Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 937
  • Araújo, S., Reis, A., Faísca, L., & Petersson, K. M. (in press). Brain sensitivity to words and the “word recognition potential”. In D. Marques, & J. H. Toscano (Eds.), De las neurociencias a la neuropsicologia: el estúdio del cerebro humano. Barranquilla, Colombia: Corporación Universitaria Reformada.
  • Araujo, S., Narang, V., Misra, D., Lohagun, N., Khan, O., Singh, A., Mishra, R. K., Hervais-Adelman, A., & Huettig, F. (in press). A literacy-related color-specific deficit in rapid automatized naming: Evidence from neurotypical completely illiterate and literate adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

    Abstract

    There is a robust positive relationship between reading skills and the time to name aloud an array of letters, digits, objects, or colors as quickly as possible. A convincing and complete explanation for the direction and locus of this association remains, however, elusive. In this study we investigated rapid automatized naming (RAN) of every-day objects and basic color patches in neurotypical illiterate and literate adults. Literacy acquisition and education enhanced RAN performance for both conceptual categories but this advantage was much larger for (abstract) colors than every-day objects. This result suggests that (i) literacy/education may be causal for serial rapid naming ability of non-alphanumeric items, (ii) differences in the lexical quality of conceptual representations can underlie the reading-related differential RAN performance.
  • Bauer, B. L. M. (in press). Multiplication, addition, and subtraction in numerals: Variation in Latin’s decads+ from an Indo-European perspective. Journal of Latin Linguistics.
  • Hagoort, P. (2023). The language marker hypothesis. Cognition, 230: 105252. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105252.

    Abstract

    According to the language marker hypothesis language has provided homo sapiens with a rich symbolic system that plays a central role in interpreting signals delivered by our sensory apparatus, in shaping action goals, and in creating a powerful tool for reasoning and inferencing. This view provides an important correction on embodied accounts of language that reduce language to action, perception, emotion and mental simulation. The presence of a language system has, however, also important consequences for perception, action, emotion, and memory. Language stamps signals from perception, action, and emotional systems with rich cognitive markers that transform the role of these signals in the overall cognitive architecture of the human mind. This view does not deny that language is implemented by means of universal principles of neural organization. However, language creates the possibility to generate rich internal models of the world that are shaped and made accessible by the characteristics of a language system. This makes us less dependent on direct action-perception couplings and might even sometimes go at the expense of the veridicality of perception. In cognitive (neuro)science the pendulum has swung from language as the key to understand the organization of the human mind to the perspective that it is a byproduct of perception and action. It is time that it partly swings back again.
  • De Hoop, H., Levshina, N., & Segers, M. (2023). The effect of the use of T and V pronouns in Dutch HR communication. Journal of Pragmatics, 203, 96-109. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2022.11.017.

    Abstract

    In an online experiment among native speakers of Dutch we measured addressees' responses to emails written in the informal pronoun T or the formal pronoun V in HR communication. 172 participants (61 male, mean age 37 years) read either the V-versions or the T-versions of two invitation emails and two rejection emails by four different fictitious recruiters. After each email, participants had to score their appreciation of the company and the recruiter on five different scales each, such as The recruiter who wrote this email seems … [scale from friendly to unfriendly]. We hypothesized that (i) the V-pronoun would be more appreciated in letters of rejection, and the T-pronoun in letters of invitation, and (ii) older people would appreciate the V-pronoun more than the T-pronoun, and the other way around for younger people. Although neither of these hypotheses was supported, we did find a small effect of pronoun: Emails written in V were more highly appreciated than emails in T, irrespective of type of email (invitation or rejection), and irrespective of the participant's age, gender, and level of education. At the same time, we observed differences in the strength of this effect across different scales.
  • Levshina, N. (2023). Communicative efficiency: Language structure and use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    All living beings try to save effort, and humans are no exception. This groundbreaking book shows how we save time and energy during communication by unconsciously making efficient choices in grammar, lexicon and phonology. It presents a new theory of 'communicative efficiency', the idea that language is designed to be as efficient as possible, as a system of communication. The new framework accounts for the diverse manifestations of communicative efficiency across a typologically broad range of languages, using various corpus-based and statistical approaches to explain speakers' bias towards efficiency. The author's unique interdisciplinary expertise allows her to provide rich evidence from a broad range of language sciences. She integrates diverse insights from over a hundred years of research into this comprehensible new theory, which she presents step-by-step in clear and accessible language. It is essential reading for language scientists, cognitive scientists and anyone interested in language use and communication.
  • Aldosimani, M., Verdonschot, R. G., Iwamoto, Y., Nakazawa, M., Mallya, S. M., Kakimoto, N., Toyosawa, S., Kreiborg, S., & Murakami, S. (2022). Prognostic factors for lymph node metastasis from upper gingival carcinomas. Oral Radiology, 38(3), 389-396. doi:10.1007/s11282-021-00568-w.

    Abstract

    This study sought to identify tumor characteristics that associate with regional lymph node metastases in squamous cell carcinomas originating in the upper gingiva.
  • Arana, S. (2022). Abstract neural representations of language during sentence comprehension: Evidence from MEG and Behaviour. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Bauer, B. L. M. (2022). Counting systems. In A. Ledgeway, & M. Maiden (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Romance Linguistics (pp. 459-488). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    The Romance counting system is numerical – with residues of earlier systems whereby each commodity had its own unit of quantification – and decimal. Numeral formations beyond ‘10’ are compounds, combining two or more numerals that are in an arithmetical relation, typically that of addition and multiplication. Formal variation across the (standard) Romance languages and dialects and across historical stages involves the relative sequence of the composing elements, absence or presence of connectors, their synthetic vs. analytic nature, and the degree of grammatical marking. A number of ‘deviant’ numeral formations raise the question of borrowing vs independent development, such as vigesimals (featuring a base ‘20’ instead ‘10’) in certain Romance varieties and the teen and decad formations in Romanian. The other types of numeral in Romance, which derive from the unmarked and consistent cardinals, feature a significantly higher degree of formal complexity and variation involving Latin formants and tend toward analyticity. While Latin features prominently in the Romance counting system as a source of numeral formations and suffixes, it is only in Romance that the inherited decimal system reached its full potential, illustrating its increasing prominence, reflected not only in numerals, but also in language acquisition, sign language, and post-Revolution measuring systems.
  • Bauer, B. L. M. (2022). Finite verb + infinite + object in later Latin: Early brace constructions? In G. V. M. Haverling (Ed.), Studies on Late and Vulgar Latin in the Early 21st Century: Acts of the 12th International Colloquium "Latin vulgaire – Latin tardif (pp. 166-181). Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
  • Bocanegra, B. R., Poletiek, F. H., & Zwaan, R. A. (2022). Language concatenates perceptual features into representations during comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 127: 104355. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2022.104355.

    Abstract

    Although many studies have investigated the activation of perceptual representations during language comprehension, to our knowledge only one previous study has directly tested how perceptual features are combined into representations during comprehension. In their classic study, Potter and Faulconer [(1979). Understanding noun phrases. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 18, 509–521.] investigated the perceptual representation of adjective-noun combinations. However, their non-orthogonal design did not allow the differentiation between conjunctive vs. disjunctive representations. Using randomized orthogonal designs, we observe evidence for disjunctive perceptual representations when participants represent feature combinations simultaneously (in several experiments; N = 469), and we observe evidence for conjunctive perceptual representations when participants represent feature combinations sequentially (In several experiments; N = 628). Our findings show that the generation of conjunctive representations during comprehension depends on the concatenation of linguistic cues, and thus suggest the construction of elaborate perceptual representations may critically depend on language.
  • Carota, F., Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., & Indefrey, P. (2022). The time course of language production as revealed by pattern classification of MEG sensor data. The Journal of Neuroscience, 42(29), 5745-5754. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1923-21.2022.

    Abstract

    Language production involves a complex set of computations, from conceptualization to articulation, which are thought to engage cascading neural events in the language network. However, recent neuromagnetic evidence suggests simultaneous meaning-to-speech mapping in picture naming tasks, as indexed by early parallel activation of frontotemporal regions to lexical semantic, phonological, and articulatory information. Here we investigate the time course of word production, asking to what extent such “earliness” is a distinctive property of the associated spatiotemporal dynamics. Using MEG, we recorded the neural signals of 34 human subjects (26 males) overtly naming 134 images from four semantic object categories (animals, foods, tools, clothes). Within each category, we covaried word length, as quantified by the number of syllables contained in a word, and phonological neighborhood density to target lexical and post-lexical phonological/phonetic processes. Multivariate pattern analyses searchlights in sensor space distinguished the stimulus-locked spatiotemporal responses to object categories early on, from 150 to 250 ms after picture onset, whereas word length was decoded in left frontotemporal sensors at 250-350 ms, followed by the latency of phonological neighborhood density (350-450 ms). Our results suggest a progression of neural activity from posterior to anterior language regions for the semantic and phonological/phonetic computations preparing overt speech, thus supporting serial cascading models of word production
  • Carter, G., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2022). Predicting definite and indefinite referents during discourse comprehension: Evidence from event‐related potentials. Cognitive Science, 46(2): e13092. doi:10.1111/cogs.13092.

    Abstract

    Linguistic predictions may be generated from and evaluated against a representation of events and referents described in the discourse. Compatible with this idea, recent work shows that predictions about novel noun phrases include their definiteness. In the current follow-up study, we ask whether people engage similar prediction-related processes for definite and indefinite referents. This question is relevant for linguistic theories that imply a processing difference between definite and indefinite noun phrases, typically because definiteness is thought to require a uniquely identifiable referent in the discourse. We addressed this question in an event-related potential (ERP) study (N = 48) with preregistration of data acquisition, preprocessing, and Bayesian analysis. Participants read Dutch mini-stories with a definite or indefinite novel noun phrase (e.g., “het/een huis,” the/a house), wherein (in)definiteness of the article was either expected or unexpected and the noun was always strongly expected. Unexpected articles elicited enhanced N400s, but unexpectedly indefinite articles also elicited a positive ERP effect at frontal channels compared to expectedly indefinite articles. We tentatively link this effect to an antiuniqueness violation, which may force people to introduce a new referent over and above the already anticipated one. Interestingly, expectedly definite nouns elicited larger N400s than unexpectedly definite nouns (replicating a previous surprising finding) and indefinite nouns. Although the exact nature of these noun effects remains unknown, expectedly definite nouns may have triggered the strongest semantic activation because they alone refer to specific and concrete referents. In sum, results from both the articles and nouns clearly demonstrate that definiteness marking has a rapid effect on processing, counter to recent claims regarding definiteness processing.
  • Coopmans, C. W., De Hoop, H., Kaushik, K., Hagoort, P., & Martin, A. E. (2022). Hierarchy in language interpretation: Evidence from behavioural experiments and computational modelling. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 37(4), 420-439. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1980595.

    Abstract

    It has long been recognised that phrases and sentences are organised hierarchically, but many computational models of language treat them as sequences of words without computing constituent structure. Against this background, we conducted two experiments which showed that participants interpret ambiguous noun phrases, such as second blue ball, in terms of their abstract hierarchical structure rather than their linear surface order. When a neural network model was tested on this task, it could simulate such “hierarchical” behaviour. However, when we changed the training data such that they were not entirely unambiguous anymore, the model stopped generalising in a human-like way. It did not systematically generalise to novel items, and when it was trained on ambiguous trials, it strongly favoured the linear interpretation. We argue that these models should be endowed with a bias to make generalisations over hierarchical structure in order to be cognitively adequate models of human language.
  • Coopmans, C. W., De Hoop, H., Hagoort, P., & Martin, A. E. (2022). Effects of structure and meaning on cortical tracking of linguistic units in naturalistic speech. Neurobiology of Language, 3(3), 386-412. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00070.

    Abstract

    Recent research has established that cortical activity “tracks” the presentation rate of syntactic phrases in continuous speech, even though phrases are abstract units that do not have direct correlates in the acoustic signal. We investigated whether cortical tracking of phrase structures is modulated by the extent to which these structures compositionally determine meaning. To this end, we recorded electroencephalography (EEG) of 38 native speakers who listened to naturally spoken Dutch stimuli in different conditions, which parametrically modulated the degree to which syntactic structure and lexical semantics determine sentence meaning. Tracking was quantified through mutual information between the EEG data and either the speech envelopes or abstract annotations of syntax, all of which were filtered in the frequency band corresponding to the presentation rate of phrases (1.1–2.1 Hz). Overall, these mutual information analyses showed stronger tracking of phrases in regular sentences than in stimuli whose lexical-syntactic content is reduced, but no consistent differences in tracking between sentences and stimuli that contain a combination of syntactic structure and lexical content. While there were no effects of compositional meaning on the degree of phrase-structure tracking, analyses of event-related potentials elicited by sentence-final words did reveal meaning-induced differences between conditions. Our findings suggest that cortical tracking of structure in sentences indexes the internal generation of this structure, a process that is modulated by the properties of its input, but not by the compositional interpretation of its output.

    Additional information

    supplementary information
  • Coopmans, C. W., & Cohn, N. (2022). An electrophysiological investigation of co-referential processes in visual narrative comprehension. Neuropsychologia, 172: 108253. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2022.108253.

    Abstract

    Visual narratives make use of various means to convey referential and co-referential meaning, so comprehenders
    must recognize that different depictions across sequential images represent the same character(s). In this study,
    we investigated how the order in which different types of panels in visual sequences are presented affects how
    the unfolding narrative is comprehended. Participants viewed short comic strips while their electroencephalo-
    gram (EEG) was recorded. We analyzed evoked and induced EEG activity elicited by both full panels (showing a
    full character) and refiner panels (showing only a zoom of that full panel), and took into account whether they
    preceded or followed the panel to which they were co-referentially related (i.e., were cataphoric or anaphoric).
    We found that full panels elicited both larger N300 amplitude and increased gamma-band power compared to
    refiner panels. Anaphoric panels elicited a sustained negativity compared to cataphoric panels, which appeared
    to be sensitive to the referential status of the anaphoric panel. In the time-frequency domain, anaphoric panels
    elicited reduced 8–12 Hz alpha power and increased 45–65 Hz gamma-band power compared to cataphoric
    panels. These findings are consistent with models in which the processes involved in visual narrative compre-
    hension partially overlap with those in language comprehension.
  • Coopmans, C. W., Struiksma, M. E., Coopmans, P. H. A., & Chen, A. (2022). Processing of grammatical agreement in the face of variation in lexical stress: A mismatch negativity study. Language and Speech. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/00238309221098116.

    Abstract

    Previous electroencephalography studies have yielded evidence for automatic processing of syntax and lexical stress. However, these studies looked at both effects in isolation, limiting their generalizability to everyday language comprehension. In the current study, we investigated automatic processing of grammatical agreement in the face of variation in lexical stress. Using an oddball paradigm, we measured the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) in Dutch-speaking participants while they listened to Dutch subject–verb sequences (linguistic context) or acoustically similar sequences in which the subject was replaced by filtered noise (nonlinguistic context). The verb forms differed in the inflectional suffix, rendering the subject–verb sequences grammatically correct or incorrect, and leading to a difference in the stress pattern of the verb forms. We found that the MMNs were modulated in both the linguistic and nonlinguistic condition, suggesting that the processing load induced by variation in lexical stress can hinder early automatic processing of grammatical agreement. However, as the morphological differences between the verb forms correlated with differences in number of syllables, an interpretation in terms of the prosodic structure of the sequences cannot be ruled out. Future research is needed to determine which of these factors (i.e., lexical stress, syllabic structure) most strongly modulate early syntactic processing.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Corps, R. E., Knudsen, B., & Meyer, A. S. (2022). Overrated gaps: Inter-speaker gaps provide limited information about the timing of turns in conversation. Cognition, 223: 105037. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105037.

    Abstract

    Corpus analyses have shown that turn-taking in conversation is much faster than laboratory studies of speech planning would predict. To explain fast turn-taking, Levinson and Torreira (2015) proposed that speakers are highly proactive: They begin to plan a response to their interlocutor's turn as soon as they have understood its gist, and launch this planned response when the turn-end is imminent. Thus, fast turn-taking is possible because speakers use the time while their partner is talking to plan their own utterance. In the present study, we asked how much time upcoming speakers actually have to plan their utterances. Following earlier psycholinguistic work, we used transcripts of spoken conversations in Dutch, German, and English. These transcripts consisted of segments, which are continuous stretches of speech by one speaker. In the psycholinguistic and phonetic literature, such segments have often been used as proxies for turns. We found that in all three corpora, large proportions of the segments comprised of only one or two words, which on our estimate does not give the next speaker enough time to fully plan a response. Further analyses showed that speakers indeed often did not respond to the immediately preceding segment of their partner, but continued an earlier segment of their own. More generally, our findings suggest that speech segments derived from transcribed corpora do not necessarily correspond to turns, and the gaps between speech segments therefore only provide limited information about the planning and timing of turns.
  • Dai, B., McQueen, J. M., Terporten, R., Hagoort, P., & Kösem, A. (2022). Distracting Linguistic Information Impairs Neural Tracking of Attended Speech. Current Research in Neurobiology, 3: 100043. doi:10.1016/j.crneur.2022.100043.

    Abstract

    Listening to speech is difficult in noisy environments, and is even harder when the interfering noise consists of intelligible speech as compared to unintelligible sounds. This suggests that the competing linguistic information interferes with the neural processing of target speech. Interference could either arise from a degradation of the neural representation of the target speech, or from increased representation of distracting speech that enters in competition with the target speech. We tested these alternative hypotheses using magnetoencephalography (MEG) while participants listened to a target clear speech in the presence of distracting noise-vocoded speech. Crucially, the distractors were initially unintelligible but became more intelligible after a short training session. Results showed that the comprehension of the target speech was poorer after training than before training. The neural tracking of target speech in the delta range (1–4 Hz) reduced in strength in the presence of a more intelligible distractor. In contrast, the neural tracking of distracting signals was not significantly modulated by intelligibility. These results suggest that the presence of distracting speech signals degrades the linguistic representation of target speech carried by delta oscillations.
  • Dijkstra, T., Peeters, D., Hieselaar, W., & van Geffen, A. (2022). Orthographic and semantic priming effects in neighbour cognates: Experiments and simulations. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/S1366728922000591.

    Abstract

    To investigate how orthography and semantics interact during bilingual visual word recognition, Dutch–English bilinguals made lexical decisions in two masked priming experiments. Dutch primes and English targets were presented that were either neighbour cognates (boek – BOOK), noncognate translations (kooi – CAGE), orthographically related neighbours (neus – NEWS), or unrelated words (huid - COAT). Prime durations of 50 ms (Experiment 1) and 83 ms (Experiment 2) led to similar result patterns. Both experiments reported a large cognate facilitation effect, a smaller facilitatory noncognate translation effect, and the absence of inhibitory orthographic neighbour effects. These results indicate that cognate facilitation is in large part due to orthographic-semantic resonance. Priming results for each condition were simulated well (all r's >.50) by Multilink+, a recent computational model for word retrieval. Limitations to the role of lateral inhibition in bilingual word recognition are discussed.
  • Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2022). The multimodal facilitation effect in human communication. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02178-x.

    Abstract

    During face-to-face communication, recipients need to rapidly integrate a plethora of auditory and visual signals. This integration of signals from many different bodily articulators, all offset in time, with the information in the speech stream may either tax the cognitive system, thus slowing down language processing, or may result in multimodal facilitation. Using the classical shadowing paradigm, participants shadowed speech from face-to-face, naturalistic dyadic conversations in an audiovisual context, an audiovisual context without visual speech (e.g., lips), and an audio-only context. Our results provide evidence of a multimodal facilitation effect in human communication: participants were faster in shadowing words when seeing multimodal messages compared with when hearing only audio. Also, the more visual context was present, the fewer shadowing errors were made, and the earlier in time participants shadowed predicted lexical items. We propose that the multimodal facilitation effect may contribute to the ease of fast face-to-face conversational interaction.
  • Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2022). Face-to-face spatial orientation fine-tunes the brain for neurocognitive processing in conversation. iScience, 25(11): 105413. doi:10.1016/j.isci.2022.105413.

    Abstract

    We here demonstrate that face-to-face spatial orientation induces a special ‘social mode’ for neurocognitive processing during conversation, even in the absence of visibility. Participants conversed face-to-face, face-to-face but visually occluded, and back-to-back to tease apart effects caused by seeing visual communicative signals and by spatial orientation. Using dual-EEG, we found that 1) listeners’ brains engaged more strongly while conversing in face-to-face than back-to-back, irrespective of the visibility of communicative signals, 2) listeners attended to speech more strongly in a back-to-back compared to a face-to-face spatial orientation without visibility; visual signals further reduced the attention needed; 3) the brains of interlocutors were more in sync in a face-to-face compared to a back-to-back spatial orientation, even when they could not see each other; visual signals further enhanced this pattern. Communicating in face-to-face spatial orientation is thus sufficient to induce a special ‘social mode’ which fine-tunes the brain for neurocognitive processing in conversation.
  • Eekhof, L. S., Van Krieken, K., & Willems, R. M. (2022). Reading about minds: The social-cognitive potential of narratives. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 29, 1703-1718. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02079-z.

    Abstract

    It is often argued that narratives improve social cognition, either by appealing to social-cognitive abilities as we engage with the story world and its characters, or by conveying social knowledge. Empirical studies have found support for both a correlational and a causal link between exposure to (literary, fictional) narratives and social cognition. However, a series of failed replications has cast doubt on the robustness of these claims. Here, we review the existing empirical literature and identify open questions and challenges. An important conclusion of the review is that previous research has given too little consideration to the diversity of narratives, readers, and social-cognitive processes involved in the social-cognitive potential of narratives. We therefore establish a research agenda, proposing that future research should focus on (1) the specific text characteristics that drive the social-cognitive potential of narratives, (2) the individual differences between readers with respect to their sensitivity to this potential, and (3) the various aspects of social cognition that are potentially affected by reading narratives. Our recommendations can guide the design of future studies that will help us understand how, for whom, and in what respect exposure to narratives can advantage social cognition.
  • Ferrari, A., Richter, D., & De Lange, F. (2022). Updating contextual sensory expectations for adaptive behaviour. The Journal of Neuroscience, 42(47), 8855-8869. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1107-22.2022.

    Abstract

    The brain has the extraordinary capacity to construct predictive models of the environment by internalizing statistical regularities in the sensory inputs. The resulting sensory expectations shape how we perceive and react to the world; at the neural level, this relates to decreased neural responses to expected than unexpected stimuli (‘expectation suppression’). Crucially, expectations may need revision as context changes. However, existing research has often neglected this issue. Further, it is unclear whether contextual revisions apply selectively to expectations relevant to the task at hand, hence serving adaptive behaviour. The present fMRI study examined how contextual visual expectations spread throughout the cortical hierarchy as participants update their beliefs. We created a volatile environment with two state spaces presented over separate contexts and controlled by an independent contextualizing signal. Participants attended a training session before scanning to learn contextual temporal associations among pairs of object images. The fMRI experiment then tested for the emergence of contextual expectation suppression in two separate tasks, respectively with task-relevant and task-irrelevant expectations. Behavioural and neural effects of contextual expectation emerged progressively across the cortical hierarchy as participants attuned themselves to the context: expectation suppression appeared first in the insula, inferior frontal gyrus and posterior parietal cortex, followed by the ventral visual stream, up to early visual cortex. This applied selectively to task-relevant expectations. Taken together, the present results suggest that an insular and frontoparietal executive control network may guide the flexible deployment of contextual sensory expectations for adaptive behaviour in our complex and dynamic world.
  • Gao, Y., Meng, X., Bai, Z., Liu, X., Zhang, M., Li, H., Ding, G., Liu, L., & Booth, J. R. (2022). Left and right arcuate fasciculi are uniquely related to word reading skills in Chinese-English bilingual children. Neurobiology of Language, 3(1), 109-131. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00051.

    Abstract

    Whether reading in different writing systems recruits language-unique or language-universal neural processes is a long-standing debate. Many studies have shown the left arcuate fasciculus (AF) to be involved in phonological and reading processes. In contrast, little is known about the role of the right AF in reading, but some have suggested that it may play a role in visual spatial aspects of reading or the prosodic components of language. The right AF may be more important for reading in Chinese due to its logographic and tonal properties, but this hypothesis has yet to be tested. We recruited a group of Chinese-English bilingual children (8.2 to 12.0 years old) to explore the common and unique relation of reading skill in English and Chinese to fractional anisotropy (FA) in the bilateral AF. We found that both English and Chinese reading skills were positively correlated with FA in the rostral part of the left AF-direct segment. Additionally, English reading skill was positively correlated with FA in the caudal part of the left AF-direct segment, which was also positively correlated with phonological awareness. In contrast, Chinese reading skill was positively correlated with FA in certain segments of the right AF, which was positively correlated with visual spatial ability, but not tone discrimination ability. Our results suggest that there are language universal substrates of reading across languages, but that certain left AF nodes support phonological mechanisms important for reading in English, whereas certain right AF nodes support visual spatial mechanisms important for reading in Chinese.

    Additional information

    supplementary materials
  • Giglio, L., Ostarek, M., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2022). Commonalities and asymmetries in the neurobiological infrastructure for language production and comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 32(7), 1405-1418. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhab287.

    Abstract

    The neurobiology of sentence production has been largely understudied compared to the neurobiology of sentence comprehension, due to difficulties with experimental control and motion-related artifacts in neuroimaging. We studied the neural response to constituents of increasing size and specifically focused on the similarities and differences in the production and comprehension of the same stimuli. Participants had to either produce or listen to stimuli in a gradient of constituent size based on a visual prompt. Larger constituent sizes engaged the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and middle temporal gyrus (LMTG) extending to inferior parietal areas in both production and comprehension, confirming that the neural resources for syntactic encoding and decoding are largely overlapping. An ROI analysis in LIFG and LMTG also showed that production elicited larger responses to constituent size than comprehension and that the LMTG was more engaged in comprehension than production, while the LIFG was more engaged in production than comprehension. Finally, increasing constituent size was characterized by later BOLD peaks in comprehension but earlier peaks in production. These results show that syntactic encoding and parsing engage overlapping areas, but there are asymmetries in the engagement of the language network due to the specific requirements of production and comprehension.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Gussenhoven, C., Lu, Y.-A., Lee-Kim, S.-I., Liu, C., Rahmani, H., Riad, T., & Zora, H. (2022). The sequence recall task and lexicality of tone: Exploring tone “deafness”. Frontiers in Psychology, 13: 902569. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.902569.

    Abstract

    Many perception and processing effects of the lexical status of tone have been found in behavioral, psycholinguistic, and neuroscientific research, often pitting varieties of tonal Chinese against non-tonal Germanic languages. While the linguistic and cognitive evidence for lexical tone is therefore beyond dispute, the word prosodic systems of many languages continue to escape the categorizations of typologists. One controversy concerns the existence of a typological class of “pitch accent languages,” another the underlying phonological nature of surface tone contrasts, which in some cases have been claimed to be metrical rather than tonal. We address the question whether the Sequence Recall Task (SRT), which has been shown to discriminate between languages with and without word stress, can distinguish languages with and without lexical tone. Using participants from non-tonal Indonesian, semi-tonal Swedish, and two varieties of tonal Mandarin, we ran SRTs with monosyllabic tonal contrasts to test the hypothesis that high performance in a tonal SRT indicates the lexical status of tone. An additional question concerned the extent to which accuracy scores depended on phonological and phonetic properties of a language’s tone system, like its complexity, the existence of an experimental contrast in a language’s phonology, and the phonetic salience of a contrast. The results suggest that a tonal SRT is not likely to discriminate between tonal and non-tonal languages within a typologically varied group, because of the effects of specific properties of their tone systems. Future research should therefore address the first hypothesis with participants from otherwise similar tonal and non-tonal varieties of the same language, where results from a tonal SRT may make a useful contribution to the typological debate on word prosody.
  • Hagoort, P. (2022). Reasoning and the brain. In M. Stokhof, & K. Stenning (Eds.), Rules, regularities, randomness. Festschrift for Michiel van Lambalgen (pp. 83-85). Amsterdam: Institute for Logic, Language and Computation.
  • Heilbron, M., Armeni, K., Schoffelen, J.-M., Hagoort, P., & De Lange, F. P. (2022). A hierarchy of linguistic predictions during natural language comprehension. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(32): e2201968119. doi:10.1073/pnas.2201968119.

    Abstract

    Understanding spoken language requires transforming ambiguous acoustic streams into a hierarchy of representations, from phonemes to meaning. It has been suggested that the brain uses prediction to guide the interpretation of incoming input. However, the role of prediction in language processing remains disputed, with disagreement about both the ubiquity and representational nature of predictions. Here, we address both issues by analyzing brain recordings of participants listening to audiobooks, and using a deep neural network (GPT-2) to precisely quantify contextual predictions. First, we establish that brain responses to words are modulated by ubiquitous predictions. Next, we disentangle model-based predictions into distinct dimensions, revealing dissociable neural signatures of predictions about syntactic category (parts of speech), phonemes, and semantics. Finally, we show that high-level (word) predictions inform low-level (phoneme) predictions, supporting hierarchical predictive processing. Together, these results underscore the ubiquity of prediction in language processing, showing that the brain spontaneously predicts upcoming language at multiple levels of abstraction.

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    supporting information
  • Heilbron, M. (2022). Getting ahead: Prediction as a window into language, and language as a window into the predictive brain. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Hervais-Adelman, A., Kumar, U., Mishra, R., Tripathi, V., Guleria, A., Singh, J. P., & Huettig, F. (2022). How does literacy affect speech processing? Not by enhancing cortical responses to speech, but by promoting connectivity of acoustic-phonetic and graphomotor cortices. Journal of Neuroscience, 42(47), 8826-8841. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1125-21.2022.

    Abstract

    Previous research suggests that literacy, specifically learning alphabetic letter-to-phoneme mappings, modifies online speech processing, and enhances brain responses, as indexed by the blood-oxygenation level dependent signal (BOLD), to speech in auditory areas associated with phonological processing (Dehaene et al., 2010). However, alphabets are not the only orthographic systems in use in the world, and hundreds of millions of individuals speak languages that are not written using alphabets. In order to make claims that literacy per se has broad and general consequences for brain responses to speech, one must seek confirmatory evidence from non-alphabetic literacy. To this end, we conducted a longitudinal fMRI study in India probing the effect of literacy in Devanagari, an abugida, on functional connectivity and cerebral responses to speech in 91 variously literate Hindi-speaking male and female human participants. Twenty-two completely illiterate participants underwent six months of reading and writing training. Devanagari literacy increases functional connectivity between acoustic-phonetic and graphomotor brain areas, but we find no evidence that literacy changes brain responses to speech, either in cross-sectional or longitudinal analyses. These findings shows that a dramatic reconfiguration of the neurofunctional substrates of online speech processing may not be a universal result of learning to read, and suggest that the influence of writing on speech processing should also be investigated.
  • Hoeksema, N., Hagoort, P., & Vernes, S. C. (2022). Piecing together the building blocks of the vocal learning bat brain. In A. Ravignani, R. Asano, D. Valente, F. Ferretti, S. Hartmann, M. Hayashi, Y. Jadoul, M. Martins, Y. Oseki, E. D. Rodrigues, O. Vasileva, & S. Wacewicz (Eds.), The evolution of language: Proceedings of the Joint Conference on Language Evolution (JCoLE) (pp. 294-296). Nijmegen: Joint Conference on Language Evolution (JCoLE).
  • Holler, J., Drijvers, L., Rafiee, A., & Majid, A. (2022). Embodied space-pitch associations are shaped by language. Cognitive Science, 46(2): e13083. doi:10.1111/cogs.13083.

    Abstract

    Height-pitch associations are claimed to be universal and independent of language, but this claim remains controversial. The present study sheds new light on this debate with a multimodal analysis of individual sound and melody descriptions obtained in an interactive communication paradigm with speakers of Dutch and Farsi. The findings reveal that, in contrast to Dutch speakers, Farsi speakers do not use a height-pitch metaphor consistently in speech. Both Dutch and Farsi speakers’ co-speech gestures did reveal a mapping of higher pitches to higher space and lower pitches to lower space, and this gesture space-pitch mapping tended to co-occur with corresponding spatial words (high-low). However, this mapping was much weaker in Farsi speakers than Dutch speakers. This suggests that cross-linguistic differences shape the conceptualization of pitch and further calls into question the universality of height-pitch associations.

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  • Huizeling, E., Arana, S., Hagoort, P., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2022). Lexical frequency and sentence context influence the brain’s response to single words. Neurobiology of Language, 3(1), 149-179. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00054.

    Abstract

    Typical adults read remarkably quickly. Such fast reading is facilitated by brain processes that are sensitive to both word frequency and contextual constraints. It is debated as to whether these attributes have additive or interactive effects on language processing in the brain. We investigated this issue by analysing existing magnetoencephalography data from 99 participants reading intact and scrambled sentences. Using a cross-validated model comparison scheme, we found that lexical frequency predicted the word-by-word elicited MEG signal in a widespread cortical network, irrespective of sentential context. In contrast, index (ordinal word position) was more strongly encoded in sentence words, in left front-temporal areas. This confirms that frequency influences word processing independently of predictability, and that contextual constraints affect word-by-word brain responses. With a conservative multiple comparisons correction, only the interaction between lexical frequency and surprisal survived, in anterior temporal and frontal cortex, and not between lexical frequency and entropy, nor between lexical frequency and index. However, interestingly, the uncorrected index*frequency interaction revealed an effect in left frontal and temporal cortex that reversed in time and space for intact compared to scrambled sentences. Finally, we provide evidence to suggest that, in sentences, lexical frequency and predictability may independently influence early (<150ms) and late stages of word processing, but interact during later stages of word processing (>150-250ms), thus helping to converge previous contradictory eye-tracking and electrophysiological literature. Current neuro-cognitive models of reading would benefit from accounting for these differing effects of lexical frequency and predictability on different stages of word processing.
  • Huizeling, E., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2022). Prediction of upcoming speech under fluent and disfluent conditions: Eye tracking evidence from immersive virtual reality. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 37(4), 481-508. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1994621.

    Abstract

    Traditional experiments indicate that prediction is important for efficient speech processing. In three virtual reality visual world paradigm experiments, we tested whether such findings hold in naturalistic settings (Experiment 1) and provided novel insights into whether disfluencies in speech (repairs/hesitations) inform one’s predictions in rich environments (Experiments 2–3). Experiment 1 supports that listeners predict upcoming speech in naturalistic environments, with higher proportions of anticipatory target fixations in predictable compared to unpredictable trials. In Experiments 2–3, disfluencies reduced anticipatory fixations towards predicted referents, compared to conjunction (Experiment 2) and fluent (Experiment 3) sentences. Unexpectedly, Experiment 2 provided no evidence that participants made new predictions from a repaired verb. Experiment 3 provided novel findings that fixations towards the speaker increase upon hearing a hesitation, supporting current theories of how hesitations influence sentence processing. Together, these findings unpack listeners’ use of visual (objects/speaker) and auditory (speech/disfluencies) information when predicting upcoming words.
  • Kałamała, P., Chuderski, A., Szewczyk, J., Senderecka, M., & Wodniecka, Z. (2022). Bilingualism caught in a net: A new approach to understanding the complexity of bilingual experience. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xge0001263.

    Abstract

    The growing importance of research on bilingualism in psychology and neuroscience motivates the need for a psychometric model that can be used to understand and quantify this phenomenon. This research is the first to meet this need. We reanalyzed two data sets (N = 171 and N = 112) from relatively young adult language-unbalanced bilinguals and asked whether bilingualism is best described by the factor structure or by the network structure. The factor and network models were established on one data set and then validated on the other data set in a fully confirmatory manner. The network model provided the best fit to the data. This implies that bilingualism should be conceptualized as an emergent phenomenon arising from direct and idiosyncratic dependencies among the history of language acquisition, diverse language skills, and language-use practices. These dependencies can be reduced to neither a single universal quotient nor to some more general factors. Additional in-depth network analyses showed that the subjective perception of proficiency along with language entropy and language mixing were the most central indices of bilingualism, thus indicating that these measures can be especially sensitive to variation in the overall bilingual experience. Overall, this work highlights the great potential of psychometric network modeling to gain a more accurate description and understanding of complex (psycho)linguistic and cognitive phenomena.
  • Lai, V. T., Van Berkum, J. J. A., & Hagoort, P. (2022). Negative affect increases reanalysis of conflicts between discourse context and world knowledge. Frontiers in Communication, 7: 910482. doi:10.3389/fcomm.2022.910482.

    Abstract

    Introduction: Mood is a constant in our daily life and can permeate all levels of cognition. We examined whether and how mood influences the processing of discourse content that is relatively neutral and not loaded with emotion. During discourse processing, readers have to constantly strike a balance between what they know in long term memory and what the current discourse is about. Our general hypothesis is that mood states would affect this balance. We hypothesized that readers in a positive mood would rely more on default world knowledge, whereas readers in a negative mood would be more inclined to analyze the details in the current discourse.

    Methods: Participants were put in a positive and a negative mood via film clips, one week apart. In each session, after mood manipulation, they were presented with sentences in discourse materials. We created sentences such as “With the lights on you can see...” that end with critical words (CWs) “more” or “less”, where general knowledge supports “more”, not “less”. We then embedded each of these sentences in a wider discourse that does/does not support the CWs (a story about driving in the night vs. stargazing). EEG was recorded throughout.

    Results: The results showed that first, mood manipulation was successful in that there was a significant mood difference between sessions. Second, mood did not modulate the N400 effects. Participants in both moods detected outright semantic violations and allowed world knowledge to be overridden by discourse context. Third, mood modulated the LPC (Late Positive Component) effects, distributed in the frontal region. In negative moods, the LPC was sensitive to one-level violation. That is, CWs that were supported by only world knowledge, only discourse, and neither, elicited larger frontal LPCs, in comparison to the condition where CWs were supported by both world knowledge and discourse.

    Discussion: These results suggest that mood does not influence all processes involved in discourse processing. Specifically, mood does not influence lexical-semantic retrieval (N400), but it does influence elaborative processes for sensemaking (P600) during discourse processing. These results advance our understanding of the impact and time course of mood on discourse.

    Additional information

    Table 1.XLSX
  • Levshina, N. (2022). Frequency, informativity and word length: Insights from typologically diverse corpora. Entropy, 24(2): 280. doi:10.3390/e24020280.

    Abstract

    Zipf’s law of abbreviation, which posits a negative correlation between word frequency and length, is one of the most famous and robust cross-linguistic generalizations. At the same time, it has been shown that contextual informativity (average surprisal given previous context) is more strongly correlated with word length, although this tendency is not observed consistently, depending on several methodological choices. The present study examines a more diverse sample of languages than the previous studies (Arabic, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish). I use large web-based corpora from the Leipzig Corpora Collection to estimate word lengths in UTF-8 characters and in phonemes (for some of the languages), as well as word frequency, informativity given previous word and informativity given next word, applying different methods of bigrams processing. The results show different correlations between word length and the corpus-based measure for different languages. I argue that these differences can be explained by the properties of noun phrases in a language, most importantly, by the order of heads and modifiers and their relative morphological complexity, as well as by orthographic conventions

    Additional information

    datasets
  • Levshina, N., & Hawkins, J. A. (2022). Verb-argument lability and its correlations with other typological parameters. A quantitative corpus-based study. Linguistic Typology at the Crossroads, 2(1), 94-120. doi:10.6092/issn.2785-0943/13861.

    Abstract

    We investigate the correlations between A- and P-lability for verbal arguments with other typological parameters using large, syntactically annotated corpora of online news in 28 languages. To estimate how much lability is observed in a language, we measure associations between Verbs or Verb + Noun combinations and the alternating constructions in which they occur. Our correlational analyses show that high P-lability scores correlate strongly with the following parameters: little or no case marking; weaker associations between lexemes and the grammatical roles A and P; rigid order of Subject and Object; and a high proportion of verb-medial clauses (SVO). Low P-lability correlates with the presence of case marking, stronger associations between nouns and grammatical roles, relatively flexible ordering of Subject and Object, and verb-final order. As for A-lability, it is not correlated with any other parameters. A possible reason is that A-lability is a result of more universal discourse processes, such as deprofiling of the object, and also exhibits numerous lexical and semantic idiosyncrasies. The fact that P-lability is strongly correlated with other parameters can be interpreted as evidence for a more general typology of languages, in which some tend to have highly informative morphosyntactic and lexical cues, whereas others rely predominantly on contextual environment, which is possibly due to fixed word order. We also find that P-lability is more strongly correlated with the other parameters than any of these parameters are with each other, which means that it can be a very useful typological variable.
  • Levshina, N., & Lorenz, D. (2022). Communicative efficiency and the Principle of No Synonymy: Predictability effects and the variation of want to and wanna. Language and Cognition, 14(2), 249-274. doi:10.1017/langcog.2022.7.

    Abstract

    There is ample psycholinguistic evidence that speakers behave efficiently, using shorter and less effortful constructions when the meaning is more predictable, and longer and more effortful ones when it is less predictable. However, the Principle of No Synonymy requires that all formally distinct variants should also be functionally different. The question is how much two related constructions should overlap semantically and pragmatically in order to be used for the purposes of efficient communication. The case study focuses on want to + Infinitive and its reduced variant with wanna, which have different stylistic and sociolinguistic connotations. Bayesian mixed-effects regression modelling based on the spoken part of the British National Corpus reveals a very limited effect of efficiency: predictability increases the chances of the reduced variant only in fast speech. We conclude that efficient use of more and less effortful variants is restricted when two variants are associated with different registers or styles. This paper also pursues a methodological goal regarding missing values in speech corpora. We impute missing data based on the existing values. A comparison of regression models with and without imputed values reveals similar tendencies. This means that imputation is useful for dealing with missing values in corpora.

    Additional information

    supplementary materials
  • Levshina, N. (2022). Semantic maps of causation: New hybrid approaches based on corpora and grammar descriptions. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft, 41(1), 179-205. doi:10.1515/zfs-2021-2043.

    Abstract

    The present paper discusses connectivity and proximity maps of causative constructions and combines them with different types of typological data. In the first case study, I show how one can create a connectivity map based on a parallel corpus. This allows us to solve many problems, such as incomplete descriptions, inconsistent terminology and the problem of determining the semantic nodes. The second part focuses on proximity maps based on Multidimensional Scaling and compares the most important semantic distinctions, which are inferred from a parallel corpus of film subtitles and from grammar descriptions. The results suggest that corpus-based maps of tokens are more sensitive to cultural and genre-related differences in the prominence of specific causation scenarios than maps based on constructional types, which are described in reference grammars. The grammar-based maps also reveal a less clear structure, which can be due to incomplete semantic descriptions in grammars. Therefore, each approach has its shortcomings, which researchers need to be aware of.
  • Levshina, N. (2022). Corpus-based typology: Applications, challenges and some solutions. Linguistic Typology, 26(1), 129-160. doi:10.1515/lingty-2020-0118.

    Abstract

    Over the last few years, the number of corpora that can be used for language comparison has dramatically increased. The corpora are so diverse in their structure, size and annotation style, that a novice might not know where to start. The present paper charts this new and changing territory, providing a few landmarks, warning signs and safe paths. Although no corpora corpus at present can replace the traditional type of typological data based on language description in reference grammars, they corpora can help with diverse tasks, being particularly well suited for investigating probabilistic and gradient properties of languages and for discovering and interpreting cross-linguistic generalizations based on processing and communicative mechanisms. At the same time, the use of corpora for typological purposes has not only advantages and opportunities, but also numerous challenges. This paper also contains an empirical case study addressing two pertinent problems: the role of text types in language comparison and the problem of the word as a comparative concept.
  • Levshina, N. (2022). Comparing Bayesian and frequentist models of language variation: The case of help + (to) Infinitive. In O. Schützler, & J. Schlüter (Eds.), Data and methods in corpus linguistics – Comparative Approaches (pp. 224-258). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mak, M., Faber, M., & Willems, R. M. (2022). Different routes to liking: How readers arrive at narrative evaluations. Cognitive Research: Principles and implications, 7: 72. doi:10.1186/s41235-022-00419-0.

    Abstract

    When two people read the same story, they might both end up liking it very much. However, this does not necessarily mean that their reasons for liking it were identical. We therefore ask what factors contribute to “liking” a story, and—most importantly—how people vary in this respect. We found that readers like stories because they find them interesting, amusing, suspenseful and/or beautiful. However, the degree to which these components of appreciation were related to how much readers liked stories differed between individuals. Interestingly, the individual slopes of the relationships between many of the components and liking were (positively or negatively) correlated. This indicated, for instance, that individuals displaying a relatively strong relationship between interest and liking, generally display a relatively weak relationship between sadness and liking. The individual differences in the strengths of the relationships between the components and liking were not related to individual differences in expertize, a characteristic strongly associated with aesthetic appreciation of visual art. Our work illustrates that it is important to take into consideration the fact that individuals differ in how they arrive at their evaluation of literary stories, and that it is possible to quantify these differences in empirical experiments. Our work suggests that future research should be careful about “overfitting” theories of aesthetic appreciation to an “idealized reader,” but rather take into consideration variations across individuals in the reason for liking a particular story.
  • Misersky, J. (2022). About time: Exploring the role of grammatical aspect in event cognition. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Misersky, J., Peeters, D., & Flecken, M. (2022). The potential of immersive virtual reality for the study of event perception. Frontiers in Virtual Reality, 3: 697934. doi:10.3389/frvir.2022.697934.

    Abstract

    In everyday life, we actively engage in different activities from a first-person perspective. However, experimental psychological research in the field of event perception is often limited to relatively passive, third-person computer-based paradigms. In the present study, we tested the feasibility of using immersive virtual reality in combination with eye tracking with participants in active motion. Behavioral research has shown that speakers of aspectual and non-aspectual languages attend to goals (endpoints) in motion events differently, with speakers of non-aspectual languages showing relatively more attention to goals (endpoint bias). In the current study, native speakers of German (non-aspectual) and English (aspectual) walked on a treadmill across 3-D terrains in VR, while their eye gaze was continuously tracked. Participants encountered landmark objects on the side of the road, and potential endpoint objects at the end of it. Using growth curve analysis to analyze fixation patterns over time, we found no differences in eye gaze behavior between German and English speakers. This absence of cross-linguistic differences was also observed in behavioral tasks with the same participants. Methodologically, based on the quality of the data, we conclude that our dynamic eye-tracking setup can be reliably used to study what people look at while moving through rich and dynamic environments that resemble the real world.
  • Montero-Melis, G., Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., & Bylund, E. (2022). No evidence for embodiment: The motor system is not needed to keep action words in working memory. Cortex, 150, 108-125. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2022.02.006.

    Abstract

    Increasing evidence implicates the sensorimotor systems with high-level cognition, but the extent to which these systems play a functional role remains debated. Using an elegant design, Shebani and Pulvermüller (2013) reported that carrying out a demanding rhythmic task with the hands led to selective impairment of working memory for hand-related words (e.g., clap), while carrying out the same task with the feet led to selective memory impairment for foot-related words (e.g., kick). Such a striking double dissociation is acknowledged even by critics to constitute strong evidence for an embodied account of working memory. Here, we report on an attempt at a direct replication of this important finding. We followed a sequential sampling design and stopped data collection at N=77 (more than five times the original sample size), at which point the evidence for the lack of the critical selective interference effect was very strong (BF01 = 91). This finding constitutes strong evidence against a functional contribution of the motor system to keeping action words in working memory. Our finding fits into the larger emerging picture in the field of embodied cognition that sensorimotor simulations are neither required nor automatic in high-level cognitive processes, but that they may play a role depending on the task. Importantly, we urge researchers to engage in transparent, high-powered, and fully pre-registered experiments like the present one to ensure the field advances on a solid basis.
  • Morey, R. D., Kaschak, M. P., Díez-Álamo, A. M., Glenberg, A. M., Zwaan, R. A., Lakens, D., Ibáñez, A., García, A., Gianelli, C., Jones, J. L., Madden, J., Alifano, F., Bergen, B., Bloxsom, N. G., Bub, D. N., Cai, Z. G., Chartier, C. R., Chatterjee, A., Conwell, E., Cook, S. W. and 25 moreMorey, R. D., Kaschak, M. P., Díez-Álamo, A. M., Glenberg, A. M., Zwaan, R. A., Lakens, D., Ibáñez, A., García, A., Gianelli, C., Jones, J. L., Madden, J., Alifano, F., Bergen, B., Bloxsom, N. G., Bub, D. N., Cai, Z. G., Chartier, C. R., Chatterjee, A., Conwell, E., Cook, S. W., Davis, J. D., Evers, E., Girard, S., Harter, D., Hartung, F., Herrera, E., Huettig, F., Humphries, S., Juanchich, M., Kühne, K., Lu, S., Lynes, T., Masson, M. E. J., Ostarek, M., Pessers, S., Reglin, R., Steegen, S., Thiessen, E. D., Thomas, L. E., Trott, S., Vandekerckhove, J., Vanpaemel, W., Vlachou, M., Williams, K., & Ziv-Crispel, N. (2022). A pre-registered, multi-lab non-replication of the Action-sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE). Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 29, 613-626. doi:10.3758/s13423-021-01927-8.

    Abstract

    The Action-sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE) is a well-known demonstration of the role of motor activity in the comprehension of language. Participants are asked to make sensibility judgments on sentences by producing movements toward the body or away from the body. The ACE is the finding that movements are faster when the direction of the movement (e.g., toward) matches the direction of the action in the to-be-judged sentence (e.g., Art gave you the pen describes action toward you). We report on a pre- registered, multi-lab replication of one version of the ACE. The results show that none of the 18 labs involved in the study observed a reliable ACE, and that the meta-analytic estimate of the size of the ACE was essentially zero.
  • Murphy, E., Woolnough, O., Rollo, P. S., Roccaforte, Z., Segaert, K., Hagoort, P., & Tandon, N. (2022). Minimal phrase composition revealed by intracranial recordings. The Journal of Neuroscience, 42(15), 3216-3227. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1575-21.2022.

    Abstract

    The ability to comprehend phrases is an essential integrative property of the brain. Here we evaluate the neural processes that enable the transition from single word processing to a minimal compositional scheme. Previous research has reported conflicting timing effects of composition, and disagreement persists with respect to inferior frontal and posterior temporal contributions. To address these issues, 19 patients (10 male, 19 female) implanted with penetrating depth or surface subdural intracranial electrodes heard auditory recordings of adjective-noun, pseudoword-noun and adjective-pseudoword phrases and judged whether the phrase matched a picture. Stimulus-dependent alterations in broadband gamma activity, low frequency power and phase-locking values across the language-dominant left hemisphere were derived. This revealed a mosaic located on the lower bank of the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), in which closely neighboring cortical sites displayed exclusive sensitivity to either lexicality or phrase structure, but not both. Distinct timings were found for effects of phrase composition (210–300 ms) and pseudoword processing (approximately 300–700 ms), and these were localized to neighboring electrodes in pSTS. The pars triangularis and temporal pole encoded anticipation of composition in broadband low frequencies, and both regions exhibited greater functional connectivity with pSTS during phrase composition. Our results suggest that the pSTS is a highly specialized region comprised of sparsely interwoven heterogeneous constituents that encodes both lower and higher level linguistic features. This hub in pSTS for minimal phrase processing may form the neural basis for the human-specific computational capacity for forming hierarchically organized linguistic structures.
  • Poort, E. D., & Rodd, J. M. (2022). Cross-lingual priming of cognates and interlingual homographs from L2 to L1. Glossa Psycholinguistics, 1(1): 11. doi:10.5070/G601147.

    Abstract

    Many word forms exist in multiple languages, and can have either the same meaning (cognates) or a different meaning (interlingual homographs). Previous experiments have shown that processing of interlingual homographs in a bilingual’s second language is slowed down by recent experience with these words in the bilingual’s native language, while processing of cognates can be speeded up (Poort et al., 2016; Poort & Rodd, 2019a). The current experiment replicated Poort and Rodd’s (2019a) Experiment 2 but switched the direction of priming: Dutch–English bilinguals (n = 106) made Dutch semantic relatedness judgements to probes related to cognates (n = 50), interlingual homographs (n = 50) and translation equivalents (n = 50) they had seen 15 minutes previously embedded in English sentences. The current experiment is the first to show that a single encounter with an interlingual homograph in one’s second language can also affect subsequent processing in one’s native language. Cross-lingual priming did not affect the cognates. The experiment also extended Poort and Rodd (2019a)’s finding of a large interlingual homograph inhibition effect in a semantic relatedness task in the participants’ L2 to their L1, but again found no evidence for a cognate facilitation effect in a semantic relatedness task. These findings extend the growing literature that emphasises the high level of interaction in a bilingual’s mental lexicon, by demonstrating the influence of L2 experience on the processing of L1 words. Data, scripts, materials and pre-registration available via https://osf.io/2swyg/?view_only=b2ba2e627f6f4eaeac87edab2b59b236.
  • Poulton, V. R., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2022). Can you hear what’s coming? Failure to replicate ERP evidence for phonological prediction. Neurobiology of Language, 3(4), 556 -574. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00078.

    Abstract

    Prediction-based theories of language comprehension assume that listeners predict both the meaning and phonological form of likely upcoming words. In alleged event-related potential (ERP) demonstrations of phonological prediction, prediction-mismatching words elicit a phonological mismatch negativity (PMN), a frontocentral negativity that precedes the centroparietal N400 component. However, classification and replicability of the PMN has proven controversial, with ongoing debate on whether the PMN is a distinct component or merely an early part of the N400. In this electroencephalography (EEG) study, we therefore attempted to replicate the PMN effect and its separability from the N400, using a participant sample size (N = 48) that was more than double that of previous studies. Participants listened to sentences containing either a predictable word or an unpredictable word with/without phonological overlap with the predictable word. Preregistered analyses revealed a widely distributed negative-going ERP in response to unpredictable words in both the early (150–250 ms) and the N400 (300–500 ms) time windows. Bayes factor analysis yielded moderate evidence against a different scalp distribution of the effects in the two time windows. Although our findings do not speak against phonological prediction during sentence comprehension, they do speak against the PMN effect specifically as a marker of phonological prediction mismatch. Instead of an PMN effect, our results demonstrate the early onset of the auditory N400 effect associated with unpredictable words. Our failure to replicate further highlights the risk associated with commonly employed data-contingent analyses (e.g., analyses involving time windows or electrodes that were selected based on visual inspection) and small sample sizes in the cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • Preisig, B., & Hervais-Adelman, A. (2022). The predictive value of individual electric field modeling for transcranial alternating current stimulation induced brain modulation. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 16: 818703. doi:10.3389/fncel.2022.818703.

    Abstract

    There is considerable individual variability in the reported effectiveness of non-invasive brain stimulation. This variability has often been ascribed to differences in the neuroanatomy and resulting differences in the induced electric field inside the brain. In this study, we addressed the question whether individual differences in the induced electric field can predict the neurophysiological and behavioral consequences of gamma band tACS. In a within-subject experiment, bi-hemispheric gamma band tACS and sham stimulation was applied in alternating blocks to the participants’ superior temporal lobe, while task-evoked auditory brain activity was measured with concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a dichotic listening task. Gamma tACS was applied with different interhemispheric phase lags. In a recent study, we could show that anti-phase tACS (180° interhemispheric phase lag), but not in-phase tACS (0° interhemispheric phase lag), selectively modulates interhemispheric brain connectivity. Using a T1 structural image of each participant’s brain, an individual simulation of the induced electric field was computed. From these simulations, we derived two predictor variables: maximal strength (average of the 10,000 voxels with largest electric field values) and precision of the electric field (spatial correlation between the electric field and the task evoked brain activity during sham stimulation). We found considerable variability in the individual strength and precision of the electric fields. Importantly, the strength of the electric field over the right hemisphere predicted individual differences of tACS induced brain connectivity changes. Moreover, we found in both hemispheres a statistical trend for the effect of electric field strength on tACS induced BOLD signal changes. In contrast, the precision of the electric field did not predict any neurophysiological measure. Further, neither strength, nor precision predicted interhemispheric integration. In conclusion, we found evidence for the dose-response relationship between individual differences in electric fields and tACS induced activity and connectivity changes in concurrent fMRI. However, the fact that this relationship was stronger in the right hemisphere suggests that the relationship between the electric field parameters, neurophysiology, and behavior may be more complex for bi-hemispheric tACS.
  • Preisig, B., Riecke, L., & Hervais-Adelman, A. (2022). Speech sound categorization: The contribution of non-auditory and auditory cortical regions. NeuroImage, 258: 119375. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119375.

    Abstract

    Which processes in the human brain lead to the categorical perception of speech sounds? Investigation of this question is hampered by the fact that categorical speech perception is normally confounded by acoustic differences in the stimulus. By using ambiguous sounds, however, it is possible to dissociate acoustic from perceptual stimulus representations. Twenty-seven normally hearing individuals took part in an fMRI study in which they were presented with an ambiguous syllable (intermediate between /da/ and /ga/) in one ear and with disambiguating acoustic feature (third formant, F3) in the other ear. Multi-voxel pattern searchlight analysis was used to identify brain areas that consistently differentiated between response patterns associated with different syllable reports. By comparing responses to different stimuli with identical syllable reports and identical stimuli with different syllable reports, we disambiguated whether these regions primarily differentiated the acoustics of the stimuli or the syllable report. We found that BOLD activity patterns in left perisylvian regions (STG, SMG), left inferior frontal regions (vMC, IFG, AI), left supplementary motor cortex (SMA/pre-SMA), and right motor and somatosensory regions (M1/S1) represent listeners’ syllable report irrespective of stimulus acoustics. Most of these regions are outside of what is traditionally regarded as auditory or phonological processing areas. Our results indicate that the process of speech sound categorization implicates decision-making mechanisms and auditory-motor transformations.

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  • Quaresima, A., Fitz, H., Duarte, R., Van den Broek, D., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2022). The Tripod neuron: A minimal structural reduction of the dendritic tree. The Journal of Physiology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1113/JP283399.

    Abstract

    Neuron models with explicit dendritic dynamics have shed light on mechanisms for coincidence detection, pathway selection and temporal filtering. However, it is still unclear which morphological and physiological features are required to capture these phenomena. In this work, we introduce the Tripod neuron model and propose a minimal structural reduction of the dendritic tree that is able to reproduce these computations. The Tripod is a three-compartment model consisting of two segregated passive dendrites and a somatic compartment modelled as an adaptive, exponential integrate-and-fire neuron. It incorporates dendritic geometry, membrane physiology and receptor dynamics as measured in human pyramidal cells. We characterize the response of the Tripod to glutamatergic and GABAergic inputs and identify parameters that support supra-linear integration, coincidence-detection and pathway-specific gating through shunting inhibition. Following NMDA spikes, the Tripod neuron generates plateau potentials whose duration depends on the dendritic length and the strength of synaptic input. When fitted with distal compartments, the Tripod encodes previous activity into a dendritic depolarized state. This dendritic memory allows the neuron to perform temporal binding, and we show that it solves transition and sequence detection tasks on which a single-compartment model fails. Thus, the Tripod can account for dendritic computations previously explained only with more detailed neuron models or neural networks. Due to its simplicity, the Tripod neuron can be used efficiently in simulations of larger cortical circuits.
  • Seijdel, N., Marshall, T. R., & Drijvers, L. (2022). Rapid invisible frequency tagging (RIFT): A promising technique to study neural and cognitive processing using naturalistic paradigms. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhac160.

    Abstract

    Frequency tagging has been successfully used to investigate selective stimulus processing in electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies. Recently, new projectors have been developed that allow for frequency tagging at higher frequencies (>60 Hz). This technique, rapid invisible frequency tagging (RIFT), provides two crucial advantages over low-frequency tagging as (i) it leaves low-frequency oscillations unperturbed, and thus open for investigation, and ii) it can render the tagging invisible, resulting in more naturalistic paradigms and a lack of participant awareness. The development of this technique has far-reaching implications as oscillations involved in cognitive processes can be investigated, and potentially manipulated, in a more naturalistic manner.
  • Seyfried, F., & Udden, J. (2022). Phonotactics and syntax: Investigating functional specialisation during structured sequence processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2022.2116462.

    Abstract

    Frontal lobe organisation displays a functional gradient, with overarching processing goals located in parts anterior to more subordinate goals, processed more posteriorly. Functional specialisation for syntax and phonology within language relevant areas has been supported by meta-analyses and reviews, but never directly tested experimentally. We tested for organised functional specialisation by manipulating syntactic case and phonotactics, creating violations at the end of otherwise matched and predictable sentences. Both violations led to increased activation in expected language regions. We observe the clearest signs of a functional gradient for language processing in the medial frontal cortex, where syntactic violations activated a more anterior portion compared to the phonotactic violations. A large overlap of syntactic and phonotactic processing in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) supports the view that general structured sequence processes are located in this area. These findings are relevant for understanding how sentence processing is implemented in hierarchically organised processing steps in the frontal lobe.

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  • Silva, S., Inácio, F., Rocha e Sousa, D., Gaspar, N., Folia, V., & Petersson, K. M. (2022). Formal language hierarchy reflects different levels of cognitive complexity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xlm0001182.

    Abstract

    Formal language hierarchy describes levels of increasing syntactic complexity (adjacent dependencies, nonadjacent nested, nonadjacent crossed) of which the transcription into a hierarchy of cognitive complexity remains under debate. The cognitive foundations of formal language hierarchy have been contradicted by two types of evidence: First, adjacent dependencies are not easier to learn compared to nonadjacent; second, crossed nonadjacent dependencies may be easier than nested. However, studies providing these findings may have engaged confounds: Repetition monitoring strategies may have accounted for participants’ high performance in nonadjacent dependencies, and linguistic experience may have accounted for the advantage of crossed dependencies. We conducted two artificial grammar learning experiments where we addressed these confounds by manipulating reliance on repetition monitoring and by testing participants inexperienced with crossed dependencies. Results showed relevant differences in learning adjacent versus nonadjacent dependencies and advantages of nested over crossed, suggesting that formal language hierarchy may indeed translate into a hierarchy of cognitive complexity
  • Slivac, K. (2022). The enlanguaged brain: Cognitive and neural mechanisms of linguistic influence on perception. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Tamaoka, K., Zhang, J., Koizumi, M., & Verdonschot, R. G. (2022). Phonological encoding in Tongan: An experimental investigation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/17470218221138770.

    Abstract

    This study is the first to report chronometric evidence on Tongan language production. It has been speculated that the mora plays an important role during Tongan phonological encoding. A mora follows the (C)V form, so /a/ and /ka/ (but not /k/) denote a mora in Tongan. Using a picture-word naming paradigm, Tongan native speakers named pictures containing superimposed non-word distractors. This task has been used before in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese to investigate the initially selected unit during phonological encoding (IPU). Compared to control distractors, both onset and mora overlapping distractors resulted in faster naming latencies. Several alternative explanations for the pattern of results - proficiency in English, knowledge of Latin script, and downstream effects - are discussed. However, we conclude that Tongan phonological encoding likely natively uses the phoneme, and not the mora, as the IPU..

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  • Udden, J., Hulten, A., Schoffelen, J.-M., Lam, N. H. L., Harbusch, K., Van den Bosch, A., Kempen, G., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2022). Supramodal sentence processing in the human brain: fMRI evidence for the influence of syntactic complexity in more than 200 participants. Neurobiology of Language, 3(4), 575-598. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00076.

    Abstract

    This study investigated two questions. One is: To what degree is sentence processing beyond single words independent of the input modality (speech vs. reading)? The second question is: Which parts of the network recruited by both modalities is sensitive to syntactic complexity? These questions were investigated by having more than 200 participants read or listen to well-formed sentences or series of unconnected words. A largely left-hemisphere frontotemporoparietal network was found to be supramodal in nature, i.e., independent of input modality. In addition, the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and the left posterior middle temporal gyrus (LpMTG) were most clearly associated with left-branching complexity. The left anterior temporal lobe (LaTL) showed the greatest sensitivity to sentences that differed in right-branching complexity. Moreover, activity in LIFG and LpMTG increased from sentence onset to end, in parallel with an increase of the left-branching complexity. While LIFG, bilateral anterior temporal lobe, posterior MTG, and left inferior parietal lobe (LIPL) all contribute to the supramodal unification processes, the results suggest that these regions differ in their respective contributions to syntactic complexity related processing. The consequences of these findings for neurobiological models of language processing are discussed.

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  • Verdonschot, R. G., Phu'o'ng, H. T. L., & Tamaoka, K. (2022). Phonological encoding in Vietnamese: An experimental investigation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 75(7), 1355-1366. doi:10.1177/17470218211053244.

    Abstract

    In English, Dutch, and other Germanic languages the initial phonological unit used in word production has been shown to be the phoneme; conversely, others have revealed that in Chinese this is the atonal syllable and in Japanese the mora. The current paper is, to our knowledge, the first to report chronometric data on Vietnamese phonological encoding. Vietnamese, a tonal language, is of interest as, despite its Austroasiatic roots, it has clear similarities with Chinese through extended contact over a prolonged period. Four experiments (i.e., masked priming, phonological Stroop, picture naming with written distractors, picture naming with auditory distractors) have been conducted to investigate Vietnamese phonological encoding. Results show that in all four experiments both onset effects as well as whole syllable effects emerge. This indicates that the fundamental phonological encoding unit during Vietnamese language production is the phoneme despite its apparent similarities to Chinese. This result might have emerged due to tone assignment being a qualitatively different process in Vietnamese compared to Chinese.
  • Vernes, S. C., Devanna, P., Hörpel, S. G., Alvarez van Tussenbroek, I., Firzlaff, U., Hagoort, P., Hiller, M., Hoeksema, N., Hughes, G. M., Lavrichenko, K., Mengede, J., Morales, A. E., & Wiesmann, M. (2022). The pale spear‐nosed bat: A neuromolecular and transgenic model for vocal learning. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1517, 125-142. doi:10.1111/nyas.14884.

    Abstract

    Vocal learning, the ability to produce modified vocalizations via learning from acoustic signals, is a key trait in the evolution of speech. While extensively studied in songbirds, mammalian models for vocal learning are rare. Bats present a promising study system given their gregarious natures, small size, and the ability of some species to be maintained in captive colonies. We utilize the pale spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus discolor) and report advances in establishing this species as a tractable model for understanding vocal learning. We have taken an interdisciplinary approach, aiming to provide an integrated understanding across genomics (Part I), neurobiology (Part II), and transgenics (Part III). In Part I, we generated new, high-quality genome annotations of coding genes and noncoding microRNAs to facilitate functional and evolutionary studies. In Part II, we traced connections between auditory-related brain regions and reported neuroimaging to explore the structure of the brain and gene expression patterns to highlight brain regions. In Part III, we created the first successful transgenic bats by manipulating the expression of FoxP2, a speech-related gene. These interdisciplinary approaches are facilitating a mechanistic and evolutionary understanding of mammalian vocal learning and can also contribute to other areas of investigation that utilize P. discolor or bats as study species.

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  • Wang, M., Shao, Z., Verdonschot, R. G., Chen, Y., & Schiller, N. O. (2022). Orthography influences spoken word production in blocked cyclic naming. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02123-y.

    Abstract

    Does the way a word is written influence its spoken production? Previous studies suggest that orthography is involved only when the orthographic representation is highly relevant during speaking (e.g., in reading-aloud tasks). To address this issue, we carried out two experiments using the blocked cyclic picture-naming paradigm. In both experiments, participants were asked to name pictures repeatedly in orthographically homogeneous or heterogeneous blocks. In the naming task, the written form was not shown; however, the radical of the first character overlapped between the four pictures in this block type. A facilitative orthographic effect was found when picture names shared part of their written forms, compared with the heterogeneous condition. This facilitative effect was independent of the position of orthographic overlap (i.e., the left, the lower, or the outer part of the character). These findings strongly suggest that orthography can influence speaking even when it is not highly relevant (i.e., during picture naming) and the orthographic effect is less likely to be attributed to strategic preparation.
  • Wanner-Kawahara, J., Yoshihara, M., Lupker, S. J., Verdonschot, R. G., & Nakayama, M. (2022). Morphological priming effects in L2 English verbs for Japanese-English bilinguals. Frontiers in Psychology, 13: 742965. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.742965.

    Abstract

    For native (L1) English readers, masked presentations of past-tense verb primes (e.g., fell and looked) produce faster lexical decision latencies to their present-tense targets (e.g., FALL and LOOK) than orthographically related (e.g., fill and loose) or unrelated (e.g., master and bank) primes. This facilitation observed with morphologically related prime-target pairs (morphological priming) is generally taken as evidence for strong connections based on morphological relationships in the L1 lexicon. It is unclear, however, if similar, morphologically based, connections develop in non-native (L2) lexicons. Several earlier studies with L2 English readers have reported mixed results. The present experiments examine whether past-tense verb primes (both regular and irregular verbs) significantly facilitate target lexical decisions for Japanese-English bilinguals beyond any facilitation provided by prime-target orthographic similarity. Overall, past-tense verb primes facilitated lexical decisions to their present-tense targets relative to both orthographically related and unrelated primes. Replicating previous masked priming experiments with L2 readers, orthographically related primes also facilitated target recognition relative to unrelated primes, confirming that orthographic similarity facilitates L2 target recognition. The additional facilitation from past-tense verb primes beyond that provided by orthographic primes suggests that, in the L2 English lexicon, connections based on morphological relationships develop in a way that is similar to how they develop in the L1 English lexicon even though the connections and processing of lower level, lexical/orthographic information may differ. Further analyses involving L2 proficiency revealed that as L2 proficiency increased, orthographic facilitation was reduced, indicating that there is a decrease in the fuzziness in orthographic representations in the L2 lexicon with increased proficiency.

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  • Wilms, V., Drijvers, L., & Brouwer, S. (2022). The Effects of Iconic Gestures and Babble Language on Word Intelligibility in Sentence Context. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 65, 1822-1838. doi:10.1044/2022\_JSLHR-21-00387.

    Abstract

    Purpose:This study investigated to what extent iconic co-speech gestures helpword intelligibility in sentence context in two different linguistic maskers (nativevs. foreign). It was hypothesized that sentence recognition improves with thepresence of iconic co-speech gestures and with foreign compared to nativebabble.Method:Thirty-two native Dutch participants performed a Dutch word recogni-tion task in context in which they were presented with videos in which anactress uttered short Dutch sentences (e.g.,Ze begint te openen,“She starts toopen”). Participants were presented with a total of six audiovisual conditions: nobackground noise (i.e., clear condition) without gesture, no background noise withgesture, French babble without gesture, French babble with gesture, Dutch bab-ble without gesture, and Dutch babble with gesture; and they were asked to typedown what was said by the Dutch actress. The accurate identification of theaction verbs at the end of the target sentences was measured.Results:The results demonstrated that performance on the task was better inthe gesture compared to the nongesture conditions (i.e., gesture enhancementeffect). In addition, performance was better in French babble than in Dutchbabble.Conclusions:Listeners benefit from iconic co-speech gestures during commu-nication and from foreign background speech compared to native. Theseinsights into multimodal communication may be valuable to everyone whoengages in multimodal communication and especially to a public who oftenworks in public places where competing speech is present in the background.
  • Yang, J. (2022). Discovering the units in language cognition: From empirical evidence to a computational model. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Yang, J., Van den Bosch, A., & Frank, S. L. (2022). Unsupervised text segmentation predicts eye fixations during reading. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, 5: 731615. doi:10.3389/frai.2022.731615.

    Abstract

    Words typically form the basis of psycholinguistic and computational linguistic studies about sentence processing. However, recent evidence shows the basic units during reading, i.e., the items in the mental lexicon, are not always words, but could also be sub-word and supra-word units. To recognize these units, human readers require a cognitive mechanism to learn and detect them. In this paper, we assume eye fixations during reading reveal the locations of the cognitive units, and that the cognitive units are analogous with the text units discovered by unsupervised segmentation models. We predict eye fixations by model-segmented units on both English and Dutch text. The results show the model-segmented units predict eye fixations better than word units. This finding suggests that the predictive performance of model-segmented units indicates their plausibility as cognitive units. The Less-is-Better (LiB) model, which finds the units that minimize both long-term and working memory load, offers advantages both in terms of prediction score and efficiency among alternative models. Our results also suggest that modeling the least-effort principle for the management of long-term and working memory can lead to inferring cognitive units. Overall, the study supports the theory that the mental lexicon stores not only words but also smaller and larger units, suggests that fixation locations during reading depend on these units, and shows that unsupervised segmentation models can discover these units.
  • Zora, H., Gussenhoven, C., Tremblay, A., & Liu, F. (2022). Editorial: Crosstalk between intonation and lexical tones: Linguistic, cognitive and neuroscience perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology, 13: 1101499. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1101499.

    Abstract

    The interplay between categorical and continuous aspects of the speech signal remains central and yet controversial in the fields of phonetics and phonology. The division between phonological abstractions and phonetic variations has been particularly relevant to the unraveling of diverse communicative functions of pitch in the domain of prosody. Pitch influences vocal communication in two major but fundamentally different ways, and lexical and intonational tones exquisitely capture these functions. Lexical tone contrasts convey lexical meanings as well as derivational meanings at the word level and are grammatically encoded as discrete structures. Intonational tones, on the other hand, signal post-lexical meanings at the phrasal level and typically allow gradient pragmatic variations. Since categorical and gradient uses of pitch are ubiquitous and closely intertwined in their physiological and psychological processes, further research is warranted for a more detailed understanding of their structural and functional characterisations. This Research Topic addresses this matter from a wide range of perspectives, including first and second language acquisition, speech production and perception, structural and functional diversity, and working with distinct languages and experimental measures. In the following, we provide a short overview of the contributions submitted to this topic
  • Armeni, K. (2021). On model-based neurobiology of language comprehension: Neural oscillations, processing memory, and prediction. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Arunkumar, M., Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Do illiterates have illusions? A conceptual (non)replication of Luria (1976). Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 143-158. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00080-x.

    Abstract

    Luria (1976) famously observed that people who never learnt to read and write do not perceive visual illusions. We conducted a conceptual replication of the Luria study of the effect of literacy on the processing of visual illusions. We designed two carefully controlled experiments with 161 participants with varying literacy levels ranging from complete illiterates to high literates in Chennai, India. Accuracy and reaction time in the identification of two types of visual shape and color illusions and the identification of appropriate control images were measured. Separate statistical analyses of Experiments 1 and 2 as well as pooled analyses of both experiments do not provide any support for the notion that literacy effects the perception of visual illusions. Our large sample, carefully controlled study strongly suggests that literacy does not meaningfully affect the identification of visual illusions and raises some questions about other reports about cultural effects on illusion perception.
  • Bakker-Marshall, I., Takashima, A., Fernandez, C. B., Janzen, G., McQueen, J. M., & Van Hell, J. G. (2021). Overlapping and distinct neural networks supporting novel word learning in bilinguals and monolinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 24(3), 524-536. doi:10.1017/S1366728920000589.

    Abstract

    This study investigated how bilingual experience alters neural mechanisms supporting novel word learning. We hypothesised that novel words elicit increased semantic activation in the larger bilingual lexicon, potentially stimulating stronger memory integration than in monolinguals. English monolinguals and Spanish–English bilinguals were trained on two sets of written Swahili–English word pairs, one set on each of two consecutive days, and performed a recognition task in the MRI-scanner. Lexical integration was measured through visual primed lexical decision. Surprisingly, no group difference emerged in explicit word memory, and priming occurred only in the monolingual group. This difference in lexical integration may indicate an increased need for slow neocortical interleaving of old and new information in the denser bilingual lexicon. The fMRI data were consistent with increased use of cognitive control networks in monolinguals and of articulatory motor processes in bilinguals, providing further evidence for experience-induced neural changes: monolinguals and bilinguals reached largely comparable behavioural performance levels in novel word learning, but did so by recruiting partially overlapping but non-identical neural systems to acquire novel words.
  • Bauer, B. L. M. (2021). Formation of numerals in the romance languages. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.685.

    Abstract

    The Romance languages have a rich numeral system that includes cardinals—providing the bases on which the other types of numeral series are built—ordinals, fractions, collectives, approximatives, distributives, and multiplicatives. Latin plays a decisive and continued role in their formation, both as the language to which many numerals go back directly and as an ongoing source for lexemes and formatives. While the Latin numeral system was synthetic, with a distinct ending for each type of numeral, the Romance numerals often feature more than one (unevenly distributed) marker or structure per series, which feature varying degrees of inherited, borrowed, or innovative elements. Formal consistency is strongest in cardinals, followed by ordinals and then the other types of numeral, which also tend to be more analytic or periphrastic. From a morphological perspective, Romance numerals overall have moved away from the inherited syntheticity, but several series continue to be synthetic formations—at least in part—with morphological markers drawn from Latin that may have undergone functional change (e.g. distributive > ordinal > collective). The underlying syntax of Romance numerals is in line with the overall grammatical patterns of Romance languages, as reflected in the prevalence of word order (with arithmetical correlates), connectors, (partial) loss of agreement, and analyticity. Innovation is prominent in the formation of higher numerals with bases beyond ‘thousand’, of teens and decads in Romanian, and of vigesimals in numerous Romance varieties.
  • Coopmans, C. W., De Hoop, H., Kaushik, K., Hagoort, P., & Martin, A. E. (2021). Structure-(in)dependent interpretation of phrases in humans and LSTMs. In Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics (SCiL 2021) (pp. 459-463).

    Abstract

    In this study, we compared the performance of a long short-term memory (LSTM) neural network to the behavior of human participants on a language task that requires hierarchically structured knowledge. We show that humans interpret ambiguous noun phrases, such as second blue ball, in line with their hierarchical constituent structure. LSTMs, instead, only do
    so after unambiguous training, and they do not systematically generalize to novel items. Overall, the results of our simulations indicate that a model can behave hierarchically without relying on hierarchical constituent structure.
  • Drijvers, L., Jensen, O., & Spaak, E. (2021). Rapid invisible frequency tagging reveals nonlinear integration of auditory and visual information. Human Brain Mapping, 42(4), 1138-1152. doi:10.1002/hbm.25282.

    Abstract

    During communication in real-life settings, the brain integrates information from auditory and visual modalities to form a unified percept of our environment. In the current magnetoencephalography (MEG) study, we used rapid invisible frequency tagging (RIFT) to generate steady-state evoked fields and investigated the integration of audiovisual information in a semantic context. We presented participants with videos of an actress uttering action verbs (auditory; tagged at 61 Hz) accompanied by a gesture (visual; tagged at 68 Hz, using a projector with a 1440 Hz refresh rate). Integration ease was manipulated by auditory factors (clear/degraded speech) and visual factors (congruent/incongruent gesture). We identified MEG spectral peaks at the individual (61/68 Hz) tagging frequencies. We furthermore observed a peak at the intermodulation frequency of the auditory and visually tagged signals (fvisual – fauditory = 7 Hz), specifically when integration was easiest (i.e., when speech was clear and accompanied by a congruent gesture). This intermodulation peak is a signature of nonlinear audiovisual integration, and was strongest in left inferior frontal gyrus and left temporal regions; areas known to be involved in speech-gesture integration. The enhanced power at the intermodulation frequency thus reflects the ease of integration and demonstrates that speech-gesture information interacts in higher-order language areas. Furthermore, we provide a proof-of-principle of the use of RIFT to study the integration of audiovisual stimuli, in relation to, for instance, semantic context.
  • Duprez, J., Stokkermans, M., Drijvers, L., & Cohen, M. X. (2021). Synchronization between keyboard typing and neural oscillations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 33(5), 887-901. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01692.

    Abstract

    Rhythmic neural activity synchronizes with certain rhythmic behaviors, such as breathing, sniffing, saccades, and speech. The extent to which neural oscillations synchronize with higher-level and more complex behaviors is largely unknown. Here we investigated electrophysiological synchronization with keyboard typing, which is an omnipresent behavior daily engaged by an uncountably large number of people. Keyboard typing is rhythmic with frequency characteristics roughly the same as neural oscillatory dynamics associated with cognitive control, notably through midfrontal theta (4 -7 Hz) oscillations. We tested the hypothesis that synchronization occurs between typing and midfrontal theta, and breaks down when errors are committed. Thirty healthy participants typed words and sentences on a keyboard without visual feedback, while EEG was recorded. Typing rhythmicity was investigated by inter-keystroke interval analyses and by a kernel density estimation method. We used a multivariate spatial filtering technique to investigate frequency-specific synchronization between typing and neuronal oscillations. Our results demonstrate theta rhythmicity in typing (around 6.5 Hz) through the two different behavioral analyses. Synchronization between typing and neuronal oscillations occurred at frequencies ranging from 4 to 15 Hz, but to a larger extent for lower frequencies. However, peak synchronization frequency was idiosyncratic across subjects, therefore not specific to theta nor to midfrontal regions, and correlated somewhat with peak typing frequency. Errors and trials associated with stronger cognitive control were not associated with changes in synchronization at any frequency. As a whole, this study shows that brain-behavior synchronization does occur during keyboard typing but is not specific to midfrontal theta.
  • Eekhof, L. S., Van Krieken, K., Sanders, J., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Reading minds, reading stories: Social-cognitive abilities affect the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 698986. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.698986.

    Abstract

    Although various studies have shown that narrative reading draws on social-cognitive abilities, not much is known about the precise aspects of narrative processing that engage these abilities. We hypothesized that the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint—expressed by elements that provide access to the inner world of characters—might play an important role in engaging social-cognitive abilities. Using eye tracking, we studied the effect of lexical markers of perceptual, cognitive, and emotional viewpoint on eye movements during reading of a 5,000-word narrative. Next, we investigated how this relationship was modulated by individual differences in social-cognitive abilities. Our results show diverging patterns of eye movements for perceptual viewpoint markers on the one hand, and cognitive and emotional viewpoint markers on the other. Whereas the former are processed relatively fast compared to non-viewpoint markers, the latter are processed relatively slow. Moreover, we found that social-cognitive abilities impacted the processing of words in general, and of perceptual and cognitive viewpoint markers in particular, such that both perspective-taking abilities and self-reported perspective-taking traits facilitated the processing of these markers. All in all, our study extends earlier findings that social cognition is of importance for story reading, showing that individual differences in social-cognitive abilities are related to the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint.

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  • Eekhof, L. S., Kuijpers, M. M., Faber, M., Gao, X., Mak, M., Van den Hoven, E., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Lost in a story, detached from the words. Discourse Processes, 58(7), 595-616. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2020.1857619.

    Abstract

    This article explores the relationship between low- and high-level aspects of reading by studying the interplay between word processing, as measured with eye tracking, and narrative absorption and liking, as measured with questionnaires. Specifically, we focused on how individual differences in sensitivity to lexical word characteristics—measured as the effect of these characteristics on gaze duration—were related to narrative absorption and liking. By reanalyzing a large data set consisting of three previous eye-tracking experiments in which subjects (N = 171) read literary short stories, we replicated the well-established finding that word length, lemma frequency, position in sentence, age of acquisition, and orthographic neighborhood size of words influenced gaze duration. More importantly, we found that individual differences in the degree of sensitivity to three of these word characteristics, i.e., word length, lemma frequency, and age of acquisition, were negatively related to print exposure and to a lesser degree to narrative absorption and liking. Even though the underlying mechanisms of this relationship are still unclear, we believe the current findings underline the need to map out the interplay between, on the one hand, the technical and, on the other hand, the subjective processes of reading by studying reading behavior in more natural settings.

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    Analysis scripts and data
  • Healthy Brain Study Consortium, Aarts, E., Akkerman, A., Altgassen, M., Bartels, R., Beckers, D., Bevelander, K., Bijleveld, E., Blaney Davidson, E., Boleij, A., Bralten, J., Cillessen, T., Claassen, J., Cools, R., Cornelissen, I., Dresler, M., Eijsvogels, T., Faber, M., Fernández, G., Figner, B., Fritsche, M. and 67 moreHealthy Brain Study Consortium, Aarts, E., Akkerman, A., Altgassen, M., Bartels, R., Beckers, D., Bevelander, K., Bijleveld, E., Blaney Davidson, E., Boleij, A., Bralten, J., Cillessen, T., Claassen, J., Cools, R., Cornelissen, I., Dresler, M., Eijsvogels, T., Faber, M., Fernández, G., Figner, B., Fritsche, M., Füllbrunn, S., Gayet, S., Van Gelder, M. M. H. J., Van Gerven, M., Geurts, S., Greven, C. U., Groefsema, M., Haak, K., Hagoort, P., Hartman, Y., Van der Heijden, B., Hermans, E., Heuvelmans, V., Hintz, F., Den Hollander, J., Hulsman, A. M., Idesis, S., Jaeger, M., Janse, E., Janzing, J., Kessels, R. P. C., Karremans, J. C., De Kleijn, W., Klein, M., Klumpers, F., Kohn, N., Korzilius, H., Krahmer, B., De Lange, F., Van Leeuwen, J., Liu, H., Luijten, M., Manders, P., Manevska, K., Marques, J. P., Matthews, J., McQueen, J. M., Medendorp, P., Melis, R., Meyer, A. S., Oosterman, J., Overbeek, L., Peelen, M., Popma, J., Postma, G., Roelofs, K., Van Rossenberg, Y. G. T., Schaap, G., Scheepers, P., Selen, L., Starren, M., Swinkels, D. W., Tendolkar, I., Thijssen, D., Timmerman, H., Tutunji, R., Tuladhar, A., Veling, H., Verhagen, M., Verkroost, J., Vink, J., Vriezekolk, V., Vrijsen, J., Vyrastekova, J., Van der Wal, S., Willems, R. M., & Willemsen, A. (2021). Protocol of the Healthy Brain Study: An accessible resource for understanding the human brain and how it dynamically and individually operates in its bio-social context. PLoS One, 16(12): e0260952. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0260952.

    Abstract

    The endeavor to understand the human brain has seen more progress in the last few decades than in the previous two millennia. Still, our understanding of how the human brain relates to behavior in the real world and how this link is modulated by biological, social, and environmental factors is limited. To address this, we designed the Healthy Brain Study (HBS), an interdisciplinary, longitudinal, cohort study based on multidimensional, dynamic assessments in both the laboratory and the real world. Here, we describe the rationale and design of the currently ongoing HBS. The HBS is examining a population-based sample of 1,000 healthy participants (age 30-39) who are thoroughly studied across an entire year. Data are collected through cognitive, affective, behavioral, and physiological testing, neuroimaging, bio-sampling, questionnaires, ecological momentary assessment, and real-world assessments using wearable devices. These data will become an accessible resource for the scientific community enabling the next step in understanding the human brain and how it dynamically and individually operates in its bio-social context. An access procedure to the collected data and bio-samples is in place and published on https://www.healthybrainstudy.nl/en/data-and-methods.

    https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/7955

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    supplementary material
  • Heidlmayr, K., Ferragne, E., & Isel, F. (2021). Neuroplasticity in the phonological system: The PMN and the N400 as markers for the perception of non-native phonemic contrasts by late second language learners. Neuropsychologia, 156: 107831. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107831.

    Abstract

    Second language (L2) learners frequently encounter persistent difficulty in perceiving certain non-native sound contrasts, i.e., a phenomenon called “phonological deafness”. However, if extensive L2 experience leads to neuroplastic changes in the phonological system, then the capacity to discriminate non-native phonemic contrasts should progressively improve. Such perceptual changes should be attested by modifications at the neurophysiological level. We designed an EEG experiment in which the listeners’ perceptual capacities to discriminate second language phonemic contrasts influence the processing of lexical-semantic violations. Semantic congruency of critical words in a sentence context was driven by a phonemic contrast that was unique to the L2, English (e.g.,/ɪ/-/i:/, ship – sheep). Twenty-eight young adult native speakers of French with intermediate proficiency in English listened to sentences that contained either a semantically congruent or incongruent critical word (e.g., The anchor of the ship/*sheep was let down) while EEG was recorded. Three ERP effects were found to relate to increasing L2 proficiency: (1) a left frontal auditory N100 effect, (2) a smaller fronto-central phonological mismatch negativity (PMN) effect and (3) a semantic N400 effect. No effect of proficiency was found on oscillatory markers. The current findings suggest that neuronal plasticity in the human brain allows for the late acquisition of even hard-wired linguistic features such as the discrimination of phonemic contrasts in a second language. This is the first time that behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for the critical role of neural plasticity underlying L2 phonological processing and its interdependence with semantic processing has been provided. Our data strongly support the idea that pieces of information from different levels of linguistic processing (e.g., phonological, semantic) strongly interact and influence each other during online language processing.

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    supplementary material
  • Heyselaar, E., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2021). Do we predict upcoming speech content in naturalistic environments? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(4), 440-461. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1859568.

    Abstract

    The ability to predict upcoming actions is a hallmark of cognition. It remains unclear, however, whether the predictive behaviour observed in controlled lab environments generalises to rich, everyday settings. In four virtual reality experiments, we tested whether a well-established marker of linguistic prediction (anticipatory eye movements) replicated when increasing the naturalness of the paradigm by means of immersing participants in naturalistic scenes (Experiment 1), increasing the number of distractor objects (Experiment 2), modifying the proportion of predictable noun-referents (Experiment 3), and manipulating the location of referents relative to the joint attentional space (Experiment 4). Robust anticipatory eye movements were observed for Experiments 1–3. The anticipatory effect disappeared, however, in Experiment 4. Our findings suggest that predictive processing occurs in everyday communication if the referents are situated in the joint attentional space. Methodologically, our study confirms that ecological validity and experimental control may go hand-in-hand in the study of human predictive behaviour.
  • Hoeksema, N., Verga, L., Mengede, J., Van Roessel, C., Villanueva, S., Salazar-Casals, A., Rubio-Garcia, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200252. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0252.

    Abstract

    Comparative studies of vocal learning and vocal non-learning animals can increase our understanding of the neurobiology and evolution of vocal learning and human speech. Mammalian vocal learning is understudied: most research has either focused on vocal learning in songbirds or its absence in non-human primates. Here we focus on a highly promising model species for the neurobiology of vocal learning: grey seals. We provide a neuroanatomical atlas (based on dissected brain slices and magnetic resonance images), a labelled MRI template, a 3D model with volumetric measurements of brain regions, and histological cortical stainings. Four main features of the grey seal brain stand out. (1) It is relatively big and highly convoluted. (2) It hosts a relatively large temporal lobe and cerebellum, structures which could support developed timing abilities and acoustic processing. (3) The cortex is similar to humans in thickness and shows the expected six-layered mammalian structure. (4) Expression of FoxP2 - a gene involved in vocal learning and spoken language - is present in deeper layers of the cortex. Our results could facilitate future studies targeting the neural and genetic underpinnings of mammalian vocal learning, thus bridging the research gap from songbirds to humans and non-human primates.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
  • Horan Skilton, A., & Peeters, D. (2021). Cross-linguistic differences in demonstrative systems: Comparing spatial and non-spatial influences on demonstrative use in Ticuna and Dutch. Journal of Pragmatics, 180, 248-265. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2021.05.001.

    Abstract

    In all spoken languages, speakers use demonstratives – words like this and that – to refer to entities in their immediate environment. But which factors determine whether they use one demonstrative (this) or another (that)? Here we report the results of an experiment examining the effects of referent visibility, referent distance, and addressee location on the production of demonstratives by speakers of Ticuna (isolate; Brazil, Colombia, Peru), an Amazonian language with four demonstratives, and speakers of Dutch (Indo-European; Netherlands, Belgium), which has two demonstratives. We found that Ticuna speakers’ use of demonstratives displayed effects of addressee location and referent distance, but not referent visibility. By contrast, under comparable conditions, Dutch speakers displayed sensitivity only to referent distance. Interestingly, we also observed that Ticuna speakers consistently used demonstratives in all referential utterances in our experimental paradigm, while Dutch speakers strongly preferred to use definite articles. Taken together, these findings shed light on the significant diversity found in demonstrative systems across languages. Additionally, they invite researchers studying exophoric demonstratives to broaden their horizons by cross-linguistically investigating the factors involved in speakers’ choice of demonstratives over other types of referring expressions, especially articles.
  • Huizeling, E., Wang, H., Holland, C., & Kessler, K. (2021). Changes in theta and alpha oscillatory signatures of attentional control in older and middle age. European Journal of Neuroscience, 54(1), 4314-4337. doi:10.1111/ejn.15259.

    Abstract

    Recent behavioural research has reported age-related changes in the costs of refocusing attention from a temporal (rapid serial visual presentation) to a spatial (visual search) task. Using magnetoencephalography, we have now compared the neural signatures of attention refocusing between three age groups (19–30, 40–49 and 60+ years) and found differences in task-related modulation and cortical localisation of alpha and theta oscillations. Efficient, faster refocusing in the youngest group compared to both middle age and older groups was reflected in parietal theta effects that were significantly reduced in the older groups. Residual parietal theta activity in older individuals was beneficial to attentional refocusing and could reflect preserved attention mechanisms. Slowed refocusing of attention, especially when a target required consolidation, in the older and middle-aged adults was accompanied by a posterior theta deficit and increased recruitment of frontal (middle-aged and older groups) and temporal (older group only) areas, demonstrating a posterior to anterior processing shift. Theta but not alpha modulation correlated with task performance, suggesting that older adults' stronger and more widely distributed alpha power modulation could reflect decreased neural precision or dedifferentiation but requires further investigation. Our results demonstrate that older adults present with different alpha and theta oscillatory signatures during attentional control, reflecting cognitive decline and, potentially, also different cognitive strategies in an attempt to compensate for decline.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Cross-linguistic trade-offs and causal relationships between cues to grammatical subject and object, and the problem of efficiency-related explanations. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 648200. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648200.

    Abstract

    Cross-linguistic studies focus on inverse correlations (trade-offs) between linguistic variables that reflect different cues to linguistic meanings. For example, if a language has no case marking, it is likely to rely on word order as a cue for identification of grammatical roles. Such inverse correlations are interpreted as manifestations of language users’ tendency to use language efficiently. The present study argues that this interpretation is problematic. Linguistic variables, such as the presence of case, or flexibility of word order, are aggregate properties, which do not represent the use of linguistic cues in context directly. Still, such variables can be useful for circumscribing the potential role of communicative efficiency in language evolution, if we move from cross-linguistic trade-offs to multivariate causal networks. This idea is illustrated by a case study of linguistic variables related to four types of Subject and Object cues: case marking, rigid word order of Subject and Object, tight semantics and verb-medial order. The variables are obtained from online language corpora in thirty languages, annotated with the Universal Dependencies. The causal model suggests that the relationships between the variables can be explained predominantly by sociolinguistic factors, leaving little space for a potential impact of efficient linguistic behavior.
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Communicative efficiency and differential case marking: A reverse-engineering approach. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3): 20190087. doi:10.1515/lingvan-2019-0087.
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Conditional inference trees and random forests. In M. Paquot, & T. Gries (Eds.), Practical Handbook of Corpus Linguistics (pp. 611-643). New York: Springer.
  • Levshina, N., & Moran, S. (2021). Efficiency in human languages: Corpus evidence for universal principles. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3): 20200081. doi:10.1515/lingvan-2020-0081.

    Abstract

    Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in communicative efficiency. It has been argued that language users act efficiently, saving effort for processing and articulation, and that language structure and use reflect this tendency. The emergence of new corpus data has brought to life numerous studies on efficient language use in the lexicon, in morphosyntax, and in discourse and phonology in different languages. In this introductory paper, we discuss communicative efficiency in human languages, focusing on evidence of efficient language use found in multilingual corpora. The evidence suggests that efficiency is a universal feature of human language. We provide an overview of different manifestations of efficiency on different levels of language structure, and we discuss the major questions and findings so far, some of which are addressed for the first time in the contributions in this special collection.
  • Levshina, N., & Moran, S. (Eds.). (2021). Efficiency in human languages: Corpus evidence for universal principles [Special Issue]. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3).
  • Lopopolo, A., Van de Bosch, A., Petersson, K. M., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Distinguishing syntactic operations in the brain: Dependency and phrase-structure parsing. Neurobiology of Language, 2(1), 152-175. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00029.

    Abstract

    Finding the structure of a sentence — the way its words hold together to convey meaning — is a fundamental step in language comprehension. Several brain regions, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior superior temporal gyrus, and the left anterior temporal pole, are supposed to support this operation. The exact role of these areas is nonetheless still debated. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that different brain regions could be sensitive to different kinds of syntactic computations. We compare the fit of phrase-structure and dependency structure descriptors to activity in brain areas using fMRI. Our results show a division between areas with regard to the type of structure computed, with the left ATP and left IFG favouring dependency structures and left pSTG favouring phrase structures.
  • Mak, M., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Eyelit: Eye movement and reader response data during literary reading. Journal of open humanities data, 7: 25. doi:10.5334/johd.49.

    Abstract

    An eye-tracking data set is described of 102 participants reading three Dutch literary short stories each (7790 words in total per participant). The pre-processed data set includes (1) Fixation report, (2) Saccade report, (3) Interest Area report, (4) Trial report (aggregated data for each page), (5) Sample report (sampling rate = 500 Hz), (6) Questionnaire data on reading experiences and participant characteristics, and (7) word characteristics for all words (with the potential of calculating additional word characteristics). It is stored on DANS, and can be used to study word characteristics or literary reading and all facets of eye movements.
  • Mak, M., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Mental simulation during literary reading. In D. Kuiken, & A. M. Jacobs (Eds.), Handbook of empirical literary studies (pp. 63-84). Berlin: De Gruyter.

    Abstract

    Readers experience a number of sensations during reading. They do
    not – or do not only – process words and sentences in a detached, abstract
    manner. Instead they “perceive” what they read about. They see descriptions of
    scenery, feel what characters feel, and hear the sounds in a story. These sensa-
    tions tend to be grouped under the umbrella terms “mental simulation” and
    “mental imagery.” This chapter provides an overview of empirical research on
    the role of mental simulation during literary reading. Our chapter also discusses
    what mental simulation is and how it relates to mental imagery. Moreover, it
    explores how mental simulation plays a role in leading models of literary read-
    ing and investigates under what circumstances mental simulation occurs dur-
    ing literature reading. Finally, the effect of mental simulation on the literary
    reader’s experience is discussed, and suggestions and unresolved issues in this
    field are formulated.
  • Mickan, A., McQueen, J. M., Valentini, B., Piai, V., & Lemhöfer, K. (2021). Electrophysiological evidence for cross-language interference in foreign-language attrition. Neuropsychologia, 155: 107795. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107795.

    Abstract

    Foreign language attrition (FLA) appears to be driven by interference from other, more recently-used languages (Mickan et al., 2020). Here we tracked these interference dynamics electrophysiologically to further our understanding of the underlying processes. Twenty-seven Dutch native speakers learned 70 new Italian words over two days. On a third day, EEG was recorded as they performed naming tasks on half of these words in English and, finally, as their memory for all the Italian words was tested in a picture-naming task. Replicating Mickan et al., recall was slower and tended to be less complete for Italian words that were interfered with (i.e., named in English) than for words that were not. These behavioral interference effects were accompanied by an enhanced frontal N2 and a decreased late positivity (LPC) for interfered compared to not-interfered items. Moreover, interfered items elicited more theta power. We also found an increased N2 during the interference phase for items that participants were later slower to retrieve in Italian. We interpret the N2 and theta effects as markers of interference, in line with the idea that Italian retrieval at final test is hampered by competition from recently practiced English translations. The LPC, in turn, reflects the consequences of interference: the reduced accessibility of interfered Italian labels. Finally, that retrieval ease at final test was related to the degree of interference during previous English retrieval shows that FLA is already set in motion during the interference phase, and hence can be the direct consequence of using other languages.

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    data via Donders Repository
  • Misersky, J., Slivac, K., Hagoort, P., & Flecken, M. (2021). The State of the Onion: Grammatical aspect modulates object representation during event comprehension. Cognition, 214: 104744. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104744.

    Abstract

    The present ERP study assessed whether grammatical aspect is used as a cue in online event comprehension, in particular when reading about events in which an object is visually changed. While perfective aspect cues holistic event representations, including an event's endpoint, progressive aspect highlights intermediate phases of an event. In a 2 × 3 design, participants read SVO sentences describing a change-of-state event (e.g., to chop an onion), with grammatical Aspect manipulated (perfective “chopped” vs progressive “was chopping”). Thereafter, they saw a Picture of an object either having undergone substantial state-change (SC; a chopped onion), no state-change (NSC; an onion in its original state) or an unrelated object (U; a cactus, acting as control condition). Their task was to decide whether the object in the Picture was mentioned in the sentence. We focused on N400 modulation, with ERPs time-locked to picture onset. U pictures elicited an N400 response as expected, suggesting detection of categorical mismatches in object type. For SC and NSC pictures, a whole-head follow-up analysis revealed a P300, implying people were engaged in detailed evaluation of pictures of matching objects. SC pictures received most positive responses overall. Crucially, there was an interaction of Aspect and Picture: SC pictures resulted in a higher amplitude P300 after sentences in the perfective compared to the progressive. Thus, while the perfective cued for a holistic event representation, including the resultant state of the affected object (i.e., the chopped onion) constraining object representations online, the progressive defocused event completion and object-state change. Grammatical aspect thus guided online event comprehension by cueing the visual representation(s) of an object's state.
  • Montero-Melis, G. (2021). Consistency in motion event encoding across languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 625153. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.625153.

    Abstract

    Syntactic templates serve as schemas, allowing speakers to describe complex events in a systematic fashion. Motion events have long served as a prime example of how different languages favor different syntactic frames, in turn biasing their speakers towards different event conceptualizations. However, there is also variability in how motion events are syntactically framed within languages. Here we measure the consistency in event encoding in two languages, Spanish and Swedish. We test a dominant account in the literature, namely that variability within a language can be explained by specific properties of the events. This event-properties account predicts that descriptions of one and the same event should be consistent within a language, even in languages where there is overall variability in the use of syntactic frames. Spanish and Swedish speakers (N=84) described 32 caused motion events. While the most frequent syntactic framing in each language was as expected based on typology (Spanish: verb-framed, Swedish: satellite-framed, cf. Talmy, 2000), Swedish descriptions were substantially more consistent than Spanish descriptions. Swedish speakers almost invariably encoded all events with a single syntactic frame and systematically conveyed manner of motion. Spanish descriptions, in contrast, varied much more regarding syntactic framing and expression of manner. Crucially, variability in Spanish descriptions was not mainly a function of differences between events, as predicted by the event-properties account. Rather, Spanish variability in syntactic framing was driven by speaker biases. A similar picture arose for whether Spanish descriptions expressed manner information or not: Even after accounting for the effect of syntactic choice, a large portion of the variance in Spanish manner encoding remained attributable to differences among speakers. The results show that consistency in motion event encoding starkly differs across languages: Some languages (like Swedish) bias their speakers towards a particular linguistic event schema much more than others (like Spanish). Implications of these findings are discussed with respect to the typology of event framing, theories on the relationship between language and thought, and speech planning. In addition, the tools employed here to quantify variability can be applied to other domains of language.

    Additional information

    data and analysis scripts
  • Nieuwland, M. S. (2021). How ‘rational’ is semantic prediction? A critique and re-analysis of. Cognition, 215: 104848. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104848.

    Abstract

    In a recent article in Cognition, Delaney-Busch et al. (2019) claim evidence for ‘rational’, Bayesian adaptation of semantic predictions, using ERP data from Lau, Holcomb, and Kuperberg (2013). Participants read associatively related and unrelated prime-target word pairs in a first block with only 10% related trials and a second block with 50%. Related words elicited smaller N400s than unrelated words, and this difference was strongest in the second block, suggesting greater engagement in predictive processing. Using a rational adaptor model, Delaney-Busch et al. argue that the stronger N400 reduction for related words in the second block developed as a function of the number of related trials, and concluded therefore that participants predicted related words more strongly when their predictions were fulfilled more often. In this critique, I discuss two critical flaws in their analyses, namely the confounding of prediction effects with those of lexical frequency and the neglect of data from the first block. Re-analyses suggest a different picture: related words by themselves did not yield support for their conclusion, and the effect of relatedness gradually strengthened in othe two blocks in a similar way. Therefore, the N400 did not yield evidence that participants rationally adapted their semantic predictions. Within the framework proposed by Delaney-Busch et al., presumed semantic predictions may even be thought of as ‘irrational’. While these results yielded no evidence for rational or probabilistic prediction, they do suggest that participants became increasingly better at predicting target words from prime words.
  • Nieuwland, M. S. (2021). Commentary: Rational adaptation in lexical prediction: The influence of prediction strength. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 735849. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.735849.
  • Ortega, G., & Ostarek, M. (2021). Evidence for visual simulation during sign language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(10), 2158-2166. doi:10.1037/xge0001041.

    Abstract

    What are the mental processes that allow us to understand the meaning of words? A large body of evidence suggests that when we process speech, we engage a process of perceptual simulation whereby sensorimotor states are activated as a source of semantic information. But does the same process take place when words are expressed with the hands and perceived through the eyes? To date, it is not known whether perceptual simulation is also observed in sign languages, the manual-visual languages of deaf communities. Continuous flash suppression is a method that addresses this question by measuring the effect of language on detection sensitivity to images that are suppressed from awareness. In spoken languages, it has been reported that listening to a word (e.g., “bottle”) activates visual features of an object (e.g., the shape of a bottle), and this in turn facilitates image detection. An interesting but untested question is whether the same process takes place when deaf signers see signs. We found that processing signs boosted the detection of congruent images, making otherwise invisible pictures visible. A boost of visual processing was observed only for signers but not for hearing nonsigners, suggesting that the penetration of the visual system through signs requires a fully fledged manual language. Iconicity did not modulate the effect of signs on detection, neither in signers nor in hearing nonsigners. This suggests that visual simulation during language processing occurs regardless of language modality (sign vs. speech) or iconicity, pointing to a foundational role of simulation for language comprehension.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Ostarek, M., & Bottini, R. (2021). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 5. doi:10.5334/joc.139.

    Abstract

    A central question in the cognitive sciences is which role embodiment plays for high-
    level cognitive functions, such as conceptual processing. here, we propose that one
    reason why progress regarding this question has been slow is a lacking focus on what
    platt (1964) called “strong inference”. strong inference is possible when results from an
    experimental paradigm are not merely consistent with a hypothesis, but they provide
    decisive evidence for one particular hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. We
    discuss how causal paradigms, which test the functional relevance of sensory-motor
    processes for high-level cognitive functions, can move the field forward. in particular,
    we explore how congenital sensory-motor disorders, acquired sensory-motor deficits,
    and interference paradigms with healthy participants can be utilized as an opportunity
    to better understand the role of sensory experience in conceptual processing. Whereas
    all three approaches can bring about valuable insights, we highlight that the study of
    congenitally and acquired sensorimotor disorders is particularly effective in the case
    of conceptual domains with strong unimodal basis (e.g., colors), whereas interference
    paradigms with healthy participants have a broader application, avoid many of the
    practical and interpretational limitations of patient studies, and allow a systematic
    and step-wise progressive inference approach to causal mechanisms.
  • Poletiek, F. H., Monaghan, P., van de Velde, M., & Bocanegra, B. R. (2021). The semantics-syntax interface: Learning grammatical categories and hierarchical syntactic structure through semantics. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 47(7), 1141-1155. doi:10.1037/xlm0001044.

    Abstract

    Language is infinitely productive because syntax defines dependencies between grammatical categories of words and constituents, so there is interchangeability of these words and constituents within syntactic structures. Previous laboratory-based studies of language learning have shown that complex language structures like hierarchical center embeddings (HCE) are very hard to learn, but these studies tend to simplify the language learning task, omitting semantics and focusing either on learning dependencies between individual words or on acquiring the category membership of those words. We tested whether categories of words and dependencies between these categories and between constituents, could be learned simultaneously in an artificial language with HCE’s, when accompanied by scenes illustrating the sentence’s intended meaning. Across four experiments, we showed that participants were able to learn the HCE language varying words across categories and category-dependencies, and constituents across constituents-dependencies. They also were able to generalize the learned structure to novel sentences and novel scenes that they had not previously experienced. This simultaneous learning resulting in a productive complex language system, may be a consequence of grounding complex syntax acquisition in semantics.
  • Pouw, W., Proksch, S., Drijvers, L., Gamba, M., Holler, J., Kello, C., Schaefer, R. S., & Wiggins, G. A. (2021). Multilevel rhythms in multimodal communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200334. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0334.

    Abstract

    It is now widely accepted that the brunt of animal communication is conducted via several modalities, e.g. acoustic and visual, either simultaneously or sequentially. This is a laudable multimodal turn relative to traditional accounts of temporal aspects of animal communication which have focused on a single modality at a time. However, the fields that are currently contributing to the study of multimodal communication are highly varied, and still largely disconnected given their sole focus on a particular level of description or their particular concern with human or non-human animals. Here, we provide an integrative overview of converging findings that show how multimodal processes occurring at neural, bodily, as well as social interactional levels each contribute uniquely to the complex rhythms that characterize communication in human and non-human animals. Though we address findings for each of these levels independently, we conclude that the most important challenge in this field is to identify how processes at these different levels connect.

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