Gaston in Cognitive Brownbag, Wednesday, Nov 18 at noon

The final cognitive brownbag is today and it’s Phoebe Gaston (UMD PhD, presently UConn). The talk will begin at 12:00, at the following Zoom room:

Meeting ID: 974 8907 4821
Passcode: PBScog

The role of syntactic prediction in auditory word recognition
Sentence context is understood to play some role in the processing of bottom-up acoustic input during word recognition, but the nature of this influence is both unclear and controversial. In this talk, I will focus on the mechanism by which expectations for the syntactic category of an upcoming word are integrated with the auditory input that allows that word to be recognized. One possibility is that syntactic predictions could completely inhibit contextually inappropriate lexical candidates, but an alternative considered less often is that the category prediction instead facilitates items that match its constraints, without affecting items that don’t. I will argue that failure to account for how these two possibilities would manifest differently in dependent measures may help explain conflict in the literature on this question. I will then present our high-powered experiment in the visual world paradigm, specifically designed to distinguish between an inhibitory and a facilitatory mechanism for the category constraint. We found that wrong-category lexical candidates do demonstrate phonological competition, ruling out complete inhibition as the mechanism for the syntactic category constraint. Finally, turning to the nature of syntactic category predictions themselves as an important angle on the problem of the syntactic constraint, I will present a MEG study on the generation of syntactic predictions and the difficulty of disentangling lexical and syntactic prediction.