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Psycholinguistics 06. Sentence Comprehension and Memory We are usually not aware of the sentence structure when we comprehend it. Some sentences are too.

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Presentation on theme: "Psycholinguistics 06. Sentence Comprehension and Memory We are usually not aware of the sentence structure when we comprehend it. Some sentences are too."— Presentation transcript:

1 Psycholinguistics 06

2 Sentence Comprehension and Memory We are usually not aware of the sentence structure when we comprehend it. Some sentences are too difficult in meaning that we have to struggle hard to comprehend. Some sentences are clearer in meaning than in intent. We seldom remember the exact wording of the sentence we heard. Factors involved in the sentence comprehension process: syntactic, semantic and pragmatic.

3 Sentence Comprehension and Memory Immediate processing of sentences Comprehending sentences in context Memory for sentences

4 Immediate Process of Sentences: Parsing Two approaches of parsing Immediacy principle: when we first see or hear a word, we access its meaning from permanent memory, identify its likely referent, ad fit it into the syntactic structure of the sentence. Wait-and-see approach: postpone interpreting a word or phrase until it is clearer.

5 Immediate Process of Sentences: Parsing We seem to use the immediacy approach more often because: 1. decisions in understanding can overload our cognitive resources. 2. we are often surprised by unexpected fragments in the sentence.

6 Parsing Strategies We may use various strategies in parsing. Late closure strategy: Wherever possible, we prefer to attach new items to the current constituent. The strategy helps reduce the burden on working memory during parsing. e.g. Tom said that Bill had taken the cleaning out yesterday. We tend to attach yesterday to the subordinate clause.

7 Parsing Strategies Minimal attachment strategy: attach new items into the phrase marker using the fewest syntactic nodes consistent with the rules of the language. (9) The city council argued the mayor’s position forcefully. (minimal attachment) (10) The city council argued the mayor’s position was correct. (complement construction) Reading time were faster for (9) than for (10).

8 Modular versus Interactive Models Modular Model: comprehension as a whole is the result of many different modules. Each devoted to a particular aspect of comprehension. Parsing is performed initially by a syntactic module not influenced by higher-order contextual variables. Contextual factors influence comprehension at a later stage.

9 Modular versus Interactive Models Interactive model: syntax and semantics interact during the comprehension process. For example, constraint-based model (MacDonald, 1994): We simultaneously use all available information in our initial parsing—syntactic, lexical, discourse, as well as nonlinguistic, contextual information

10 Rayner’s Test (1983) Whether the plausibility of real-world events influenced the immediate parsing of sentences. (11) The florist sent the flowers was very pleased. (12) The florist sent the flowers to the elderly widow. (13) The florist who was sent the flowers was very pleased. Methods: measured eye fixations on segments of these sentences Findings: Clear garden path effects were found with both plausible and implausible sentences.

11 Ferreira’s Test (1986) Influence of a paragraph context upon the minimal attachment strategy. (15) The editor played the tape and agreed it was a big story. (16) The editor played the tape agreed it was a big story. (17) John worked as a reporter for a big city newspaper. He sensed that a major story was brewing over the city hall scandal, and he obtained some evidence that he believed pretty much established the mayor’s guilt. He gave a tape to his editor and told him to listen to it. (18) …. He ran a tape for one of his editors, and he showed some photos to the other.

12 Ferreira’s Test (1986) (15) can be parsed by minimal attachment. (16) can not. (17) biased paragraph context to a minimal attachment interpretation (18) primed the nonminimal attachment interpretation. (17+15, 17+16, 18+15, 18+16)

13 Ferreira’s Test (1986) Findings: 1. Readers continued to use the minimal attachment principle. 2. Reaction times for the critical region of the sentence (agree) were longer for sentences that violated minimal attachment (17+16>17+15, 18+16>18+15) but no difference was observed between different paragraph contexts (17+16, 18+16). Conclusion: no influence by prior semantic context.

14 Trueswell (1994): Interactive model Constraint-biased model (19) The defendant examined by the lawyer turned out to be unreliable. (20) The evidence examined by the lawyer turned out to be unreliable. Eye patterns were much greater when the subject was animate (19). Comprehenders immediately utilize their lexical knowledge.

15 Lexical Preference Current research suggests that lexical variables influence parsing more rapidly and consistently than discourse variables. (21) The boy hit the girl with the boomerang. Readers have a tendency to attach the phrase with the boomerang to hit.

16 Comprehending Sentences in Context Syntactic structure is a basis for determining the literal meaning of the sentence. But many sentences can not be taken literally.. Conventions Speech acts Metaphor

17 Conventions Shared assumptions about communication Conventions for conversation Quantity Quality Relation Manner

18 Speech Acts Searle (1975): stages to comprehend indirect speech acts 1. the listener extracts the literal meaning of the sentence. 2. the listener decides whether the literal meaning is what the speaker intended. 3. If not, the listener computes an indirect meaning based on communicative conventions and the direct speech act.

19 Speech Acts Gibbs (1979) Challenge It is not always necessary to compute a direct meaning prior to indirect meaning. In natural discourse, previous sentences may have activated enough information in semantic memory to comprehend the nonliteral meaning directly, without first considering the direct speech act. The three-stage procedure may be a special strategy.

20 Metaphors Billboards are warts on the landscape. Topic (tenor): billboards Vehicle: warts Ground: implied similarity between tenor and vehicle. Reasons for using metaphors: Ortony (1975)—to communicate continuous experiential information, especially information that is otherwise difficult or impossible to express.

21 Comprehension of Metaphor Verbrugge (1977) found that grounds were as effective as (sometimes more effective than) topics or vehicles as recall cues for the sentences. This suggests that we identify the underlying similarity relation between tenor and vehicle during the comprehension process. Stages to establish the relation between the tenor and the vehicle (Grice, 1975) 1. Recognize that the sentence is not literally true. 2. search for another possible meaning with the guidance of convention of quality 3. transform the sentence into : A is like B.

22 Memory for Sentences Processing can be complex and need durable retention In reality, we process sentences one after another without much problem

23 Meaning vs. Surface Form Most of early research suggested only meaning was retained. Fillenbaum’s test(1966) (53) The window is not closed. (54) The window is closed. (55) The window is not open. (56) The window is open. Presentation:(53) Response:(53)-(56)

24 Meaning vs. Surface Form Features: Superficially similar: (54)&(55) Similar in meaning:(56) Findings: Most people correctly remembered (53) When making an error, more likely to choose (56) rather than (54) or (55)

25 Wanner (1974): Natural Processing Test Subjects were given routine test instruction to avoid elaborated strategies used commonly by subjects. Instruction sentence: When you score the results, do nothing to your correct answer but mark carefully those answers which are wrong. Test: 1. Determined whether they heard your correct or correct your (different in meaning) 2. Determined whether they heard mark carefully or carefully mark (different in form but same in meaning)

26 Wanner (1974): Natural Processing Test Findings: % correct 2. Chance performance (50%)

27 Sachs (1967) time parameters in the processing of syntactic structure to extract the underlying meaning Procedure: listen to tape passages 2 factors varied: type of test sentence & retention interval For each test sentence 4 possible sentences: original, two with changed wording but not meaning, 1 with changed wording and meaning

28 Sachs (1967) Subjects were given one of the 4 sentences and asked whether it was identical or changed. Interval: immediately, 40 syllables(12.5 seconds), 80 syllables Findings: Immediately: retention excellent 40 syllables: memory for form declined substantially and even more with 80 syllables. But memory for meaning was relatively durable.

29 Pragmatic Factors Intentional content: some utterances convey only information; others convey the attitude of the speaker. Keenan (1977) test With statements high in intentional content: excellent retention in meaning and form With those low in intentional content: no memory for surface form, less memory for meaning When presented without the content, difference in retention disappeared. Conclusion: retention has little to do with syntactic or semantic aspects but related to pragmatic aspects

30 Inferences and Sentence Memory Elaboration: incoming information is related to information stored in permanent memory, thereby enriching the memory representation of the new material. Elaboration leads to better retention.

31 False Recognition Errors Errors that people make by believing that they saw or heard something that was actually not presented. (58) John was trying to fix the birdhouse. He was looking for the nail when his father came out to watch him and to help him do the work. False recognition: John used a hammer.

32 Propositional Model A sentence can be represented as a proposition consisting of two or more concepts and some forma of relation between them. Proposition: Hit (George, Harry) Steps: 1. extract the meaning and construct a proposition. The surface form is retained in the working memory. Since the meaning is of greater interest, the surface form fades from the memory. 2. if the surface form is pragmatically significant, more attention is given to it. This leads to the drawing of additional propositions (inferences).

33 Propositional Model The old man lit his awful cigar. Constituents Propositions old man Man (E 57 ), Old (E 57 ) the old man Known (E 57 ) awful cigar Cigar (E 8 ), Awful (E 8 ) his awful cigar Known (E 8 ), Belong (E 8, X) the old man lit his Light (E 57, E 8 ) awful cigar


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