” models of speaking which assume an incremental process. Moreover, application of the same approach to single-sentence production suggests that the language production system as a whole is less incremental than has been assumed.
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