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Language comprehension

Sunday, October 02nd,   2011 [18:00 - 20:00]

PS_3.092 - The processing of semantic and grammatical anomalies in sentence processing

Pérez Muñoz, A. I. , Macizo, P. , Paolieri, D. & Bajo, M. T.

Experimental Psychology and Behavioral Physiology. University of Granada. Granada. Spain

To evaluate the processing of semantic and grammatical anomalies, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants read Spanish sentences and decided whether they were anomalous or correct. ERPs were time-locked to critical words (adjectives). The adjectives were plausible in the context of the sentence (e.g., La vecina estaba muy ilusionada con su hijo -The neighbor was very excited with her son-) or they disagreed in number (e.g., ilusionadas), grammatical gender (ilusionado), or they were semantically anomalous relative to a noun previously read in the sentence (e.g., preferida -favourite-). Compared with plausible sentences, semantically incongruent sentences modulated ERPs in the 350-450 ms time-window, while grammatically incongruent sentences (number and gender disagreement) modulated ERPs in the 550-650 ms time-window. These results agree with the processing competition account in which the distinction between semantic and structural processing is evidenced with electrophysiological measures (Kos, Vosse, van den Brink, & Hagoort, 2010).

PS_3.093 - The embodiment of speed in language; evidence from eye movements

Speed, L. & Vigliocco, G.


The embodied approach to language processing describes understanding sentences as the mental simulation of the described events, recruiting the same resources as those used in perception and action. This research looks specifically at the representation of speed in language (e.g. walking vs. running). Presenting results from an eye-tracking study, I will provide evidence for the mental simulation of speed in language. Participants were presented with visual scenes and spoken sentences describing fast or slow events (e.g. The lion ambled/dashed to the balloon). Speed was either encoded in the verb of the sentence (e.g. amble) or with an adverb (e.g. quickly). Additionally, sentences had either a fast or slow speaking rate. Scenes contained the subject of the sentence, the target and a distractor. Results show a differential pattern of eye movements between fast and slow events with an early interaction with speaking rate. Thus, eye movements reflect the understanding of speed events being described in language in a similar way to viewing the same event in the world. There is also an indication that other sources of speed information (e.g. in speaking rate) can be used in the online interpretation of events and can hinder processing when sources are in competition.

PS_3.094 - Distance effect on sentence comprehension in French language

Takahashi, K. 1 , Maionchi-Pino, N. 1, 2 , Magnan, A. 3 & Kawashima, R. 1, 4

1 Dept. of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer (IDAC), Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
2 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science(JSPS), Tokyo, Japan
3 Laboratoire d'Etude des Mécanismes Cognitifs, Université Lumière Lyon2, Bron Cedex, France
4 Smart Aging International Research Center (SAIRC), Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer(IDAC), Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

The aim of current study is to investigate the effect caused by the distance of head and its complement. Previous studies revealed that the distance between head and complement affects the acceptability of sentences in English and Japanese. Especially, a neuroimaging study has reported the existence of that effect in Japanese. However, it was still weak to say that this effect is universal because this effect was observed only in one head-initial language (English) and one head-final language (Japanese). Therefore, we have conducted behavioral experiment in French language. Participants were asked to read 60 ungrammatical sentences and 60 grammatical filler sentences in self-paced reading and judged to what extent the sentence was natural in seven degrees. The conditions were that head and its complement was far each other (Long), and closer than Long condition (Short). The result showed that, as same as previous studies, Long condition was statistically more acceptable than Short condition. This result strongly implies that the gap between head and complement is, in addition to grammar, one of the factors that determine the acceptabilities in human sentence comprehension universally.

PS_3.095 - Does the motor cortex process verbs? A transcranial magnetic stimulation study

Mertens, B. , Kemp, N. & Garry, M.

School of Psychology. University of Tasmania. Hobart, Australia.

Previous research suggests processing of motor-related language involves motor cortex structures. This study aimed to investigate how the influence of the motor cortex during language processing may be impacted by creating a motor association to words that previously had no motor association. Reaction time (RT) and electromyographic data were recorded from 15 participants in response to hand-action and non-action verbs across two sessions. Between sessions participants practised simple sign language. Real or sham transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied over the motor cortex during word processing on some trials. It was expected that real TMS would interfere with motor cortex function resulting in a delay when processing words with high motor association (hand-action words with signs), whereas there would be minimal impact on RT when processing words with low/no motor association (non-action words with no signs). The hypothesised effect of TMS on word type was not supported, however, it was observed that in the first session, regardless of word type, RT was delayed when real, but not sham TMS was delivered. The role of TMS pulse timing and intensity are being investigated as a possible explanation for the observed results.

PS_3.096 - Linguistic interferences during speech-in-speech comprehension: results from intelligibility and lexical decision tasks

Gautreau, A. , Hoen, M. & Meunier, F.

Centre de Recherche en Neurosciences de Lyon, CNRS - INSERM - Université Lyon 1

Most psycholinguistic models of lexical access, although making different proposals regarding nature of competitors, postulate that word identification is the result of strong competitive mechanisms between simultaneously activated lexical candidates (see for example NAM, Luce and Pisoni, 1998; the revised Cohort model, Marslen-Wilson et al., 1996, TRACE, McClelland and Elman, 1986, or Shortlist, Norris, 1994). In that context, situation of speech-in-speech comprehension could be of great interest. In our studies, nature and language of background noises were manipulated to identify information levels in which linguistic interferences can occur. Native speakers of French had to identify French target words inserted in babbles or in fluctuating noises generated in French, Breton, Irish, Italian, with signal-to-noise ratio of 0 or -5dB. Globally, performances are always better when background is noise rather than speech, revealing that linguistic information from babbles competes with target signal comprehension. The results also showed that at -5dB it is more difficult to understand French target words with babbles in French than in languages unknown to listeners, and that some languages interfere more with French than some others. These results will be discussed with a particular enhancement on the differences observed between intelligibility and lexical decision tasks.

PS_3.097 - Mind’s picturing wor(l)ds. Saying what we see, or seeing what we say?

Volpe, R. 1 & Esposito, A. 2

1 University of Perpignan
2 Second University of Naples

We consider the notion of groundlessness as related to the process of meaning structure, which depends on linguistic and non-linguistic information. Bringing awareness to the fact that experience of reality is tied to the cognitive system’s experience of the world allows to posit the role mental representations play within such process. Our study on the role mental representations play on the understanding of written sentences describing visual ones, measures both the length of time participants took to decide whether or not the written sentence described the visual one, and the number of errors occurred during this decision making process. We found that more errors occurred when the written text describing the visual sentence was implausible, and length of time was shorter when both the visual and the written sentence were plausible. We discuss our results under the perspective of Vygotsky’s non-classical psychology implying a philosophical understanding of holography.

PS_3.098 - The role of inflectional regularities in agreement comprehension: a comparison between Spanish and Italian

Mancini, S. 1 , Molinaro, N. 1 , Avilés, A. 1 & Carreiras, M. 1, 2

1 Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL). Donostia, Spain
2 IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science. Bilbao, Spain

We investigated the mechanisms underlying agreement comprehension in two typologically-close languages - Spanish and Italian - using two eye-tracking experiments. Italian and Spanish native speakers read sentences containing person and number anomalies in their own language. Both violations produced longer total-reading times and regression-path durations compared to correct sentences, with no difference between person and number anomalies, neither in Italian nor in Spanish. However, the two features differed in the probability and in the number of regressions out of the interest area (a past participle verb), with number violations showing a greater probability and number of regressions towards earlier parts of the sentence than person ones. Crucially, this difference emerged in Italian but not in Spanish. An explanation for this may reside in Spanish greater inflectional regularity in signaling number information across grammatical categories (“-s”) than Italian. The presence of an “-s” either on the auxiliary (e.g.”hemos”) or on the subject (e.g.“ellos”) may lead Spanish speakers to actively rely on morphological regularities to interpret agreement dependencies. On the contrary, Italian variability in plural number suffixes may require the parser to perform more regressions to check the number information contained in previous words and interpret the dependency.

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