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Corps, R. E., & Pickering, M. (in press). Response planning during question-answering: Does deciding what to say involve deciding how to say it? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Hintz, F., Shkaravska, O., Dijkhuis, M., Van 't Hoff, V., Huijsmans, M., Van Dongen, R. C., Voeteé, L. A., Trilsbeek, P., McQueen, J. M., & Meyer, A. S. (in press). IDLaS-NL – A platform for running customized studies on individual differences in Dutch language skills via the internet. Behavior Research Methods.
AbstractWe introduce the Individual Differences in Language Skills (IDLaS-NL) web platform, which enables users to run studies on individual differences in Dutch language skills via the internet. IDLaS-NL consists of 35 behavioral tests, previously validated in participants aged between 18 and 30 years. The platform provides an intuitive graphical interface for users to select the tests they wish to include in their research, to divide these tests into different sessions and to determine their order. Moreover, for standardized administration the platform
provides an application (an emulated browser) wherein the tests are run. Results can be retrieved by mouse click in the graphical interface and are provided as CSV-file output via email. Similarly, the graphical interface enables researchers to modify and delete their study configurations. IDLaS-NL is intended for researchers, clinicians, educators and in general anyone conducting fundaental research into language and general cognitive skills; it is not intended for diagnostic purposes. All platform services are free of charge. Here, we provide a
description of its workings as well as instructions for using the platform. The IDLaS-NL platform can be accessed at www.mpi.nl/idlas-nl.
Hustá, C., Nieuwland, M. S., & Meyer, A. S. (in press). Effects of picture naming and categorization on concurrent comprehension: Evidence from the N400. Collabra: Psychology.
Karaca, F., Brouwer, S., Unsworth, S., & Huettig, F. (in press). Morphosyntactic predictive processing in adult heritage speakers: Effects of cue availability and spoken and written language experience. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience.
AbstractWe investigated prediction skills of adult heritage speakers and the role of written and spoken language experience on predictive processing. Using visual world eye-tracking, we focused on predictive use of case-marking cues in verb-medial and verb-final sentences in Turkish with adult Turkish heritage speakers (N = 25) and Turkish monolingual speakers (N = 24). Heritage speakers predicted in verb-medial sentences (when verb-semantic and case-marking cues were available), but not in verb-final sentences (when only case-marking cues were available) while monolinguals predicted in both. Prediction skills of heritage speakers were modulated by their spoken language experience in Turkish and written language experience in both languages. Overall, these results strongly suggest that verb-semantic information is needed to scaffold the use of morphosyntactic cues for prediction in heritage speakers. The findings also support the notion that both spoken and written language experience play an important role in predictive spoken language processing.
Papoutsi*, C., Zimianiti*, E., Bosker, H. R., & Frost, R. L. A. (in press). Statistical learning at a virtual cocktail party. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Abstract* These two authors contributed equally to this study
Statistical learning – the ability to extract distributional regularities from input – is suggested to be key to language acquisition. Yet, evidence for the human capacity for statistical learning comes mainly from studies conducted in carefully controlled settings without auditory distraction. While such conditions permit careful examination of learning, they do not reflect the naturalistic language learning experience, which is replete with auditory distraction – including competing talkers. Here, we examine how statistical language learning proceeds in a virtual cocktail party environment, where the to-be-learned input is presented alongside a competing speech stream with its own distributional regularities. During exposure, participants in the Dual Talker group concurrently heard two novel languages, one produced by a female talker and one by a male talker, with each talker virtually positioned at opposite sides of the listener (left/right) using binaural acoustic manipulations. Selective attention was manipulated by instructing participants to attend to only one of the two talkers. At test, participants were asked to distinguish words from part-words for both the attended and the unattended languages. Results indicated that participants’ accuracy was significantly higher for trials from the attended vs. unattended
language. Further, the performance of this Dual Talker group was no different compared to a control group who heard only one language from a single talker (Single Talker group). We thus conclude that statistical learning is modulated by selective attention, being relatively robust against the additional cognitive load provided by competing speech, emphasizing its efficiency in naturalistic language learning situations.
Araujo, S., Narang, V., Misra, D., Lohagun, N., Khan, O., Singh, A., Mishra, R. K., Hervais-Adelman, A., & Huettig, F. (2023). A literacy-related color-specific deficit in rapid automatized naming: Evidence from neurotypical completely illiterate and literate adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 152(8), 2403-2409. doi:10.1037/xge0001376.
AbstractThere 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.
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Wu, M., Bosker, H. R., & Riecke, L. (2023). Sentential contextual facilitation of auditory word processing builds up during sentence tracking. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 35(8), 1262 -1278. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_02007.
AbstractWhile listening to meaningful speech, auditory input is processed more rapidly near the end (vs. beginning) of sentences. Although several studies have shown such word-to-word changes in auditory input processing, it is still unclear from which processing level these word-to-word dynamics originate. We investigated whether predictions derived from sentential context can result in auditory word-processing dynamics during sentence tracking. We presented healthy human participants with auditory stimuli consisting of word sequences, arranged into either predictable (coherent sentences) or less predictable (unstructured, random word sequences) 42-Hz amplitude-modulated speech, and a continuous 25-Hz amplitude-modulated distractor tone. We recorded RTs and frequency-tagged neuroelectric responses 1(auditory steady-state responses) to individual words at multiple temporal positions within the sentences, and quantified sentential context effects at each position while controlling for individual word characteristics (i.e., phonetics, frequency, and familiarity). We found that sentential context increasingly facilitates auditory word processing as evidenced by accelerated RTs and increased auditory steady-state responses to later-occurring words within sentences. These purely top–down contextually driven auditory word-processing dynamics occurred only when listeners focused their attention on the speech and did not transfer to the auditory processing of the concurrent distractor tone. These findings indicate that auditory word-processing dynamics during sentence tracking can originate from sentential predictions. The predictions depend on the listeners' attention to the speech, and affect only the processing of the parsed speech, not that of concurrently presented auditory streams.
Corps, R. E., Liao, M., & Pickering, M. J. (2023). Evidence for two stages of prediction in non-native speakers: A visual-world eye-tracking study. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 26(1), 231-243. doi:10.1017/S1366728922000499.
AbstractComprehenders predict what a speaker is likely to say when listening to non-native (L2) and native (L1) utterances. But what are the characteristics of L2 prediction, and how does it relate to L1 prediction? We addressed this question in a visual-world eye-tracking experiment, which tested when L2 English comprehenders integrated perspective into their predictions. Male and female participants listened to male and female speakers producing sentences (e.g., I would like to wear the nice…) about stereotypically masculine (target: tie; distractor: drill) and feminine (target: dress; distractor: hairdryer) objects. Participants predicted associatively, fixating objects semantically associated with critical verbs (here, the tie and the dress). They also predicted stereotypically consistent objects (e.g., the tie rather than the dress, given the male speaker). Consistent predictions were made later than associative predictions, and were delayed for L2 speakers relative to L1 speakers. These findings suggest prediction involves both automatic and non-automatic stages.
Corps, R. E. (2023). What do we know about the mechanisms of response planning in dialog? In Psychology of Learning and Motivation (pp. 41-81). doi:10.1016/bs.plm.2023.02.002.
AbstractDuring dialog, interlocutors take turns at speaking with little gap or overlap between their contributions. But language production in monolog is comparatively slow. Theories of dialog tend to agree that interlocutors manage these timing demands by planning a response early, before the current speaker reaches the end of their turn. In the first half of this chapter, I review experimental research supporting these theories. But this research also suggests that planning a response early, while simultaneously comprehending, is difficult. Does response planning need to be this difficult during dialog? In other words, is early-planning always necessary? In the second half of this chapter, I discuss research that suggests the answer to this question is no. In particular, corpora of natural conversation demonstrate that speakers do not directly respond to the immediately preceding utterance of their partner—instead, they continue an utterance they produced earlier. This parallel talk likely occurs because speakers are highly incremental and plan only part of their utterance before speaking, leading to pauses, hesitations, and disfluencies. As a result, speakers do not need to engage in extensive advance planning. Thus, laboratory studies do not provide a full picture of language production in dialog, and further research using naturalistic tasks is needed.
Creemers, A. (2023). Morphological processing in spoken-word recognition. In D. Crepaldi (
Ed.), Linguistic morphology in the mind and brain (pp. 50-64). New York: Routledge.
AbstractMost psycholinguistic studies on morphological processing have examined the role of morphological structure in the visual modality. This chapter discusses morphological processing in the auditory modality, which is an area of research that has only recently received more attention. It ﬁrst discusses why results in the visual modality cannot straightforwardly be applied to the processing of spoken words, stressing the importance of acknowledging potential modality eﬀects. It then gives a brief overview of the existing research on the role of morphology in the auditory modality, for which an increasing number of studies report that listeners show sensitivity to morphological structure. Finally, the chapter highlights insights gained by looking at morphological processing not only in reading, but also in listening, and it discusses directions for future research
Ferreira, F., & Huettig, F. (2023). Fast and slow language processing: A window into dual-process models of cognition. [Open Peer commentary on De Neys]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 46: e121. doi:10.1017/S0140525X22003041.
AbstractOur understanding of dual-process models of cognition may benefit from a consideration of language processing, as language comprehension involves fast and slow processes analogous to those used for reasoning. More specifically, De Neys's criticisms of the exclusivity assumption and the fast-to-slow switch mechanism are consistent with findings from the literature on the construction and revision of linguistic interpretations.
Garrido Rodriguez, G., Norcliffe, E., Brown, P., Huettig, F., & Levinson, S. C. (2023). Anticipatory processing in a verb-initial Mayan language: Eye-tracking evidence during sentence comprehension in Tseltal. Cognitive Science, 47(1): e13292. doi:10.1111/cogs.13219.
AbstractWe present a visual world eye-tracking study on Tseltal (a Mayan language) and investigate whether verbal information can be used to anticipate an upcoming referent. Basic word order in transitive sentences in Tseltal is Verb-Object-Subject (VOS). The verb is usually encountered first, making argument structure and syntactic information available at the outset, which should facilitate anticipation of the post-verbal arguments. Tseltal speakers listened to verb-initial sentences with either an object-predictive verb (e.g., ‘eat’) or a general verb (e.g., ‘look for’) (e.g., “Ya slo’/sle ta stukel on te kereme”, Is eating/is looking (for) by himself the avocado the boy/ “The boy is eating/is looking (for) an avocado by himself”) while seeing a visual display showing one potential referent (e.g., avocado) and three distractors (e.g., bag, toy car, coffee grinder). We manipulated verb type (predictive vs. general) and recorded participants' eye-movements while they listened and inspected the visual scene. Participants’ fixations to the target referent were analysed using multilevel logistic regression models. Shortly after hearing the predictive verb, participants fixated the target object before it was mentioned. In contrast, when the verb was general, fixations to the target only started to increase once the object was heard. Our results suggest that Tseltal hearers pre-activate semantic features of the grammatical object prior to its linguistic expression. This provides evidence from a verb-initial language for online incremental semantic interpretation and anticipatory processing during language comprehension. These processes are comparable to the ones identified in subject-initial languages, which is consistent with the notion that different languages follow similar universal processing principles.
Hintz, F., Khoe, Y. H., Strauß, A., Psomakas, A. J. A., & Holler, J. (2023). Electrophysiological evidence for the enhancement of gesture-speech integration by linguistic predictability during multimodal discourse comprehension. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 23, 340-353. doi:10.3758/s13415-023-01074-8.
AbstractIn face-to-face discourse, listeners exploit cues in the input to generate predictions about upcoming words. Moreover, in addition to speech, speakers produce a multitude of visual signals, such as iconic gestures, which listeners readily integrate with incoming words. Previous studies have shown that processing of target words is facilitated when these are embedded in predictable compared to non-predictable discourses and when accompanied by iconic compared to meaningless gestures. In the present study, we investigated the interaction of both factors. We recorded electroencephalogram from 60 Dutch adults while they were watching videos of an actress producing short discourses. The stimuli consisted of an introductory and a target sentence; the latter contained a target noun. Depending on the preceding discourse, the target noun was either predictable or not. Each target noun was paired with an iconic gesture and a gesture that did not convey meaning. In both conditions, gesture presentation in the video was timed such that the gesture stroke slightly preceded the onset of the spoken target by 130 ms. Our ERP analyses revealed independent facilitatory effects for predictable discourses and iconic gestures. However, the interactive effect of both factors demonstrated that target processing (i.e., gesture-speech integration) was facilitated most when targets were part of predictable discourses and accompanied by an iconic gesture. Our results thus suggest a strong intertwinement of linguistic predictability and non-verbal gesture processing where listeners exploit predictive discourse cues to pre-activate verbal and non-verbal representations of upcoming target words.
Huettig, F., & Ferreira, F. (2023). The myth of normal reading. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 18(4), 863-870. doi:10.1177/17456916221127226.
AbstractWe argue that the educational and psychological sciences must embrace the diversity of reading rather than chase the phantom of normal reading behavior. We critically discuss the research practice of asking participants in experiments to read “normally”. We then draw attention to the large cross-cultural and linguistic diversity around the world and consider the enormous diversity of reading situations and goals. Finally, we observe that people bring a huge diversity of brains and experiences to the reading task. This leads to certain implications. First, there are important lessons for how to conduct psycholinguistic experiments. Second, we need to move beyond Anglo-centric reading research and produce models of reading that reflect the large cross-cultural diversity of languages and types of writing systems. Third, we must acknowledge that there are multiple ways of reading and reasons for reading, and none of them is normal or better or a “gold standard”. Finally, we must stop stigmatizing individuals who read differently and for different reasons, and there should be increased focus on teaching the ability to extract information relevant to the person’s goals. What is important is not how well people decode written language and how fast people read but what people comprehend given their own stated goals.
Huettig, F., Voeten, C. C., Pascual, E., Liang, J., & Hintz, F. (2023). Do autistic children differ in language-mediated prediction? Cognition, 239: 105571. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105571.
AbstractPrediction appears to be an important characteristic of the human mind. It has also been suggested that prediction is a core difference of autistic children. Past research exploring language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in autistic children, however, has been somewhat contradictory, with some studies finding normal anticipatory processing in autistic children with low levels of autistic traits but others observing weaker prediction effects in autistic children with less receptive language skills. Here we investigated language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in young children who differed in the severity of their level of autistic traits and were in professional institutional care in Hangzhou, China. We chose the same spoken sentences (translated into Mandarin Chinese) and visual stimuli as a previous study which observed robust prediction effects in young children (Mani & Huettig, 2012) and included a control group of typically-developing children. Typically developing but not autistic children showed robust prediction effects. Most interestingly, autistic children with lower communication, motor, and (adaptive) behavior scores exhibited both less predictive and non-predictive visual attention behavior. Our results raise the possibility that differences in language-mediated anticipatory eye movements in autistic children with higher levels of autistic traits may be differences in visual attention in disguise, a hypothesis that needs further investigation.
Additional informationRaw data and analysis code can be found here on OSF
Meyer, A. S. (2023). Timing in conversation. Journal of Cognition, 6(1), 1-17. doi:10.5334/joc.268.
AbstractTurn-taking in everyday conversation is fast, with median latencies in corpora of conversational speech often reported to be under 300 ms. This seems like magic, given that experimental research on speech planning has shown that speakers need much more time to plan and produce even the shortest of utterances. This paper reviews how language scientists have combined linguistic analyses of conversations and experimental work to understand the skill of swift turn-taking and proposes a tentative solution to the riddle of fast turn-taking.
Mickan, A., McQueen, J. M., Brehm, L., & Lemhöfer, K. (2023). Individual differences in foreign language attrition: A 6-month longitudinal investigation after a study abroad. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 38(1), 11-39. doi:10.1080/23273798.2022.2074479.
AbstractWhile recent laboratory studies suggest that the use of competing languages is a driving force in foreign language (FL) attrition (i.e. forgetting), research on “real” attriters has failed to demonstrate
such a relationship. We addressed this issue in a large-scale longitudinal study, following German students throughout a study abroad in Spain and their first six months back in Germany. Monthly,
percentage-based frequency of use measures enabled a fine-grained description of language use.
L3 Spanish forgetting rates were indeed predicted by the quantity and quality of Spanish use, and
correlated negatively with L1 German and positively with L2 English letter fluency. Attrition rates
were furthermore influenced by prior Spanish proficiency, but not by motivation to maintain
Spanish or non-verbal long-term memory capacity. Overall, this study highlights the importance
of language use for FL retention and sheds light on the complex interplay between language
use and other determinants of attrition.
Numssen, O., van der Burght, C. L., & Hartwigsen, G. (2023). Revisiting the focality of non-invasive brain stimulation - implications for studies of human cognition. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 149: 105154. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2023.105154.
AbstractNon-invasive brain stimulation techniques are popular tools to investigate brain function in health and disease. Although transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is widely used in cognitive neuroscience research to probe causal structure-function relationships, studies often yield inconclusive results. To improve the effectiveness of TMS studies, we argue that the cognitive neuroscience community needs to revise the stimulation focality principle – the spatial resolution with which TMS can differentially stimulate cortical regions. In the motor domain, TMS can differentiate between cortical muscle representations of adjacent fingers. However, this high degree of spatial specificity cannot be obtained in all cortical regions due to the influences of cortical folding patterns on the TMS-induced electric field. The region-dependent focality of TMS should be assessed a priori to estimate the experimental feasibility. Post-hoc simulations allow modeling of the relationship between cortical stimulation exposure and behavioral modulation by integrating data across stimulation sites or subjects.
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Severijnen, G. G. A., Di Dona, G., Bosker, H. R., & McQueen, J. M. (2023). Tracking talker-specific cues to lexical stress: Evidence from perceptual learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 49(4), 549-565. doi:10.1037/xhp0001105.
AbstractWhen recognizing spoken words, listeners are confronted by variability in the speech signal caused by talker differences. Previous research has focused on segmental talker variability; less is known about how suprasegmental variability is handled. Here we investigated the use of perceptual learning to deal with between-talker differences in lexical stress. Two groups of participants heard Dutch minimal stress pairs (e.g., VOORnaam vs. voorNAAM, “first name” vs. “respectable”) spoken by two male talkers. Group 1 heard Talker 1 use only F0 to signal stress (intensity and duration values were ambiguous), while Talker 2 used only intensity (F0 and duration were ambiguous). Group 2 heard the reverse talker-cue mappings. After training, participants were tested on words from both talkers containing conflicting stress cues (“mixed items”; e.g., one spoken by Talker 1 with F0 signaling initial stress and intensity signaling final stress). We found that listeners used previously learned information about which talker used which cue to interpret the mixed items. For example, the mixed item described above tended to be interpreted as having initial stress by Group 1 but as having final stress by Group 2. This demonstrates that listeners learn how individual talkers signal stress and use that knowledge in spoken-word recognition.
Severijnen, G. G. A., Bosker, H. R., & McQueen, J. M. (2023). Syllable rate drives rate normalization, but is not the only factor. In R. Skarnitzl, & J. Volín (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2023) (pp. 56-60). Prague: Guarant International.
AbstractSpeech is perceived relative to the speech rate in the context. It is unclear, however, what information listeners use to compute speech rate. The present study examines whether listeners use the number of
syllables per unit time (i.e., syllable rate) as a measure of speech rate, as indexed by subsequent vowel perception. We ran two rate-normalization experiments in which participants heard duration-matched word lists that contained either monosyllabic
vs. bisyllabic words (Experiment 1), or monosyllabic vs. trisyllabic pseudowords (Experiment 2). The participants’ task was to categorize an /ɑ-aː/ continuum that followed the word lists. The monosyllabic condition was perceived as slower (i.e., fewer /aː/ responses) than the bisyllabic and
trisyllabic condition. However, no difference was observed between bisyllabic and trisyllabic contexts. Therefore, while syllable rate is used in perceiving speech rate, other factors, such as fast speech processes, mean F0, and intensity, must also influence rate normalization.
Slaats, S., Weissbart, H., Schoffelen, J.-M., Meyer, A. S., & Martin, A. E. (2023). Delta-band neural responses to individual words are modulated by sentence processing. The Journal of Neuroscience, 43(26), 4867-4883. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0964-22.2023.
AbstractTo understand language, we need to recognize words and combine them into phrases and sentences. During this process, responses to the words themselves are changed. In a step towards understanding how the brain builds sentence structure, the present study concerns the neural readout of this adaptation. We ask whether low-frequency neural readouts associated with words change as a function of being in a sentence. To this end, we analyzed an MEG dataset by Schoffelen et al. (2019) of 102 human participants (51 women) listening to sentences and word lists, the latter lacking any syntactic structure and combinatorial meaning. Using temporal response functions and a cumulative model-fitting approach, we disentangled delta- and theta-band responses to lexical information (word frequency), from responses to sensory- and distributional variables. The results suggest that delta-band responses to words are affected by sentence context in time and space, over and above entropy and surprisal. In both conditions, the word frequency response spanned left temporal and posterior frontal areas; however, the response appeared later in word lists than in sentences. In addition, sentence context determined whether inferior frontal areas were responsive to lexical information. In the theta band, the amplitude was larger in the word list condition around 100 milliseconds in right frontal areas. We conclude that low-frequency responses to words are changed by sentential context. The results of this study speak to how the neural representation of words is affected by structural context, and as such provide insight into how the brain instantiates compositionality in language.
Tkalcec, A., Bierlein, M., Seeger‐Schneider, G., Walitza, S., Jenny, B., Menks, W. M., Felhbaum, L. V., Borbas, R., Cole, D. M., Raschle, N., Herbrecht, E., Stadler, C., & Cubillo, A. (2023). Empathy deficits, callous‐unemotional traits and structural underpinnings in autism spectrum disorder and conduct disorder youth. Autism Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1002/aur.2993.
AbstractDistinct empathy deficits are often described in patients with conduct disorder (CD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) yet their neural underpinnings and the influence of comorbid Callous-Unemotional (CU) traits are unclear. This study compares the cognitive (CE) and affective empathy (AE) abilities of youth with CD and ASD, their potential neuroanatomical correlates, and the influence of CU traits on empathy. Adolescents and parents/caregivers completed empathy questionnaires (N = 148 adolescents, mean age = 15.16 years) and T1 weighted images were obtained from a subsample (N = 130). Group differences in empathy and the influence of CU traits were investigated using Bayesian analyses and Voxel-Based Morphometry with Threshold-Free Cluster Enhancement focusing on regions involved in AE (insula, amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus and cingulate cortex) and CE processes (ventromedial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal junction, superior temporal gyrus, and precuneus). The ASD group showed lower parent-reported AE and CE scores and lower self-reported CE scores while the CD group showed lower parent-reported CE scores than controls. When accounting for the influence of CU traits no AE deficits in ASD and CE deficits in CD were found, but CE deficits in ASD remained. Across all participants, CU traits were negatively associated with gray matter volumes in anterior cingulate which extends into the mid cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and precuneus. Thus, although co-occurring CU traits have been linked to global empathy deficits in reports and underlying brain structures, its influence on empathy aspects might be disorder-specific. Investigating the subdimensions of empathy may therefore help to identify disorder-specific empathy deficits.
Uluşahin, O., Bosker, H. R., McQueen, J. M., & Meyer, A. S. (2023). No evidence for convergence to sub-phonemic F2 shifts in shadowing. In R. Skarnitzl, & J. Volín (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2023) (pp. 96-100). Prague: Guarant International.
AbstractOver the course of a conversation, interlocutors sound more and more like each other in a process called convergence. However, the automaticity and grain size of convergence are not well established. This study therefore examined whether female native Dutch speakers converge to large yet sub-phonemic shifts in the F2 of the vowel /e/. Participants first performed a short reading task to establish baseline F2s for the vowel /e/, then shadowed 120 target words (alongside 360 fillers) which contained one instance of a manipulated vowel /e/ where the F2 had been shifted down to that of the vowel /ø/. Consistent exposure to large (sub-phonemic) downward shifts in F2 did not result in convergence. The results raise issues for theories which view convergence as a product of automatic integration between perception and production.
van der Burght, C. L., Numssen, O., Schlaak, B., Goucha, T., & Hartwigsen, G. (2023). Differential contributions of inferior frontal gyrus subregions to sentence processing guided by intonation. Human Brain Mapping, 44(2), 585-598. doi:10.1002/hbm.26086.
AbstractAuditory sentence comprehension involves processing content (semantics), grammar (syntax), and intonation (prosody). The left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) is involved in sentence comprehension guided by these different cues, with neuroimaging studies preferentially locating syntactic and semantic processing in separate IFG subregions. However, this regional specialisation and its functional relevance has yet to be confirmed. This study probed the role of the posterior IFG (pIFG) for syntactic processing and the anterior IFG (aIFG) for semantic processing with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in a task that required the interpretation of the sentence’s prosodic realisation. Healthy participants performed a sentence completion task with syntactic and semantic decisions, while receiving 10 Hz rTMS over either left aIFG, pIFG, or vertex (control). Initial behavioural analyses showed an inhibitory effect on accuracy without task-specificity. However, electrical field simulations revealed differential effects for both subregions. In the aIFG, stronger stimulation led to slower semantic processing, with no effect of pIFG stimulation. In contrast, we found a facilitatory effect on syntactic processing in both aIFG and pIFG, where higher stimulation strength was related to faster responses. Our results provide first evidence for the functional relevance of left aIFG in semantic processing guided by intonation. The stimulation effect on syntactic responses emphasises the importance of the IFG for syntax processing, without supporting the hypothesis of a pIFG-specific involvement. Together, the results support the notion of functionally specialised IFG subregions for diverse but fundamental cues for language processing.
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Bai, F., Meyer, A. S., & Martin, A. E. (2022). Neural dynamics differentially encode phrases and sentences during spoken language comprehension. PLoS Biology, 20(7): e3001713. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001713.
AbstractHuman language stands out in the natural world as a biological signal that uses a structured system to combine the meanings of small linguistic units (e.g., words) into larger constituents (e.g., phrases and sentences). However, the physical dynamics of speech (or sign) do not stand in a one-to-one relationship with the meanings listeners perceive. Instead, listeners infer meaning based on their knowledge of the language. The neural readouts of the perceptual and cognitive processes underlying these inferences are still poorly understood. In the present study, we used scalp electroencephalography (EEG) to compare the neural response to phrases (e.g., the red vase) and sentences (e.g., the vase is red), which were close in semantic meaning and had been synthesized to be physically indistinguishable. Differences in structure were well captured in the reorganization of neural phase responses in delta (approximately <2 Hz) and theta bands (approximately 2 to 7 Hz),and in power and power connectivity changes in the alpha band (approximately 7.5 to 13.5 Hz). Consistent with predictions from a computational model, sentences showed more power, more power connectivity, and more phase synchronization than phrases did. Theta–gamma phase–amplitude coupling occurred, but did not differ between the syntactic structures. Spectral–temporal response function (STRF) modeling revealed different encoding states for phrases and sentences, over and above the acoustically driven neural response. Our findings provide a comprehensive description of how the brain encodes and separates linguistic structures in the dynamics of neural responses. They imply that phase synchronization and strength of connectivity are readouts for the constituent structure of language. The results provide a novel basis for future neurophysiological research on linguistic structure representation in the brain, and, together with our simulations, support time-based binding as a mechanism of structure encoding in neural dynamics.
Bosker, H. R. (2022). Evidence for selective adaptation and recalibration in the perception of lexical stress. Language and Speech, 65(2), 472-490. doi:10.1177/00238309211030307.
AbstractIndividuals vary in how they produce speech. This variability affects both the segments (vowels and consonants) and the suprasegmental properties of their speech (prosody). Previous literature has demonstrated that listeners can adapt to variability in how different talkers pronounce the segments of speech. This study shows that listeners can also adapt to variability in how talkers produce lexical stress. Experiment 1 demonstrates a selective adaptation effect in lexical stress perception: repeatedly hearing Dutch trochaic words biased perception of a subsequent lexical stress continuum towards more iamb responses. Experiment 2 demonstrates a recalibration effect in lexical stress perception: when ambiguous suprasegmental cues to lexical stress were disambiguated by lexical orthographic context as signaling a trochaic word in an exposure phase, Dutch participants categorized a subsequent test continuum as more trochee-like. Moreover, the selective adaptation and recalibration effects generalized to novel words, not encountered during exposure. Together, the experiments demonstrate that listeners also flexibly adapt to variability in the suprasegmental properties of speech, thus expanding our understanding of the utility of listener adaptation in speech perception. Moreover, the combined outcomes speak for an architecture of spoken word recognition involving abstract prosodic representations at a prelexical level of analysis.
Brehm, L., Cho, P. W., Smolensky, P., & Goldrick, M. A. (2022). PIPS: A parallel planning model of sentence production. Cognitive Science, 46(2): e13079. doi:10.1111/cogs.13079.
AbstractSubject–verb agreement errors are common in sentence production. Many studies have used experimental paradigms targeting the production of subject–verb agreement from a sentence preamble (The key to the cabinets) and eliciting verb errors (… *were shiny). Through reanalysis of previous data (50 experiments; 102,369 observations), we show that this paradigm also results in many errors in preamble repetition, particularly of local noun number (The key to the *cabinet). We explore the mechanisms of both errors in parallelism in producing syntax (PIPS), a model in the Gradient Symbolic Computation framework. PIPS models sentence production using a continuous-state stochastic dynamical system that optimizes grammatical constraints (shaped by previous experience) over vector representations of symbolic structures. At intermediate stages in the computation, grammatical constraints allow multiple competing parses to be partially activated, resulting in stable but transient conjunctive blend states. In the context of the preamble completion task, memory constraints reduce the strength of the target structure, allowing for co-activation of non-target parses where the local noun controls the verb (notional agreement and locally agreeing relative clauses) and non-target parses that include structural constituents with contrasting number specifications (e.g., plural instead of singular local noun). Simulations of the preamble completion task reveal that these partially activated non-target parses, as well the need to balance accurate encoding of lexical and syntactic aspects of the prompt, result in errors. In other words: Because sentence processing is embedded in a processor with finite memory and prior experience with production, interference from non-target production plans causes errors.
Brehm, L., & Alday, P. M. (2022). Contrast coding choices in a decade of mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language, 125: 104334. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2022.104334.
AbstractContrast coding in regression models, including mixed-effect models, changes what the terms in the model mean.
In particular, it determines whether or not model terms should be interpreted as main effects. This paper
highlights how opaque descriptions of contrast coding have affected the field of psycholinguistics. We begin with
a reproducible example in R using simulated data to demonstrate how incorrect conclusions can be made from
mixed models; this also serves as a primer on contrast coding for statistical novices. We then present an analysis
of 3384 papers from the field of psycholinguistics that we coded based upon whether a clear description of
contrast coding was present. This analysis demonstrates that the majority of the psycholinguistic literature does
not transparently describe contrast coding choices, posing an important challenge to reproducibility and replicability in our field.
He, J., Brehm, L., & Zhang, Q. (2022). Dissociation of writing processes: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study on the neural substrates for the handwritten production of Chinese characters. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 34(12), 2320-2340. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01911.
AbstractWriting is an important way to communicate in everyday life because it can convey information over time and space, but its neural substrates remain poorly known. Although the neural basis of written language production has been investigated in alphabetic scripts, it has rarely been examined in nonalphabetic languages such as Chinese. The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study explored the neural substrates of handwritten word production in Chinese and identified the brain regions sensitive to the psycholinguistic factors of word frequency and syllable frequency. To capture this, we contrasted neural activation in “writing” with “speaking plus drawing” and “watching plus drawing.” Word frequency (high, low) and syllable frequency (high, low) of the picture names were manipulated. Contrasts between the tasks showed that writing Chinese characters was mainly associated with brain activation in the left frontal and parietal cortex, whereas orthographic processing and the motor procedures necessary for handwritten production were also related to activation in the right frontal and parietal cortex as well as right putamen/thalamus. These results demonstrate that writing Chinese characters requires activation in bilateral cortical regions and the right putamen/thalamus. Our results also revealed no brain activation associated with the main effects of word frequency and syllable frequency as well as their interaction, which implies that word frequency and syllable frequency may not affect the writing of Chinese characters on a neural level.
Bujok, R., Meyer, A. S., & Bosker, H. R. (2022). Visible lexical stress cues on the face do not influence audiovisual speech perception. In S. Frota, M. Cruz, & M. Vigário (
Eds.), Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2022 (pp. 259-263). doi:10.21437/SpeechProsody.2022-53.
AbstractProducing lexical stress leads to visible changes on the face, such as longer duration and greater size of the opening of the mouth. Research suggests that these visual cues alone can inform participants about which syllable carries stress (i.e., lip-reading silent videos). This study aims to determine the influence of visual articulatory cues on lexical stress perception in more naturalistic audiovisual settings. Participants were presented with seven disyllabic, Dutch minimal stress pairs (e.g., VOORnaam [first name] & voorNAAM [respectable]) in audio-only (phonetic lexical stress continua without video), video-only (lip-reading silent videos), and audiovisual trials (e.g., phonetic lexical stress continua with video of talker saying VOORnaam or voorNAAM). Categorization data from video-only trials revealed that participants could distinguish the minimal pairs above chance from seeing the silent videos alone. However, responses in the audiovisual condition did not differ from the audio-only condition. We thus conclude that visual lexical stress information on the face, while clearly perceivable, does not play a major role in audiovisual speech perception. This study demonstrates that clear unimodal effects do not always generalize to more naturalistic multimodal communication, advocating that speech prosody is best considered in multimodal settings.
Cao, Y., Oostenveld, R., Alday, P. M., & Piai, V. (2022). Are alpha and beta oscillations spatially dissociated over the cortex in context‐driven spoken‐word production? Psychophysiology, 59(6): e13999. doi:10.1111/psyp.13999.
AbstractDecreases in oscillatory alpha- and beta-band power have been consistently found in spoken-word production. These have been linked to both motor preparation and conceptual-lexical retrieval processes. However, the observed power decreases have a broad frequency range that spans two “classic” (sensorimotor) bands: alpha and beta. It remains unclear whether alpha- and beta-band power decreases contribute independently when a spoken word is planned. Using a re-analysis of existing magnetoencephalography data, we probed whether the effects in alpha and beta bands are spatially distinct. Participants read a sentence that was either constraining or non-constraining toward the final word, which was presented as a picture. In separate blocks participants had to name the picture or score its predictability via button press. Irregular-resampling auto-spectral analysis (IRASA) was used to isolate the oscillatory activity in the alpha and beta bands from the background 1-over-f spectrum. The sources of alpha- and beta-band oscillations were localized based on the participants’ individualized peak frequencies. For both tasks, alpha- and beta-power decreases overlapped in left posterior temporal and inferior parietal cortex, regions that have previously been associated with conceptual and lexical processes. The spatial distributions of the alpha and beta power effects were spatially similar in these regions to the extent we could assess it. By contrast, for left frontal regions, the spatial distributions differed between alpha and beta effects. Our results suggest that for conceptual-lexical retrieval, alpha and beta oscillations do not dissociate spatially and, thus, are distinct from the classical sensorimotor alpha and beta oscillations.
Corps, R. E., Brooke, C., & Pickering, M. (2022). Prediction involves two stages: Evidence from visual-world eye-tracking. Journal of Memory and Language, 122: 104298. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2021.104298.
AbstractComprehenders often predict what they are going to hear. But do they make the best predictions possible? We addressed this question in three visual-world eye-tracking experiments by asking when comprehenders consider perspective. Male and female participants listened to male and female speakers producing sentences (e.g., I would like to wear the nice…) about stereotypically masculine (target: tie; distractor: drill) and feminine (target: dress, distractor: hairdryer) objects. In all three experiments, participants rapidly predicted semantic associates of the verb. But participants also predicted consistently – that is, consistent with their beliefs about what the speaker would ultimately say. They predicted consistently from the speaker’s perspective in Experiment 1, their own perspective in Experiment 2, and the character’s perspective in Experiment 3. This consistent effect occurred later than the associative effect. We conclude that comprehenders consider perspective when predicting, but not from the earliest moments of prediction, consistent with a two-stage account.
Additional informationdata and analysis scripts
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.
AbstractCorpus 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.
Creemers, A., & Embick, D. (2022). The role of semantic transparency in the processing of spoken compound words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 48(5), 734-751. doi:10.1037/xlm0001132.
AbstractThe question of whether lexical decomposition is driven by semantic transparency in the lexical processing of morphologically complex words, such as compounds, remains controversial. Prior research on compound processing has predominantly examined visual processing. Focusing instead on spoken word word recognition, the present study examined the processing of auditorily presented English compounds that were semantically transparent (e.g., farmyard) or partially opaque with an opaque head (e.g., airline) or opaque modifier (e.g., pothole). Three auditory primed lexical decision experiments were run to examine to what extent constituent priming effects are affected by the semantic transparency of a compound and whether semantic transparency affects the processing of heads and modifiers equally. The results showed priming effects for both modifiers and heads regardless of their semantic transparency, indicating that individual constituents are accessed in transparent as well as opaque compounds. In addition, the results showed smaller priming effects for semantically opaque heads compared with matched transparent compounds with the same head. These findings suggest that semantically opaque heads induce an increased processing cost, which may result from the need to suppress the meaning of the head in favor of the meaning of the opaque compound.
Creemers, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2022). The processing of ambiguous pronominal reference is sensitive to depth of processing. Glossa Psycholinguistics, 1(1): 3. doi:10.5070/G601166.
AbstractPrevious studies on the processing of ambiguous pronominal reference have led to contradictory results: some suggested that ambiguity may hinder processing (Stewart, Holler, & Kidd, 2007), while others showed an ambiguity advantage (Grant, Sloggett, & Dillon, 2020) similar to what has been reported for structural ambiguities. This study provides a conceptual replication of Stewart et al. (2007, Experiment 1), to examine whether the discrepancy in earlier results is caused by the processing depth that participants engage in (cf. Swets, Desmet, Clifton, & Ferreira, 2008). We present the results from a word-by-word self-paced reading experiment with Dutch sentences that contained a personal pronoun in an embedded clause that was either ambiguous or disambiguated through gender features. Depth of processing of the embedded clause was manipulated through offline comprehension questions. The results showed that the difference in reading times for ambiguous versus unambiguous sentences depends on the processing depth: a significant ambiguity penalty was found under deep processing but not under shallow processing. No significant ambiguity advantage was found, regardless of processing depth. This replicates the results in Stewart et al. (2007) using a different methodology and a larger sample size for appropriate statistical power. These findings provide further evidence that ambiguous pronominal reference resolution is a flexible process, such that the way in which ambiguous sentences are processed depends on the depth of processing of the relevant information. Theoretical and methodological implications of these findings are discussed.
Additional informationexperimental stimuli, data, and analysis code
Embick, D., Creemers, A., & Goodwin Davies, A. J. (2022). Morphology and the mental lexicon: Three questions about decomposition. In A. Papafragou, J. C. Trueswell, & L. R. Gleitman (
Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Mental Lexicon (pp. 77-97). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
AbstractThe most basic question for the study of morphology and the mental lexicon is whether or not words are _decomposed_: informally, this is the question of whether words are represented (and processed) in terms of some kind of smaller units; that is, broken down into constituent parts. Formally, what it means to represent or process a word as decomposed or not turns out to be quite complex. One of the basic lines of division in the field classifies approaches according to whether they decompose all “complex” words (“Full Decomposition”), or none (“Full Listing”), or some but not all, according to some criterion (typical of “Dual-Route” models). However, if we are correct, there are at least three senses in which an approach might be said to be decompositional or not, with the result that ongoing discussions of what appears to be a single large issue might not always be addressing the same distinction. Put slightly differently, there is no single question of decomposition. Instead, there are independent but related questions that define current research. Our goal here is to identify this finer-grained set of questions, as they are the ones that should assume a central place in the study of morphological and lexical representation.
Frances, C., Navarra-Barindelli, E., & Martin, C. D. (2022). Speaker accent modulates the effects of orthographic and phonological similarity on auditory processing by learners of English. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.892822.
AbstractThe cognate effect refers to translation equivalents with similar form between languages—i.e., cognates, such as “band” (English) and “banda” (Spanish)—being processed faster than words with dissimilar forms—such as, “cloud” and “nube.” Substantive literature supports this claim, but is mostly based on orthographic similarity and tested in the visual modality. In a previous study, we found an inhibitory orthographic similarity effect in the auditory modality—i.e., greater orthographic similarity led to slower response times and reduced accuracy. The aim of the present study is to explain this effect. In doing so, we explore the role of the speaker's accent in auditory word recognition and whether native accents lead to a mismatch between the participants' phonological representation and the stimulus. Participants carried out a lexical decision task and a typing task in which they spelled out the word they heard. Words were produced by two speakers: one with a native English accent (Standard American) and the other with a non-native accent matching that of the participants (native Spanish speaker from Spain). We manipulated orthographic and phonological similarity orthogonally and found that accent did have some effect on both response time and accuracy as well as modulating the effects of similarity. Overall, the non-native accent improved performance, but it did not fully explain why high orthographic similarity items show an inhibitory effect in the auditory modality. Theoretical implications and future directions are discussed.
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.
AbstractPrevious 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.
Hintz, F., Voeten, C. C., McQueen, J. M., & Meyer, A. S. (2022). Quantifying the relationships between linguistic experience, general cognitive skills and linguistic processing skills. In J. Culbertson, A. Perfors, H. Rabagliati, & V. Ramenzoni (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2022) (pp. 2491-2496). Toronto, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractHumans differ greatly in their ability to use language. Contemporary psycholinguistic theories assume that individual differences in language skills arise from variability in linguistic experience and in general cognitive skills. While much previous research has tested the involvement of select verbal and non-verbal variables in select domains of linguistic processing, comprehensive characterizations of the relationships among the skills underlying language use are rare. We contribute to such a research program by re-analyzing a publicly available set of data from 112 young adults tested on 35 behavioral tests. The tests assessed nine key constructs reflecting linguistic processing skills, linguistic experience and general cognitive skills. Correlation and hierarchical clustering analyses of the test scores showed that most of the tests assumed to measure the same construct correlated moderately to strongly and largely clustered together. Furthermore, the results suggest important roles of processing speed in comprehension, and of linguistic experience in production.
Hintz, F., Voeten, C. C., & Scharenborg, O. (2022). Recognizing non-native spoken words in background noise increases interference from the native language. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02233-7.
AbstractListeners frequently recognize spoken words in the presence of background noise. Previous research has shown that noise reduces phoneme intelligibility and hampers spoken-word recognition—especially for non-native listeners. In the present study, we investigated how noise influences lexical competition in both the non-native and the native language, reflecting the degree to which both languages are co-activated. We recorded the eye movements of native Dutch participants as they listened to English sentences containing a target word while looking at displays containing four objects. On target-present trials, the visual referent depicting the target word was present, along with three unrelated distractors. On target-absent trials, the target object (e.g., wizard) was absent. Instead, the display contained an English competitor, overlapping with the English target in phonological onset (e.g., window), a Dutch competitor, overlapping with the English target in phonological onset (e.g., wimpel, pennant), and two unrelated distractors. Half of the sentences was masked by speech-shaped noise; the other half was presented in quiet. Compared to speech in quiet, noise delayed fixations to the target objects on target-present trials. For target-absent trials, we observed that the likelihood for fixation biases towards the English and Dutch onset competitors (over the unrelated distractors) was larger in noise than in quiet. Our data thus show that the presence of background noise increases lexical competition in the task-relevant non-native (English) and in the task-irrelevant native (Dutch) language. The latter reflects stronger interference of one’s native language during non-native spoken-word recognition under adverse conditions.
Additional informationtable 2 target-absent items
Huettig, F., Audring, J., & Jackendoff, R. (2022). A parallel architecture perspective on pre-activation and prediction in language processing. Cognition, 224: 105050. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105050.
AbstractA recent trend in psycholinguistic research has been to posit prediction as an essential function of language processing. The present paper develops a linguistic perspective on viewing prediction in terms of pre-activation. We describe what predictions are and how they are produced. Our basic premises are that (a) no prediction can be made without knowledge to support it; and (b) it is therefore necessary to characterize the precise form of that knowledge, as revealed by a suitable theory of linguistic representations. We describe the Parallel Architecture (PA: Jackendoff, 2002; Jackendoff and Audring, 2020), which makes explicit our commitments about linguistic representations, and we develop an account of processing based on these representations. Crucial to our account is that what have been traditionally treated as derivational rules of grammar are formalized by the PA as lexical items, encoded in the same format as words. We then present a theory of prediction in these terms: linguistic input activates lexical items whose beginning (or incipit) corresponds to the input encountered so far; and prediction amounts to pre-activation of the as yet unheard parts of those lexical items (the remainder). Thus the generation of predictions is a natural byproduct of processing linguistic representations. We conclude that the PA perspective on pre-activation provides a plausible account of prediction in language processing that bridges linguistic and psycholinguistic theorizing.
Karaminis, T., Hintz, F., & Scharenborg, O. (2022). The presence of background noise extends the competitor space in native and non-native spoken-word recognition: Insights from computational modeling. Cognitive Science, 46(2): e13110. doi:10.1111/cogs.13110.
AbstractOral communication often takes place in noisy environments, which challenge spoken-word recognition. Previous research has suggested that the presence of background noise extends the number of candidate words competing with the target word for recognition and that this extension affects the time course and accuracy of spoken-word recognition. In this study, we further investigated the temporal dynamics of competition processes in the presence of background noise, and how these vary in listeners with different language proficiency (i.e., native and non-native) using computational modeling. We developed ListenIN (Listen-In-Noise), a neural-network model based on an autoencoder architecture, which learns to map phonological forms onto meanings in two languages and simulates native and non-native spoken-word comprehension. Simulation A established that ListenIN captures the effects of noise on accuracy rates and the number of unique misperception errors of native and non-native listeners in an offline spoken-word identification task (Scharenborg et al., 2018). Simulation B showed that ListenIN captures the effects of noise in online task settings and accounts for looking preferences of native (Hintz & Scharenborg, 2016) and non-native (new data collected for this study) listeners in a visual-world paradigm. We also examined the model’s activation states during online spoken-word recognition. These analyses demonstrated that the presence of background noise increases the number of competitor words which are engaged in phonological competition and that this happens in similar ways intra- and interlinguistically and in native and non-native listening. Taken together, our results support accounts positing a ‘many-additional-competitors scenario’ for the effects of noise on spoken-word recognition.
Lee, R., Chambers, C. G., Huettig, F., & Ganea, P. A. (2022). Children’s and adults’ use of fictional discourse and semantic knowledge for prediction in language processing. PLoS One, 17(4): e0267297. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0267297.
AbstractUsing real-time eye-movement measures, we asked how a fantastical discourse context competes with stored representations of real-world events to influence the moment-by-moment interpretation of a story by 7-year-old children and adults. Seven-year-olds were less effective at bypassing stored real-world knowledge during real-time interpretation than adults. Our results suggest that children privilege stored semantic knowledge over situation-specific information presented in a fictional story context. We suggest that 7-year-olds’ canonical semantic and conceptual relations are sufficiently strongly rooted in statistical patterns in language that have consolidated over time that they overwhelm new and unexpected information even when the latter is fantastical and highly salient.
Additional informationData availability
Liu, Y., Hintz, F., Liang, J., & Huettig, F. (2022). Prediction in challenging situations: Most bilinguals can predict upcoming semantically-related words in their L1 source language when interpreting. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 25(5), 801-815. doi:10.1017/S1366728922000232.
AbstractPrediction is an important part of language processing. An open question is to what extent people predict language in challenging circumstances. Here we tested the limits of prediction by asking bilingual Dutch native speakers to interpret Dutch sentences into their English counterparts. In two visual world experiments, we recorded participants’ eye movements to co-present visual objects while they engaged in interpreting tasks (consecutive and simultaneous interpreting). Most participants showed anticipatory eye movements to semantically-related upcoming target words in their L1 source language during both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation. A quarter of participants during simultaneous interpretation however did not move their eyes, an extremely unusual participant behaviour in visual world studies. Overall, the findings suggest that most people predict in the source language under challenging interpreting situations. Further work is required to understand the causes of the absence of (anticipatory) eye movements during simultaneous interpretation in a substantial subset of individuals.
Menks, W. M., Ekerdt, C., Janzen, G., Kidd, E., Lemhöfer, K., Fernández, G., & McQueen, J. M. (2022). Study protocol: A comprehensive multi-method neuroimaging approach to disentangle developmental effects and individual differences in second language learning. BMC Psychology, 10: 169. doi:10.1186/s40359-022-00873-x.
While it is well established that second language (L2) learning success changes with age and across individuals, the underlying neural mechanisms responsible for this developmental shift and these individual differences are largely unknown. We will study the behavioral and neural factors that subserve new grammar and word learning in a large cross-sectional developmental sample. This study falls under the NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek [Dutch Research Council]) Language in Interaction consortium (website: https://www.languageininteraction.nl/).
We will sample 360 healthy individuals across a broad age range between 8 and 25 years. In this paper, we describe the study design and protocol, which involves multiple study visits covering a comprehensive behavioral battery and extensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocols. On the basis of these measures, we will create behavioral and neural fingerprints that capture age-based and individual variability in new language learning. The behavioral fingerprint will be based on first and second language proficiency, memory systems, and executive functioning. We will map the neural fingerprint for each participant using the following MRI modalities: T1‐weighted, diffusion-weighted, resting-state functional MRI, and multiple functional-MRI paradigms. With respect to the functional MRI measures, half of the sample will learn grammatical features and half will learn words of a new language. Combining all individual fingerprints allows us to explore the neural maturation effects on grammar and word learning.
This will be one of the largest neuroimaging studies to date that investigates the developmental shift in L2 learning covering preadolescence to adulthood. Our comprehensive approach of combining behavioral and neuroimaging data will contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms influencing this developmental shift and individual differences in new language learning. We aim to answer: (I) do these fingerprints differ according to age and can these explain the age-related differences observed in new language learning? And (II) which aspects of the behavioral and neural fingerprints explain individual differences (across and within ages) in grammar and word learning? The results of this study provide a unique opportunity to understand how the development of brain structure and function influence new language learning success.
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.
AbstractIncreasing 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.
Additional informationdata, analysis scripts, and appendices
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.
AbstractThe 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.
Onnis, L., Lim, A., Cheung, S., & Huettig, F. (2022). Is the mind inherently predicting? Exploring forward and backward looking in language processing. Cognitive Science, 46(10): e13201. doi:10.1111/cogs.13201.
AbstractPrediction is one characteristic of the human mind. But what does it mean to say the mind is a ’prediction machine’ and inherently forward looking as is frequently claimed? In natural languages, many contexts are not easily predictable in a forward fashion. In English for example many frequent verbs do not carry unique meaning on their own, but instead rely on another word or words that follow them to become meaningful. Upon reading take a the processor often cannot easily predict walk as the next word. But the system can ‘look back’ and integrate walk more easily when it follows take a (e.g., as opposed to make|get|have a walk). In the present paper we provide further evidence for the importance of both forward and backward looking in language processing. In two self-paced reading tasks and an eye-tracking reading task, we found evidence that adult English native speakers’ sensitivity to word forward and backward conditional probability significantly explained variance in reading times over and above psycholinguistic predictors of reading latencies. We conclude that both forward and backward-looking (prediction and integration) appear to be important characteristics of language processing. Our results thus suggest that it makes just as much sense to call the mind an ’integration machine’ which is inherently backward looking.
Additional informationOpen Data and Open Materials
Reinisch, E., & Bosker, H. R. (2022). Encoding speech rate in challenging listening conditions: White noise and reverberation. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 84, 2303 -2318. doi:10.3758/s13414-022-02554-8.
AbstractTemporal contrasts in speech are perceived relative to the speech rate of the surrounding context. That is, following a fast context
sentence, listeners interpret a given target sound as longer than following a slow context, and vice versa. This rate effect, often
referred to as “rate-dependent speech perception,” has been suggested to be the result of a robust, low-level perceptual process,
typically examined in quiet laboratory settings. However, speech perception often occurs in more challenging listening condi-
tions. Therefore, we asked whether rate-dependent perception would be (partially) compromised by signal degradation relative to
a clear listening condition. Specifically, we tested effects of white noise and reverberation, with the latter specifically distorting
temporal information. We hypothesized that signal degradation would reduce the precision of encoding the speech rate in the
context and thereby reduce the rate effect relative to a clear context. This prediction was borne out for both types of degradation in
Experiment 1, where the context sentences but not the subsequent target words were degraded. However, in Experiment 2, which
compared rate effects when contexts and targets were coherent in terms of signal quality, no reduction of the rate effect was
found. This suggests that, when confronted with coherently degraded signals, listeners adapt to challenging listening situations,
eliminating the difference between rate-dependent perception in clear and degraded conditions. Overall, the present study
contributes towards understanding the consequences of different types of listening environments on the functioning of low-
level perceptual processes that listeners use during speech perception.
Additional informationData availability
Severijnen, G. G., Bosker, H. R., & McQueen, J. M. (2022). Acoustic correlates of Dutch lexical stress re-examined: Spectral tilt is not always more reliable than intensity. In S. Frota, M. Cruz, & M. Vigário (
Eds.), Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2022 (pp. 278-282). doi:10.21437/SpeechProsody.2022-57.
AbstractThe present study examined two acoustic cues in the production
of lexical stress in Dutch: spectral tilt and overall intensity.
Sluijter and Van Heuven (1996) reported that spectral tilt is a
more reliable cue to stress than intensity. However, that study
included only a small number of talkers (10) and only syllables
with the vowels /aː/ and /ɔ/.
The present study re-examined this issue in a larger and
more variable dataset. We recorded 38 native speakers of Dutch
(20 females) producing 744 tokens of Dutch segmentally
overlapping words (e.g., VOORnaam vs. voorNAAM, “first
name” vs. “respectable”), targeting 10 different vowels, in
variable sentence contexts. For each syllable, we measured
overall intensity and spectral tilt following Sluijter and Van
Results from Linear Discriminant Analyses showed that,
for the vowel /aː/ alone, spectral tilt showed an advantage over
intensity, as evidenced by higher stressed/unstressed syllable
classification accuracy scores for spectral tilt. However, when
all vowels were included in the analysis, the advantage
These findings confirm that spectral tilt plays a larger role
in signaling stress in Dutch /aː/ but show that, for a larger
sample of Dutch vowels, overall intensity and spectral tilt are
Strauß, A., Wu, T., McQueen, J. M., Scharenborg, O., & Hintz, F. (2022). The differential roles of lexical and sublexical processing during spoken-word recognition in clear and in noise. Cortex, 151, 70-88. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2022.02.011.
AbstractSuccessful spoken-word recognition relies on an interplay between lexical and sublexical processing. Previous research demonstrated that listeners readily shift between more lexically-biased and more sublexically-biased modes of processing in response to the situational context in which language comprehension takes place. Recognizing words in the presence of background noise reduces the perceptual evidence for the speech signal and – compared to the clear – results in greater uncertainty. It has been proposed that, when dealing with greater uncertainty, listeners rely more strongly on sublexical processing. The present study tested this proposal using behavioral and electroencephalography (EEG) measures. We reasoned that such an adjustment would be reflected in changes in the effects of variables predicting recognition performance with loci at lexical and sublexical levels, respectively. We presented native speakers of Dutch with words featuring substantial variability in (1) word frequency (locus at lexical level), (2) phonological neighborhood density (loci at lexical and sublexical levels) and (3) phonotactic probability (locus at sublexical level). Each participant heard each word in noise (presented at one of three signal-to-noise ratios) and in the clear and performed a two-stage lexical decision and transcription task while EEG was recorded. Using linear mixed-effects analyses, we observed behavioral evidence that listeners relied more strongly on sublexical processing when speech quality decreased. Mixed-effects modelling of the EEG signal in the clear condition showed that sublexical effects were reflected in early modulations of ERP components (e.g., within the first 300 ms post word onset). In noise, EEG effects occurred later and involved multiple regions activated in parallel. Taken together, we found evidence – especially in the behavioral data – supporting previous accounts that the presence of background noise induces a stronger reliance on sublexical processing.
Araújo, S., Huettig, F., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). What underlies the deficit in rapid automatized naming (RAN) in adults with dyslexia? Evidence from eye movements. Scientific Studies of Reading, 25(6), 534-549. doi:10.1080/10888438.2020.1867863.
AbstractThis eye-tracking study explored how phonological encoding and speech production planning for successive words are coordinated in adult readers with dyslexia (N = 22) and control readers (N = 25) during rapid automatized naming (RAN). Using an object-RAN task, we orthogonally manipulated the word-form frequency and phonological neighborhood density of the object names and assessed the effects on speech and eye movements and their temporal coordination. In both groups, there was a significant interaction between word frequency and neighborhood density: shorter fixations for dense than for sparse neighborhoods were observed for low-, but not for high-frequency words. This finding does not suggest a specific difficulty in lexical phonological access in dyslexia. However, in readers with dyslexia only, these lexical effects percolated to the late processing stages, indicated by longer offset eye-speech lags. We close by discussing potential reasons for this finding, including suboptimal specification of phonological representations and deficits in attention control or in multi-item coordination.
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.
AbstractLuria (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.
Bartolozzi, F., Jongman, S. R., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Concurrent speech planning does not eliminate repetition priming from spoken words: Evidence from linguistic dual-tasking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 47(3), 466-480. doi:10.1037/xlm0000944.
AbstractIn conversation, production and comprehension processes may overlap, causing interference. In 3 experiments, we investigated whether repetition priming can work as a supporting device, reducing costs associated with linguistic dual-tasking. Experiment 1 established the rate of decay of repetition priming from spoken words to picture naming for primes embedded in sentences. Experiments 2 and 3 investigated whether the rate of decay was faster when participants comprehended the prime while planning to name unrelated pictures. In all experiments, the primed picture followed the sentences featuring the prime on the same trial, or 10 or 50 trials later. The results of the 3 experiments were strikingly similar: robust repetition priming was observed when the primed picture followed the prime sentence. Thus, repetition priming was observed even when the primes were processed while the participants prepared an unrelated spoken utterance. Priming might, therefore, support utterance planning in conversation, where speakers routinely listen while planning their utterances.
Bosker, H. R. (2021). Using fuzzy string matching for automated assessment of listener transcripts in speech intelligibility studies. Behavior Research Methods, 53(5), 1945-1953. doi:10.3758/s13428-021-01542-4.
AbstractMany studies of speech perception assess the intelligibility of spoken sentence stimuli by means
of transcription tasks (‘type out what you hear’). The intelligibility of a given stimulus is then often
expressed in terms of percentage of words correctly reported from the target sentence. Yet scoring
the participants’ raw responses for words correctly identified from the target sentence is a time-
consuming task, and hence resource-intensive. Moreover, there is no consensus among speech
scientists about what specific protocol to use for the human scoring, limiting the reliability of
human scores. The present paper evaluates various forms of fuzzy string matching between
participants’ responses and target sentences, as automated metrics of listener transcript accuracy.
We demonstrate that one particular metric, the Token Sort Ratio, is a consistent, highly efficient,
and accurate metric for automated assessment of listener transcripts, as evidenced by high
correlations with human-generated scores (best correlation: r = 0.940) and a strong relationship to
acoustic markers of speech intelligibility. Thus, fuzzy string matching provides a practical tool for
assessment of listener transcript accuracy in large-scale speech intelligibility studies. See
https://tokensortratio.netlify.app for an online implementation.
Bosker, H. R., Badaya, E., & Corley, M. (2021). Discourse markers activate their, like, cohort competitors. Discourse Processes, 58(9), 837-851. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2021.1924000.
AbstractSpeech in everyday conversations is riddled with discourse markers (DMs), such as well, you know, and like. However, in many lab-based studies of speech comprehension, such DMs are typically absent from the carefully articulated and highly controlled speech stimuli. As such, little is known about how these DMs influence online word recognition. The present study specifically investigated the online processing of DM like and how it influences the activation of words in the mental lexicon. We specifically targeted the cohort competitor (CC) effect in the Visual World Paradigm: Upon hearing spoken instructions to “pick up the beaker,” human listeners also typically fixate—next to the target object—referents that overlap phonologically with the target word (cohort competitors such as beetle; CCs). However, several studies have argued that CC effects are constrained by syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and discourse constraints. Therefore, the present study investigated whether DM like influences online word recognition by activating its cohort competitors (e.g., lightbulb). In an eye-tracking experiment using the Visual World Paradigm, we demonstrate that when participants heard spoken instructions such as “Now press the button for the, like … unicycle,” they showed anticipatory looks to the CC referent (lightbulb)well before hearing the target. This CC effect was sustained for a relatively long period of time, even despite hearing disambiguating information (i.e., the /k/ in like). Analysis of the reaction times also showed that participants were significantly faster to select CC targets (lightbulb) when preceded by DM like. These findings suggest that seemingly trivial DMs, such as like, activate their CCs, impacting online word recognition. Thus, we advocate a more holistic perspective on spoken language comprehension in naturalistic communication, including the processing of DMs.
Bosker, H. R., & Peeters, D. (2021). Beat gestures influence which speech sounds you hear. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288: 20202419. doi:10.1098/rspb.2020.2419.
AbstractBeat gestures—spontaneously produced biphasic movements of the hand—
are among the most frequently encountered co-speech gestures in human
communication. They are closely temporally aligned to the prosodic charac-
teristics of the speech signal, typically occurring on lexically stressed
syllables. Despite their prevalence across speakers of the world’s languages,
how beat gestures impact spoken word recognition is unclear. Can these
simple ‘flicks of the hand’ influence speech perception? Across a range
of experiments, we demonstrate that beat gestures influence the explicit
and implicit perception of lexical stress (e.g. distinguishing OBject from
obJECT), and in turn can influence what vowels listeners hear. Thus, we pro-
vide converging evidence for a manual McGurk effect: relatively simple and
widely occurring hand movements influence which speech sounds we hear
Additional informationexample stimuli and experimental data
Bosker, H. R. (2021). The contribution of amplitude modulations in speech to perceived charisma. In B. Weiss, J. Trouvain, M. Barkat-Defradas, & J. J. Ohala (
Eds.), Voice attractiveness: Prosody, phonology and phonetics (pp. 165-181). Singapore: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-6627-1_10.
AbstractSpeech contains pronounced amplitude modulations in the 1–9 Hz range, correlating with the syllabic rate of speech. Recent models of speech perception propose that this rhythmic nature of speech is central to speech recognition and has beneficial effects on language processing. Here, we investigated the contribution of amplitude modulations to the subjective impression listeners have of public speakers. The speech from US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the three TV debates of 2016 was acoustically analyzed by means of modulation spectra. These indicated that Clinton’s speech had more pronounced amplitude modulations than Trump’s speech, particularly in the 1–9 Hz range. A subsequent perception experiment, with listeners rating the perceived charisma of (low-pass filtered versions of) Clinton’s and Trump’s speech, showed that more pronounced amplitude modulations (i.e., more ‘rhythmic’ speech) increased perceived charisma ratings. These outcomes highlight the important contribution of speech rhythm to charisma perception.
Brehm, L., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Planning when to say: Dissociating cue use in utterance initiation using cross-validation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(9), 1772-1799. doi:10.1037/xge0001012.
AbstractIn conversation, turns follow each other with minimal gaps. To achieve this, speakers must launch their utterances shortly before the predicted end of the partner’s turn. We examined the relative importance of cues to partner utterance content and partner utterance length for launching coordinated speech. In three experiments, Dutch adult participants had to produce prepared utterances (e.g., vier, “four”) immediately after a recording of a confederate’s utterance (zeven, “seven”). To assess the role of corepresenting content versus attending to speech cues in launching coordinated utterances, we varied whether the participant could see the stimulus being named by the confederate, the confederate prompt’s length, and whether within a block of trials, the confederate prompt’s length was predictable. We measured how these factors affected the gap between turns and the participants’ allocation of visual attention while preparing to speak. Using a machine-learning technique, model selection by k-fold cross-validation, we found that gaps were most strongly predicted by cues from the confederate speech signal, though some benefit was also conferred by seeing the confederate’s stimulus. This shows that, at least in a simple laboratory task, speakers rely more on cues in the partner’s speech than corepresentation of their utterance content.
Brehm, L., Jackson, C. N., & Miller, K. L. (2021). Probabilistic online processing of sentence anomalies. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(8), 959-983. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1900579.
AbstractListeners can successfully interpret the intended meaning of an utterance even when it contains errors or other unexpected anomalies. The present work combines an online measure of attention to sentence referents (visual world eye-tracking) with offline judgments of sentence meaning to disclose how the interpretation of anomalous sentences unfolds over time in order to explore mechanisms of non-literal processing. We use a metalinguistic judgment in Experiment 1 and an elicited imitation task in Experiment 2. In both experiments, we focus on one morphosyntactic anomaly (Subject-verb agreement; The key to the cabinets literally *were … ) and one semantic anomaly (Without; Lulu went to the gym without her hat ?off) and show that non-literal referents to each are considered upon hearing the anomalous region of the sentence. This shows that listeners understand anomalies by overwriting or adding to an initial interpretation and that this occurs incrementally and adaptively as the sentence unfolds.
Creemers, A., & Embick, D. (2021). Retrieving stem meanings in opaque words during auditory lexical processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(9), 1107-1122. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1909085.
AbstractRecent constituent priming experiments show that Dutch and German prefixed verbs prime their stem, regardless of semantic transparency (e.g. Smolka et al. [(2014). ‘Verstehen’ (‘understand’) primes ‘stehen’ (‘stand’): Morphological structure overrides semantic compositionality in the lexical representation of German complex verbs. Journal of Memory and Language, 72, 16–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2013.12.002]). We examine whether the processing of opaque verbs (e.g. herhalen “repeat”) involves the retrieval of only the whole-word meaning, or whether the lexical-semantic meaning of the stem (halen as “take/get”) is retrieved as well. We report the results of an auditory semantic priming experiment with Dutch prefixed verbs, testing whether the recognition of a semantic associate to the stem (BRENGEN “bring”) is facilitated by the presentation of an opaque prefixed verb. In contrast to prior visual studies, significant facilitation after semantically opaque primes is found, which suggests that the lexical-semantic meaning of stems in opaque words is retrieved. We examine the implications that these findings have for auditory word recognition, and for the way in which different types of meanings are represented and processed.
Decuyper, C., Brysbaert, M., Brodeur, M. B., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Bank of Standardized Stimuli (BOSS): Dutch names for 1400 photographs. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 33. doi:10.5334/joc.180.
AbstractWe present written naming norms from 153 young adult Dutch speakers for 1397 photographs (the BOSS set; see Brodeur, Dionne-Dostie, Montreuil, & Lepage, 2010; Brodeur, Guérard, & Bouras, 2014). From the norming study, we report the preferred (modal) name, alternative names, name agreement, and average object agreement. In addition, the data base includes Zipf frequency, word prevalence and Age of Acquisition for the modal picture names collected. Furthermore, we describe a subset of 359 photographs with very good name agreement and a subset of 35 photos with two common names. These sets may be particularly valuable for designing experiments. Though the participants typed the object names, comparisons with other datasets indicate that the collected norms are valuable for spoken naming studies as well.
Eviatar, Z., & Huettig, F. (
Eds.). (2021). Literacy and writing systems [Special Issue]. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science.
Favier, S., & Huettig, F. (2021). Are there core and peripheral syntactic structures? Experimental evidence from Dutch native speakers with varying literacy levels. Lingua, 251: 102991. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2020.102991.
AbstractSome theorists posit the existence of a ‘core’ grammar that virtually all native speakers acquire, and a ‘peripheral’ grammar that many do not. We investigated the viability of such a categorical distinction in the Dutch language. We first consulted linguists’ intuitions as to the ‘core’ or ‘peripheral’ status of a wide range of grammatical structures. We then tested a selection of core- and peripheral-rated structures on naïve participants with varying levels of literacy experience, using grammaticality judgment as a proxy for receptive knowledge. Overall, participants demonstrated better knowledge of ‘core’ structures than ‘peripheral’ structures, but the considerable variability within these categories was strongly suggestive of a continuum rather than a categorical distinction between them. We also hypothesised that individual differences in the knowledge of core and peripheral structures would reflect participants’ literacy experience. This was supported only by a small trend in our data. The results fit best with the notion that more frequent syntactic structures are mastered by more people than infrequent ones and challenge the received sense of a categorical core-periphery distinction.
Favier, S., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2021). Literacy can enhance syntactic prediction in spoken language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(10), 2167-2174. doi:10.1037/xge0001042.
AbstractLanguage comprehenders can use syntactic cues to generate predictions online about upcoming language. Previous research with reading-impaired adults and healthy, low-proficiency adult and child learners suggests that reading skills are related to prediction in spoken language comprehension. Here we investigated whether differences in literacy are also related to predictive spoken language processing in non-reading-impaired proficient adult readers with varying levels of literacy experience. Using the visual world paradigm enabled us to measure prediction based on syntactic cues in the spoken sentence, prior to the (predicted) target word. Literacy experience was found to be the strongest predictor of target anticipation, independent of general cognitive abilities. These findings suggest that a) experience with written language can enhance syntactic prediction of spoken language in normal adult language users, and b) processing skills can be transferred to related tasks (from reading to listening) if the domains involve similar processes (e.g., predictive dependencies) and representations (e.g., syntactic).
Additional informationOnline supplementary material
Favier, S., & Huettig, F. (2021). Long-term written language experience affects grammaticality judgments and usage but not priming of spoken sentences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(8), 1378-1395. doi:10.1177/17470218211005228.
Abstract‘Book language’ offers a richer linguistic experience than typical conversational speech in terms of its syntactic properties. Here, we investigated the role of long-term syntactic experience on syntactic knowledge and processing. In a pre-registered study with 161 adult native Dutch speakers with varying levels of literacy, we assessed the contribution of individual differences in written language experience to offline and online syntactic processes. Offline syntactic knowledge was assessed as accuracy in an auditory grammaticality judgment task in which we tested violations of four Dutch grammatical norms. Online syntactic processing was indexed by syntactic priming of the Dutch dative alternation, using a comprehension-to-production priming paradigm with auditory presentation. Controlling for the contribution of non-verbal IQ, verbal working memory, and processing speed, we observed a robust effect of literacy experience on the detection of grammatical norm violations in spoken sentences, suggesting that exposure to the syntactic complexity and diversity of written language has specific benefits for general (modality-independent) syntactic knowledge. We replicated previous results by finding robust comprehension-to-production structural priming, both with and without lexical overlap between prime and target. Although literacy experience affected the usage of syntactic alternates in our large sample, it did not modulate their priming. We conclude that amount of experience with written language increases explicit awareness of grammatical norm violations and changes the usage of (PO vs. DO) dative spoken sentences but has no detectable effect on their implicit syntactic priming in proficient language users. These findings constrain theories about the effect of long-term experience on syntactic processing.
Fernandes, T., Arunkumar, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). The role of the written script in shaping mirror-image discrimination: Evidence from illiterate, Tamil literate, and Tamil-Latin-alphabet bi-literate adults. Cognition, 206: 104493. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104493.
AbstractLearning a script with mirrored graphs (e.g., d ≠ b) requires overcoming the evolutionary-old perceptual tendency to process mirror images as equivalent. Thus, breaking mirror invariance offers an important tool for understanding cultural re-shaping of evolutionarily ancient cognitive mechanisms. Here we investigated the role of script (i.e., presence vs. absence of mirrored graphs: Latin alphabet vs. Tamil) by revisiting mirror-image processing by illiterate, Tamil monoliterate, and Tamil-Latin-alphabet bi-literate adults. Participants performed two same-different tasks (one orientation-based, another shape-based) on Latin-alphabet letters. Tamil monoliterate were significantly better than illiterate and showed good explicit mirror-image discrimination. However, only bi-literate adults fully broke mirror invariance: slower shape-based judgments for mirrored than identical pairs and reduced disadvantage in orientation-based over shape-based judgments of mirrored pairs. These findings suggest learning a script with mirrored graphs is the strongest force for breaking mirror invariance.
Fisher, N., Hadley, L., Corps, R. E., & Pickering, M. (2021). The effects of dual-task interference in predicting turn-ends in speech and music. Brain Research, 1768: 147571. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147571.
AbstractDetermining when a partner’s spoken or musical turn will end requires well-honed predictive abilities. Evidence suggests that our motor systems are activated during perception of both speech and music, and it has been argued that motor simulation is used to predict turn-ends across domains. Here we used a dual-task interference paradigm to investigate whether motor simulation of our partner’s action underlies our ability to make accurate turn-end predictions in speech and in music. Furthermore, we explored how specific this simulation is to the action being predicted. We conducted two experiments, one investigating speech turn-ends, and one investigating music turn-ends. In each, 34 proficient pianists predicted turn-endings while (1) passively listening, (2) producing an effector-specific motor activity (mouth/hand movement), or (3) producing a task- and effector-specific motor activity (mouthing words/fingering a piano melody). In the speech experiment, any movement during speech perception disrupted predictions of spoken turn-ends, whether the movement was task-specific or not. In the music experiment, only task-specific movement (i.e., fingering a piano melody) disrupted predictions of musical turn-ends. These findings support the use of motor simulation to make turn-end predictions in both speech and music but suggest that the specificity of this simulation may differ between domains.
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.
AbstractThe 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.
Hintz, F., Voeten, C. C., McQueen, J. M., & Scharenborg, O. (2021). The effects of onset and offset masking on the time course of non-native spoken-word recognition in noise. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & K. Teßmar-Raible (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2021) (pp. 133-139). Vienna: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractUsing the visual-word paradigm, the present study investigated the effects of word onset and offset masking on the time course of non-native spoken-word recognition in the presence of background noise. In two experiments, Dutch non-native listeners heard English target words, preceded by carrier sentences that were noise-free (Experiment 1) or contained intermittent noise (Experiment 2). Target words were either onset- or offset-masked or not masked at all. Results showed that onset masking delayed target word recognition more than offset masking did, suggesting that – similar to natives – non-native listeners strongly rely on word onset information during word recognition in noise.
Additional informationLink to Preprint on BioRxiv
Holler, J., Alday, P. M., Decuyper, C., Geiger, M., Kendrick, K. H., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Competition reduces response times in multiparty conversation. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 693124. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.693124.
AbstractNatural conversations are characterized by short transition times between turns. This holds in particular for multi-party conversations. The short turn transitions in everyday conversations contrast sharply with the much longer speech onset latencies observed in laboratory studies where speakers respond to spoken utterances. There are many factors that facilitate speech production in conversational compared to laboratory settings. Here we highlight one of them, the impact of competition for turns. In multi-party conversations, speakers often compete for turns. In quantitative corpus analyses of multi-party conversation, the fastest response determines the recorded turn transition time. In contrast, in dyadic conversations such competition for turns is much less likely to arise, and in laboratory experiments with individual participants it does not arise at all. Therefore, all responses tend to be recorded. Thus, competition for turns may reduce the recorded mean turn transition times in multi-party conversations for a simple statistical reason: slow responses are not included in the means. We report two studies illustrating this point. We first report the results of simulations showing how much the response times in a laboratory experiment would be reduced if, for each trial, instead of recording all responses, only the fastest responses of several participants responding independently on the trial were recorded. We then present results from a quantitative corpus analysis comparing turn transition times in dyadic and triadic conversations. There was no significant group size effect in question-response transition times, where the present speaker often selects the next one, thus reducing competition between speakers. But, as predicted, triads showed shorter turn transition times than dyads for the remaining turn transitions, where competition for the floor was more likely to arise. Together, these data show that turn transition times in conversation should be interpreted in the context of group size, turn transition type, and social setting.
Hustá, C., Zheng, X., Papoutsi, C., & Piai, V. (2021). Electrophysiological signatures of conceptual and lexical retrieval from semantic memory. Neuropsychologia, 161: 107988. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107988.
AbstractRetrieval from semantic memory of conceptual and lexical information is essential for producing speech. It is unclear whether there are differences in the neural mechanisms of conceptual and lexical retrieval when spreading activation through semantic memory is initiated by verbal or nonverbal settings. The same twenty participants took part in two EEG experiments. The first experiment examined conceptual and lexical retrieval following nonverbal settings, whereas the second experiment was a replication of previous studies examining conceptual and lexical retrieval following verbal settings. Target pictures were presented after constraining and nonconstraining contexts. In the nonverbal settings, contexts were provided as two priming pictures (e.g., constraining: nest, feather; nonconstraining: anchor, lipstick; target picture: BIRD). In the verbal settings, contexts were provided as sentences (e.g., constraining: “The farmer milked a...”; nonconstraining: “The child drew a...”; target picture: COW). Target pictures were named faster following constraining contexts in both experiments, indicating that conceptual preparation starts before target picture onset in constraining conditions. In the verbal experiment, we replicated the alpha-beta power decreases in constraining relative to nonconstraining conditions before target picture onset. No such power decreases were found in the nonverbal experiment. Power decreases in constraining relative to nonconstraining conditions were significantly different between experiments. Our findings suggest that participants engage in conceptual preparation following verbal and nonverbal settings, albeit differently. The retrieval of a target word, initiated by verbal settings, is associated with alpha-beta power decreases. By contrast, broad conceptual preparation alone, prompted by nonverbal settings, does not seem enough to elicit alpha-beta power decreases. These findings have implications for theories of oscillations and semantic memory.
Janse, E., & Andringa, S. J. (2021). The roles of cognitive abilities and hearing acuity in older adults’ recognition of words taken from fast and spectrally reduced speech. Applied Psycholinguistics, 42(3), 763-790. doi:10.1017/S0142716421000047.
AbstractPrevious literature has identified several cognitive abilities as predictors of individual differences in speech perception. Working memory was chief among them, but effects have also been found for processing speed. Most research has been conducted on speech in noise, but fast and unclear articulation also makes listening challenging, particularly for older listeners. As a first step toward specifying the cognitive mechanisms underlying spoken word recognition, we set up this study to determine which factors explain unique variation in word identification accuracy in fast speech, and the extent to which this was affected by further degradation of the speech signal. To that end, 105 older adults were tested on identification accuracy of fast words in unaltered and degraded conditions in which the speech stimuli were low-pass filtered. They were also tested on processing speed, memory, vocabulary knowledge, and hearing sensitivity. A structural equation analysis showed that only memory and hearing sensitivity explained unique variance in word recognition in both listening conditions. Working memory was more strongly associated with performance in the unfiltered than in the filtered condition. These results suggest that memory skills, rather than speed, facilitate the mapping of single words onto stored lexical representations, particularly in conditions of medium difficulty.
Jongman, S. R., Khoe, Y. H., & Hintz, F. (2021). Vocabulary size influences spontaneous speech in native language users: Validating the use of automatic speech recognition in individual differences research. Language and Speech, 64(1), 35-51. doi:10.1177/0023830920911079.
AbstractPrevious research has shown that vocabulary size affects performance on laboratory word production tasks. Individuals who know many words show faster lexical access and retrieve more words belonging to pre-specified categories than individuals who know fewer words. The present study examined the relationship between receptive vocabulary size and speaking skills as assessed in a natural sentence production task. We asked whether measures derived from spontaneous responses to every-day questions correlate with the size of participants’ vocabulary. Moreover, we assessed the suitability of automatic speech recognition for the analysis of participants’ responses in complex language production data. We found that vocabulary size predicted indices of spontaneous speech: Individuals with a larger vocabulary produced more words and had a higher speech-silence ratio compared to individuals with a smaller vocabulary. Importantly, these relationships were reliably identified using manual and automated transcription methods. Taken together, our results suggest that spontaneous speech elicitation is a useful method to investigate natural language production and that automatic speech recognition can alleviate the burden of labor-intensive speech transcription.
Kapteijns, B., & Hintz, F. (2021). Comparing predictors of sentence self-paced reading times: Syntactic complexity versus transitional probability metrics. PLoS One, 16(7): e0254546. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0254546.
AbstractWhen estimating the influence of sentence complexity on reading, researchers typically opt for one of two main approaches: Measuring syntactic complexity (SC) or transitional probability (TP). Comparisons of the predictive power of both approaches have yielded mixed results. To address this inconsistency, we conducted a self-paced reading experiment. Participants read sentences of varying syntactic complexity. From two alternatives, we selected the set of SC and TP measures, respectively, that provided the best fit to the self-paced reading data. We then compared the contributions of the SC and TP measures to reading times when entered into the same model. Our results showed that both measures explained significant portions of variance in self-paced reading times. Thus, researchers aiming to measure sentence complexity should take both SC and TP into account. All of the analyses were conducted with and without control variables known to influence reading times (word/sentence length, word frequency and word position) to showcase how the effects of SC and TP change in the presence of the control variables.
Additional informationsupporting information
Karaca, F., Brouwer, S., Unsworth, S., & Huettig, F. (2021). Prediction in bilingual children: The missing piece of the puzzle. In E. Kaan, & T. Grüter (
Eds.), Prediction in Second Language Processing and Learning (pp. 116-137). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
AbstractA wealth of studies has shown that more proficient monolingual speakers are better at predicting upcoming information during language comprehension. Similarly, prediction skills of adult second language (L2) speakers in their L2 have also been argued to be modulated by their L2 proficiency. How exactly language proficiency and prediction are linked, however, is yet to be systematically investigated. One group of language users which has the potential to provide invaluable insights into this link is bilingual children. In this paper, we compare bilingual children’s prediction skills with those of monolingual children and adult L2 speakers, and show how investigating bilingual children’s prediction skills may contribute to our understanding of how predictive processing works.
He, J., Meyer, A. S., Creemers, A., & Brehm, L. (2021). Conducting language production research online: A web-based study of semantic context and name agreement effects in multi-word production. Collabra: Psychology, 7(1): 29935. doi:10.1525/collabra.29935.
AbstractFew web-based experiments have explored spoken language production, perhaps due to concerns of data quality, especially for measuring onset latencies. The present study highlights how speech production research can be done outside of the laboratory by measuring utterance durations and speech fluency in a multiple-object naming task when examining two effects related to lexical selection: semantic context and name agreement. A web-based modified blocked-cyclic naming paradigm was created, in which participants named a total of sixteen simultaneously presented pictures on each trial. The pictures were either four tokens from the same semantic category (homogeneous context), or four tokens from different semantic categories (heterogeneous context). Name agreement of the pictures was varied orthogonally (high, low). In addition to onset latency, five dependent variables were measured to index naming performance: accuracy, utterance duration, total pause time, the number of chunks (word groups pronounced without intervening pauses), and first chunk length. Bayesian analyses showed effects of semantic context and name agreement for some of the dependent measures, but no interaction. We discuss the methodological implications of the current study and make best practice recommendations for spoken language production research in an online environment.
He, J., Meyer, A. S., & Brehm, L. (2021). Concurrent listening affects speech planning and fluency: The roles of representational similarity and capacity limitation. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(10), 1258-1280. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1925130.
AbstractIn a novel continuous speaking-listening paradigm, we explored how speech planning was affected by concurrent listening. In Experiment 1, Dutch speakers named pictures with high versus low name agreement while ignoring Dutch speech, Chinese speech, or eight-talker babble. Both name agreement and type of auditory input influenced response timing and chunking, suggesting that representational similarity impacts lexical selection and the scope of advance planning in utterance generation. In Experiment 2, Dutch speakers named pictures with high or low name agreement while either ignoring Dutch words, or attending to them for a later memory test. Both name agreement and attention demand influenced response timing and chunking, suggesting that attention demand impacts lexical selection and the planned utterance units in each response. The study indicates that representational similarity and attention demand play important roles in linguistic dual-task interference, and the interference can be managed by adapting when and how to plan speech.
Onnis, L., & Huettig, F. (2021). Can prediction and retrodiction explain whether frequent multi-word phrases are accessed ’precompiled’ from memory or compositionally constructed on the fly? Brain Research, 1772: 147674. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147674.
AbstractAn important debate on the architecture of the language faculty has been the extent to which it relies on a compositional system that constructs larger units from morphemes to words to phrases to utterances on the fly and in real time using grammatical rules; or a system that chunks large preassembled, stored units of language from memory; or some combination of both approaches. Good empirical evidence exists for both ’computed’ and ’large stored’ forms in language, but little is known about what shapes multi-word storage / access or compositional processing. Here we explored whether predictive and retrodictive processes are a likely determinant of multi-word storage / processing. Our results suggest that forward and backward predictability are independently informative in determining the lexical cohesiveness of multi-word phrases. In addition, our results call for a reevaluation of the role of retrodiction in contemporary language processing accounts (cf. Ferreira and Chantavarin 2018).
Ota, M., San Jose, A., & Smith, K. (2021). The emergence of word-internal repetition through iterated learning: Explaining the mismatch between learning biases and language design. Cognition, 210: 104585. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104585.
AbstractThe idea that natural language is shaped by biases in learning plays a key role in our understanding of how human language is structured, but its corollary that there should be a correspondence between typological generalisations and ease of acquisition is not always supported. For example, natural languages tend to avoid close repetitions of consonants within a word, but developmental evidence suggests that, if anything, words containing sound repetitions are more, not less, likely to be acquired than those without. In this study, we use word-internal repetition as a test case to provide a cultural evolutionary explanation of when and how learning biases impact on language design. Two artificial language experiments showed that adult speakers possess a bias for both consonant and vowel repetitions when learning novel words, but the effects of this bias were observable in language transmission only when there was a relatively high learning pressure on the lexicon. Based on these results, we argue that whether the design of a language reflects biases in learning depends on the relative strength of pressures from learnability and communication efficiency exerted on the linguistic system during cultural transmission.
Hu, Y., Lv, Q., Pascual, E., Liang, J., & Huettig, F. (2021). Syntactic priming in illiterate and literate older Chinese adults. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 267-286. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00082-9.
AbstractDoes life-long literacy experience modulate syntactic priming in spoken language processing? Such a postulated influence is compatible with usage-based theories of language processing that propose that all linguistic skills are a function of accumulated experience with language across life. Here we investigated the effect of literacy experience on syntactic priming in Mandarin in sixty Chinese older adults from Hebei province. Thirty participants were completely illiterate and thirty were literate Mandarin speakers of similar age and socioeconomic background. We first observed usage differences: literates produced robustly more prepositional object (PO) constructions than illiterates. This replicates, with a different sample, language, and cultural background, previous findings that literacy experience affects (baseline) usage of PO and DO transitive alternates. We also observed robust syntactic priming for double-object (DO), but not prepositional-object (PO) dative alternations for both groups. The magnitude of this DO priming however was higher in literates than in illiterates. We also observed that cumulative adaptation in syntactic priming differed as a function of literacy. Cumulative syntactic priming in literates appears to be related mostly to comprehending others, whereas in illiterates it is also associated with repeating self-productions. Further research is needed to confirm this interpretation.
Raviv, L., De Heer Kloots, M., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). What makes a language easy to learn? A preregistered study on how systematic structure and community size affect language learnability. Cognition, 210: 104620. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104620.
AbstractCross-linguistic differences in morphological complexity could have important consequences for language learning. Specifically, it is often assumed that languages with more regular, compositional, and transparent grammars are easier to learn by both children and adults. Moreover, it has been shown that such grammars are more likely to evolve in bigger communities. Together, this suggests that some languages are acquired faster than others, and that this advantage can be traced back to community size and to the degree of systematicity in the language. However, the causal relationship between systematic linguistic structure and language learnability has not been formally tested, despite its potential importance for theories on language evolution, second language learning, and the origin of linguistic diversity. In this pre-registered study, we experimentally tested the effects of community size and systematic structure on adult language learning. We compared the acquisition of different yet comparable artificial languages that were created by big or small groups in a previous communication experiment, which varied in their degree of systematic linguistic structure. We asked (a) whether more structured languages were easier to learn; and (b) whether languages created by the bigger groups were easier to learn. We found that highly systematic languages were learned faster and more accurately by adults, but that the relationship between language learnability and linguistic structure was typically non-linear: high systematicity was advantageous for learning, but learners did not benefit from partly or semi-structured languages. Community size did not affect learnability: languages that evolved in big and small groups were equally learnable, and there was no additional advantage for languages created by bigger groups beyond their degree of systematic structure. Furthermore, our results suggested that predictability is an important advantage of systematic structure: participants who learned more structured languages were better at generalizing these languages to new, unfamiliar meanings, and different participants who learned the same more structured languages were more likely to produce similar labels. That is, systematic structure may allow speakers to converge effortlessly, such that strangers can immediately understand each other.
Reifegerste, J., Meyer, A. S., Zwitserlood, P., & Ullman, M. T. (2021). Aging affects steaks more than knives: Evidence that the processing of words related to motor skills is relatively spared in aging. Brain and Language, 218: 104941. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2021.104941.
AbstractLexical-processing declines are a hallmark of aging. However, the extent of these declines may vary as a function of different factors. Motivated by findings from neurodegenerative diseases and healthy aging, we tested whether ‘motor-relatedness’ (the degree to which words are associated with particular human body movements) might moderate such declines. We investigated this question by examining data from three experiments. The experiments were carried out in different languages (Dutch, German, English) using different tasks (lexical decision, picture naming), and probed verbs and nouns, in all cases controlling for potentially confounding variables (e.g., frequency, age-of-acquisition, imageability). Whereas ‘non-motor words’ (e.g., steak) showed age-related performance decreases in all three experiments, ‘motor words’ (e.g., knife) yielded either smaller decreases (in one experiment) or no decreases (in two experiments). The findings suggest that motor-relatedness can attenuate or even prevent age-related lexical declines, perhaps due to the relative sparing of neural circuitry underlying such words.
Rodd, J., Decuyper, C., Bosker, H. R., & Ten Bosch, L. (2021). A tool for efficient and accurate segmentation of speech data: Announcing POnSS. Behavior Research Methods, 53, 744-756. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01449-6.
AbstractDespite advances in automatic speech recognition (ASR), human input is still essential to produce research-grade segmentations of speech data. Con- ventional approaches to manual segmentation are very labour-intensive. We introduce POnSS, a browser-based system that is specialized for the task of segmenting the onsets and offsets of words, that combines aspects of ASR with limited human input. In developing POnSS, we identified several sub- tasks of segmentation, and implemented each of these as separate interfaces for the annotators to interact with, to streamline their task as much as possible. We evaluated segmentations made with POnSS against a base- line of segmentations of the same data made conventionally in Praat. We observed that POnSS achieved comparable reliability to segmentation us- ing Praat, but required 23% less annotator time investment. Because of its greater efficiency without sacrificing reliability, POnSS represents a distinct methodological advance for the segmentation of speech data.
San Jose, A., Roelofs, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Modeling the distributional dynamics of attention and semantic interference in word production. Cognition, 211: 104636. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104636.
AbstractIn recent years, it has become clear that attention plays an important role in spoken word production. Some of this evidence comes from distributional analyses of reaction time (RT) in regular picture naming and picture-word interference. Yet we lack a mechanistic account of how the properties of RT distributions come to reflect attentional processes and how these processes may in turn modulate the amount of conflict between lexical representations. Here, we present a computational account according to which attentional lapses allow for existing conflict to build up unsupervised on a subset of trials, thus modulating the shape of the resulting RT distribution. Our process model resolves discrepancies between outcomes of previous studies on semantic interference. Moreover, the model's predictions were confirmed in a new experiment where participants' motivation to remain attentive determined the size and distributional locus of semantic interference in picture naming. We conclude that process modeling of RT distributions importantly improves our understanding of the interplay between attention and conflict in word production. Our model thus provides a framework for interpreting distributional analyses of RT data in picture naming tasks.
Severijnen, G. G. A., Bosker, H. R., Piai, V., & McQueen, J. M. (2021). Listeners track talker-specific prosody to deal with talker-variability. Brain Research, 1769: 147605. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147605.
AbstractOne of the challenges in speech perception is that listeners must deal with considerable
segmental and suprasegmental variability in the acoustic signal due to differences between talkers. Most previous studies have focused on how listeners deal with segmental variability.
In this EEG experiment, we investigated whether listeners track talker-specific usage of suprasegmental cues to lexical stress to recognize spoken words correctly. In a three-day training phase, Dutch participants learned to map non-word minimal stress pairs onto different object referents (e.g., USklot meant “lamp”; usKLOT meant “train”). These non-words were
produced by two male talkers. Critically, each talker used only one suprasegmental cue to signal stress (e.g., Talker A used only F0 and Talker B only intensity). We expected participants to learn which talker used which cue to signal stress. In the test phase, participants indicated whether spoken sentences including these non-words were correct (“The word for lamp is…”).
We found that participants were slower to indicate that a stimulus was correct if the non-word was produced with the unexpected cue (e.g., Talker A using intensity). That is, if in training Talker A used F0 to signal stress, participants experienced a mismatch between predicted and perceived phonological word-forms if, at test, Talker A unexpectedly used intensity to cue
stress. In contrast, the N200 amplitude, an event-related potential related to phonological
prediction, was not modulated by the cue mismatch. Theoretical implications of these
contrasting results are discussed. The behavioral findings illustrate talker-specific prediction of prosodic cues, picked up through perceptual learning during training.
Smith, A. C., Monaghan, P., & Huettig, F. (2021). The effect of orthographic systems on the developing reading system: Typological and computational analyses. Psychological Review, 128(1), 125-159. doi:10.1037/rev0000257.
AbstractOrthographic systems vary dramatically in the extent to which they encode a language’s phonological and lexico-semantic structure. Studies of the effects of orthographic transparency suggest that such variation is likely to have major implications for how the reading system operates. However, such studies have been unable to examine in isolation the contributory effect of transparency on reading due to co-varying linguistic or socio-cultural factors. We first investigated the phonological properties of languages using the range of the world’s orthographic systems (alphabetic; alphasyllabic; consonantal; syllabic; logographic), and found that, once geographical proximity is taken into account, phonological properties do not relate to orthographic system. We then explored the processing implications of orthographic variation by training a connectionist implementation of the triangle model of reading on the range of orthographic systems whilst controlling for phonological and semantic structure. We show that the triangle model is effective as a universal model of reading, able to replicate key behavioural and neuroscientific results. Importantly, the model also generates new predictions deriving from an explicit description of the effects of orthographic transparency on how reading is realised and defines the consequences of orthographic systems on reading processes.
Speed, L., Chen, J., Huettig, F., & Majid, A. (2021). Classifier categories reflect, but do not affect conceptual organization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 47(4), 625-640. doi:10.1037/xlm0000967.
AbstractDo we structure object-related conceptual information according to real-world sensorimotor experience, or can it also be shaped by linguistic information? This study investigates whether a feature of language coded in grammar—numeral classifiers—affects the conceptual representation of objects. We compared speakers of Mandarin (a classifier language) with speakers of Dutch (a language without classifiers) on how they judged object similarity in four studies. In the first three studies, participants had to rate how similar a target object was to four comparison objects, one of which shared a classifier with the target. Objects were presented as either words or pictures. Overall, the target object was always rated as most similar to the object with the shared classifier, but this was the case regardless of the language of the participant. In a final study employing a successive pile-sorting task, we also found that the underlying object concepts were similar for speakers of Mandarin and Dutch. Speakers of a non-classifier language are therefore sensitive to the same conceptual similarities that underlie classifier systems in a classifier language. Classifier systems may therefore reflect conceptual structure, rather than shape it.
Tilmatine, M., Hubers, F., & Hintz, F. (2021). Exploring individual differences in recognizing idiomatic expressions in context. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 37. doi:10.5334/joc.183.
AbstractWritten language comprehension requires readers to integrate incoming information with stored mental knowledge to construct meaning. Literally plausible idiomatic expressions can activate both figurative and literal interpretations, which convey different meanings. Previous research has shown that contexts biasing the figurative or literal interpretation of an idiom can facilitate its processing. Moreover, there is evidence that processing of idiomatic expressions is subject to individual differences in linguistic knowledge and cognitive-linguistic skills. It is therefore conceivable that individuals vary in the extent to which they experience context-induced facilitation in processing idiomatic expressions. To explore the interplay between reader-related variables and contextual facilitation, we conducted a self-paced reading experiment. We recruited participants who had recently completed a battery of 33 behavioural tests measuring individual differences in linguistic knowledge, general cognitive skills and linguistic processing skills. In the present experiment, a subset of these participants read idiomatic expressions that were either presented in isolation or preceded by a figuratively or literally biasing context. We conducted analyses on the reading times of idiom-final nouns and the word thereafter (spill-over region) across the three conditions, including participants’ scores from the individual differences battery. Our results showed no main effect of the preceding context, but substantial variation in contextual facilitation between readers. We observed main effects of participants’ word reading ability and non-verbal intelligence on reading times as well as an interaction between condition and linguistic knowledge. We encourage interested researchers to exploit the present dataset for follow-up studies on individual differences in idiom processing.
Additional informationarchived materials, analysis scripts, logfiles and results
Tourtouri, E. N., Delogu, F., & Crocker, M. W. (2021). Rational Redundancy in Referring Expressions: Evidence from Event-related Potentials. Cognitive Science, 45(12): e13071. doi:10.1111/cogs.13071.
AbstractIn referential communication, Grice's Maxim of Quantity is thought to imply that utterances conveying unnecessary information should incur comprehension difficulties. There is, however, considerable evidence that speakers frequently encode redundant information in their referring expressions, raising the question as to whether such overspecifications hinder listeners' processing. Evidence from previous work is inconclusive, and mostly comes from offline studies. In this article, we present two event-related potential (ERP) experiments, investigating the real-time comprehension of referring expressions that contain redundant adjectives in complex visual contexts. Our findings provide support for both Gricean and bounded-rational accounts. We argue that these seemingly incompatible results can be reconciled if common ground is taken into account. We propose a bounded-rational account of overspecification, according to which even redundant words can be beneficial to comprehension to the extent that they facilitate the reduction of listeners' uncertainty regarding the target referent.
Vágvölgyi, R., Bergström, K., Bulajić, A., Klatte, M., Fernandes, T., Grosche, M., Huettig, F., Rüsseler, J., & Lachmann, T. (2021). Functional illiteracy and developmental dyslexia: Looking for common roots. A systematic review. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 159-179. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00074-9.
AbstractA considerable amount of the population in more economically developed countries are functionally illiterate (i.e., low literate). Despite some years of schooling and basic reading skills, these individuals cannot properly read and write and, as a consequence have problems to understand even short texts. An often-discussed approach (Greenberg et al., 1997) assumes weak phonological processing skills coupled with untreated developmental dyslexia as possible causes of functional illiteracy. Although there is some data suggesting commonalities between low literacy and developmental dyslexia, it is still not clear, whether these reflect shared consequences (i.e., cognitive and behavioral profile) or shared causes. The present systematic review aims at exploring the similarities and differences identified in empirical studies investigating both functional illiterate and developmental dyslexic samples. Nine electronic databases were searched in order to identify all quantitative studies published in English or German. Although a broad search strategy and few limitations were applied, only 5 studies have been identified adequate from the resulting 9269 references. The results point to the lack of studies directly comparing functional illiterate with developmental dyslexic samples. Moreover, a huge variance has been identified between the studies in how they approached the concept of functional illiteracy, particularly when it came to critical categories such the applied definition, terminology, criteria for inclusion in the sample, research focus, and outcome measures. The available data highlight the need for more direct comparisons in order to understand what extent functional illiteracy and dyslexia share common characteristics.
Additional informationsupplementary materials
Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., Arunkumar, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Does neuronal recycling result in destructive competition? The influence of learning to read on the recognition of faces. Psychological Science, 32, 459-465. doi:10.1177/0956797620971652.
AbstractWritten language, a human cultural invention, is far too recent for dedicated neural
infrastructure to have evolved in its service. Culturally newly acquired skills (e.g. reading) thus ‘recycle’ evolutionarily older circuits that originally evolved for different, but similar functions (e.g. visual object recognition). The destructive competition hypothesis predicts that this neuronal recycling has detrimental behavioral effects on the cognitive functions a cortical network originally evolved for. In a study with 97 literate, low-literate, and illiterate participants from the same socioeconomic background we find that even after adjusting for cognitive ability and test-taking familiarity, learning to read is associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in object recognition abilities. These results are incompatible with the claim that neuronal recycling results in destructive competition and consistent with the possibility that learning to read instead fine-tunes general object recognition mechanisms, a hypothesis that needs further neuroscientific investigation.
Van Paridon, J., & Thompson, B. (2021). subs2vec: Word embeddings from subtitles in 55 languages. Behavior Research Methods, 53(2), 629-655. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01406-3.
AbstractThis paper introduces a novel collection of word embeddings, numerical representations of lexical semantics, in 55 languages, trained on a large corpus of pseudo-conversational speech transcriptions from television shows and movies. The embeddings were trained on the OpenSubtitles corpus using the fastText implementation of the skipgram algorithm. Performance comparable with (and in some cases exceeding) embeddings trained on non-conversational (Wikipedia) text is reported on standard benchmark evaluation datasets. A novel evaluation method of particular relevance to psycholinguists is also introduced: prediction of experimental lexical norms in multiple languages. The models, as well as code for reproducing the models and all analyses reported in this paper (implemented as a user-friendly Python package), are freely available at: https://github.com/jvparidon/subs2vec.