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Comprehension Kimberley Clow

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1 Comprehension Kimberley Clow

2 Outline Propositions Off-line vs. On-line Tasks Gaze Durations Structure Building Framework Discourse References & Inferences Understanding Memory Conversation Rules

3 Memory for Text Subjects read a passage of text “He sent a letter about it to Galileo, the great Italian scientist.” Recognition at various delays 0, 80, or 160 syllables Changed sentences Semantic Passive/active Formal

4 Meaning as Propositions Propositions A set of conceptual nodes connected by labeled pathways that expresses the meaning of a sentence  A mouse bit a cat or  A cat was bitten by a mouse

5 Deriving Propositions Children who are slow eat bread that is cold Slow children Children eat bread Bread is cold

6 Evidence for Propositions Memory better for sentences with fewer propositions

7 Priming Propositions

8 Free Association Read Sentences Children who are slow eat bread that is cold Free Association What is the first word that comes to mind that is related to “slow”? Results Children  Even though “slow” closer to “eat” than “children”

9 Off-line vs. On-line Tasks Offline Tasks Measurement takes place after process complete  Test memory after a passage is read Problem  Measuring memory processes or reading processes? Online Task Measuring ongoing processes as they happen  Gaze duration studies

10 Gaze Duration Example

11 Gaze Duration Studies

12 Just & Carpenter Model

13 Structure Building Framework Model of Language Comprehension Process of building mental structures  Propositions Concrete way of understanding propositions Three Principal Components Laying a foundation Mapping information onto the structure Shifting to new structures

14 Laying a Foundation After the musician played the piano was quickly taken off the stage After the musician played… Discourse focus The first character/idea of a sentence around which the structure is built.  musician

15 Mapping Information After the musician played the piano was quickly taken off the stage After the musician played the piano… Discourse focus New words are mapped onto existing structure as they are read  piano

16 Shifting to a New Structure After the musician played the piano was quickly taken off the stage After the musician played the piano was quickly… Discourse focus Old structure no longer fits, so start a new structure  musician  piano

17 Discourse Psycholinguistics Traditional Psycholinguistics Determining what happens when we understand sentences Broader View How we resolve/understand sentences against the current discourse representation  Sentence comprehension is a process that anchors the interpretation of the sentence to the representation of the prior text

18 Processing of Connected Discourse What is discourse? Units of analysis larger than a sentence  Applies to both spoken and written forms Ways we process (i.e., comprehend and remember) units of language larger than a sentence  lectures  personal narratives  expository discourse

19 Characteristics of Discourse Cohesion: Interpretation of one sentence depends on other sentences Referential Cohesion  Bill wanted to lend Susan some money. She really needed it. Temporal Cohesion  Yesterday, Sara visited her grandmother. Later, she stopped at the gas station to get some gas. Coherence: Logical consistency and semantic continuity Incoherence  When the meanings of individual sentences do not hang together

20 Referential Cohesion whether the nominal elements in discourse link together Reference objects and concepts that words or phrases stand for Example A woman came in. She is beautiful.  The relation between a woman and she create referential cohesion of discourse

21 Types of Referential Cohesion Anaphoric Reference Using an expression to refer back to something previously mentioned in discourse  A woman came in. She is beautiful. Cataphoric Reference Using an expression to refer forward to something that is coming up in discourse  This is where it is. I found the book in the fridge!

22 Comprehending Anaphoric References Reading time of sentences affected by the degree of semantic relatedness between the antecedent expression and the anaphor (1) A tank passed by. The vehicle was full of people. (2) A bus passed by. The vehicle was full of people. Which one is easier to comprehend? Important factors Antecedent identifiability Given vs. new information

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24 Process of Understanding Process of understanding a sentence in discourse context involves 3 stages: identifying the given and new info in the current sentence finding an antecedent in memory for the given information attaching the new information to this spot in memory

25 Example (1) The boy saw a dog. It was such a cute dog with a red collar. He picked it up... (2) The boy saw a dog. He was sitting in front of his house, eating. He picked it up… Comprehension He picked it up… is easier to comprehend in (1) than (2)  In (2), the antecedent is too far removed from the target

26 Direct Matching vs. Bridging Inference Direct Matching When the given information in the target sentence directly matches an antecedent in the context sentence Easier for readers Bridging Inference When the given information in the target sentence does not directly match an antecedent in the context sentence The process of constructing a connection between concepts Causes processing and reading times to slow down

27 Example Measure reading time of: (1) Mary unpacked some beer. The beer was warm. (2) Mary unpacked some picnic supplies. The beer was warm. Readers spend considerably more time on (2) than (1) In (2), there is no explicit antecedent (no direct matching) for the reference the beer (requires bridging) the beer triggers a search for a matching antecedent  should the search fail, the reader has to engage in an inference mechanism and relate it to prior discourse

28 Reading Span Read a set of unrelated sentences aloud and recall last word in the set When at last his eyes opened, there was no gleam of triumph, no shade of anger. (recall anger) Reading Span Test The maximum number of sentences per set for which you can recall all the sentences’ last words Then do comprehension task Reading a passage and answer questions about the referents of pronouns Results Performance on pronoun reference was a function of reading span and distance between the pronoun and the antecedent Smaller reading spans = smaller working memory capacity

29 Memory for Discourse 3 Levels of Representation Surface form  the exact words used Propositional representation  interconnected network of ideas that underlie the surface forms Situation model  a model of the state of affairs as described in the passage

30 Level 1: Surface Form Read sentences (1) The confidence of Kofach was not unfounded. To stack the meeting for McDonald, the union had even brought in outsiders. (2) Kofach had been persuaded by the international to stack the meeting for McDonald. The union had even brought in outsiders. The final two clauses are physically identical surface form for second-last clause better in (1) than (2) Evidence that surface form is stored in working memory until its meaning is understood then surface form purged to make room for the next sentence

31 Level 2: Propositions Participants presented with passages that required implicit inferences or were explicit Explicit text: A carelessly discarded burning cigarette started a fire. The fire destroyed many acres of virgin forest. Implicit text: A burning cigarette was carelessly discarded. The fire destroyed many acres of virgin forest. Sentence verification task  A discarded cigarette started a fire – yes or no?

32 Results

33 Level 3: Situational Model Read sentences such as (1) Three turtles rested on a floating log, and a fish swam beneath them (2) Three turtles beside on a floating log, and a fish swam beneath them Sentence verification task “A fish swam beneath a floating log” – yes or no? Results People who read (1) were more likely to falsely identify the probe as part of what they had read

34 The Structure of Conversations Taking Turns Little overlap between participants’ utterances Rules 1) The current speaker gets to select the next speaker 2) If Rule 1 is not used, anyone can become the next speaker Formal settings or conversations with strangers are more structured & rule- goverened

35 Conversational Maxims

36 Violations Conversation occurs within a semantic environment  People, purposes, rules of discourse, and the particular talk used in the conversation Stupid Talk Talk that doesn’t know what environment it is in Crazy Talk Talk that creates and sustains an irrational environment


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