Falk Huettig


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  • Favier, S., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2019). Does literacy predict individual differences in syntactic processing?. Talk presented at the International Workshop on Literacy and Writing systems: Cultural, Neuropsychological and Psycholinguistic Perspectives. Haifa, Israel. 2019-02-18 - 2019-02-20.
  • Favier, S., Wright, A., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2019). Proficiency modulates between- but not within-language structural priming. Poster presented at the 21st Meeting of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP 2019), Tenerife, Spain.
  • Hintz, F., Ostarek, M., De Nijs, M., Joosen, D., & Huettig, F. (2019). N’Sync or A’Sync? The role of timing when acquiring spoken and written word forms in a tonal language. Poster presented at the 21st Meeting of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP 2019), Tenerife, Spain.


    Theories of reading propose that the quality of word form representations affects reading comprehension. One claim is that synchronous retrieval of orthographic and phonological representations leads to better performance than asynchronous retrieval. Based on this account, one may hypothesize that synchronous rather than asynchronous presentation of orthographic and phonological forms should be beneficial when establishing the mapping between both, as it should lead to tighter couplings. We tested this hypothesis in two multi-session experiments, where participants studied isolated words of a tonal language unknown to them, Chinese. During study, written (using Pinyin transcription) and spoken word forms were presented simultaneously or in asynchronous fashion (audio-first, written-first). In both experiments, we observed an advantage for asynchronous over synchronous presentation at test, with audio-first presentation being most beneficial. These results suggest that the timing of written and spoken word forms has profound effects on the ease of learning a new tonal language.
  • Huettig, F. (2019). Six challenges for embodiment research [keynote]. Talk presented at the 12th annual Conference on Embodied and Situated Language Processing and the sixth AttLis (ESLP/AttLis 2019). Berlin, Germany. 2019-08-28 - 2019-08-30.
  • Ostarek, M., Alday, P. M., Gawel, O., Wolfgruber, J., Knudsen, B., Mantegna, F., & Huettig, F. (2019). Is neural entrainment a basic mechanism for structure building?. Poster presented at the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language (SNL 2019), Helsinki, Finland.
  • Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2019). Towards a unified theory of semantic cognition. Talk presented at the 21st Meeting of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP 2019). Tenerife, Spain. 2019-09-25 - 2019-09-28.
  • Garrido Rodriguez, G., Huettig, F., Norcliffe, E., Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2017). Participant assignment to thematic roles in Tzeltal: Eye tracking evidence from sentence comprehension in a verb-initial language. Poster presented at the workshop 'Event Representations in Brain, Language & Development' (EvRep), Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
  • Ostarek, M., Van Paridon, J., & Huettig, F. (2017). Conceptual processing of up/down words (cloud/grass) recruits cortical oculomotor areas central for planning and executing saccadic eye movements. Talk presented at the 10th Embodied and Situated Language Processing Conference. Moscow, Russia. 2017-09-10 - 2017-09-12.
  • Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2017). Grounding language in vision [Invited talk]. Talk presented at the University of California Davis. Davis, CA, USA.
  • Ostarek, M., Van Paridon, J., Evans, S., & Huettig, F. (2017). Processing of up/down words recruits the cortical oculomotor network. Poster presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, San Francisco, CA, USA.
  • Huettig, F., Chen, J., Bowerman, M., & Majid, A. (2008). Linguistic relativity: Evidence from Mandarin speakers’ eye-movements. Talk presented at 14th Annual Conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing [AMLaP 2008]. Cambridge, UK. 2008-09-04 - 2008-09-06.


    If a Mandarin speaker had walked past two rivers and wished to describe how many he had seen, he would have to say “two tiao river”, where tiao designates long, rope-like objects such as rivers, snakes and legs. Tiao is one of several hundred classifiers – a grammatical category in Mandarin. In two eye-tracking studies we presented Mandarin speakers with simple Mandarin sentences through headphones while monitoring their eye-movements to objects presented on a computer monitor. The crucial question is what participants look at while listening to a pre-specified target noun. If classifier categories influence general conceptual processing then on hearing the target noun participants should look at objects that are also members of the same classifier category – even when the classifier is not explicitly present. For example, on hearing scissors, Mandarin speakers should look more at a picture of a chair than at an unrelated object because scissors and chair share the classifier ba. This would be consistent with a Strong Whorfian position, according to which language is a major determinant in shaping conceptual thought (Sapir, 1921; Whorf, 1956). A weaker influence of language-on-thought could be predicted, where language shapes cognitive processing, but only when the language-specific category is actively being processed (Slobin, 1996). According to this account, eye-movements are not necessarily drawn to chair when a participant hears scissors, but they would be on hearing ba scissors. This is because hearing ba activates the linguistic category that both scissors and chair belong to. A third logical possibility is that classifiers are purely formal markers (cf. Greenberg, 1972; Lehman, 1979) that do not influence attentional processing even when they are explicitly present. The data showed that when participants heard a spoken word from the same classifier category as a visually depicted object (e.g. scissors-chair), but the classifier was not explicitly presented in the speech, overt attention to classifier-match objects (e.g. chair) and distractor objects did not differ (Experiment 1). But when the classifier was explicitly presented (e.g. ba, Experiment 2), participants shifted overt attention significantly more to classifier-match objects (e.g. chair) than to distractors. These data are incompatible with the Strong Whorfian hypothesis. Instead the findings support the Weak Whorfian hypothesis that linguistic distinctions force attention to properties of the world but only during active linguistic processing of that distinction (cf. Slobin, 1996).

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