Van Bergen, G., Flecken, M., & Wu, R. (2019). Rapid target selection of object categories based on verbs: Implications for language-categorization interactions. Psychophysiology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/psyp.13395.
Although much is known about how nouns facilitate object categorization, very little is known about how verbs (e.g., posture verbs such as stand or lie) facilitate object categorization. Native Dutch speakers are a unique population to investigate this issue with because the configurational categories distinguished by staan (to stand) and liggen (to lie) are inherent in everyday Dutch language. Using an ERP component (N2pc), four experiments demonstrate that selection of posture verb categories is rapid (between 220–320 ms). The effect was attenuated, though present, when removing the perceptual distinction between categories. A similar attenuated effect was obtained in native English speakers, where the category distinction is less familiar, and when category labels were implicit for native Dutch speakers. Our results are among the first to demonstrate that category search based on verbs can be rapid, although extensive linguistic experience and explicit labels may not be necessary to facilitate categorization in this case.
Weber, K., Christiansen, M., Indefrey, P., & Hagoort, P. (2019). Primed from the start: Syntactic priming during the first days of language learning. Language Learning, 69(1), 198-221. doi:10.1111/lang.12327.
New linguistic information must be integrated into our existing language system. Using a novel experimental task that incorporates a syntactic priming paradigm into artificial language learning, we investigated how new grammatical regularities and words are learned. This innovation allowed us to control the language input the learner received, while the syntactic priming paradigm provided insight into the nature of the underlying syntactic processing machinery. The results of the present study pointed to facilitatory syntactic processing effects within the first days of learning: Syntactic and lexical priming effects revealed participants’ sensitivity to both novel words and word orders. This suggested that novel syntactic structures and their meaning (form–function mapping) can be acquired rapidly through incidental learning. More generally, our study indicated similar mechanisms for learning and processing in both artificial and natural languages, with implications for the relationship between first and second language learning.