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SYNTAX 7 ON-LINE PROCESSING DAY 36 – NOV 20, 2013 Brain & Language LING 4110-4890-5110-7960 NSCI 4110-4891-6110 Harry Howard Tulane University.

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Presentation on theme: "SYNTAX 7 ON-LINE PROCESSING DAY 36 – NOV 20, 2013 Brain & Language LING 4110-4890-5110-7960 NSCI 4110-4891-6110 Harry Howard Tulane University."— Presentation transcript:

1 SYNTAX 7 ON-LINE PROCESSING DAY 36 – NOV 20, 2013 Brain & Language LING NSCI Harry Howard Tulane University

2 Course organization The syllabus, these slides and my recordings are available at If you want to learn more about EEG and neurolinguistics, you are welcome to participate in my lab. This is also a good way to get started on an honor's thesis. The grades are posted to Blackboard. 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 2

3 REVIEW 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 3

4 Center embedding 8a) The dog chased the cat. 8b) The cat hunted the rat. 8c) The rat nibbled the cheese. 9) The rat the cat hunted nibbled the cheese. 10) The rat the cat the dog chased hunted nibbled the cheese. 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 4

5 How might this be processed? 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 5 thematic role for ‘the rat’ thematic role for ‘the cat’ thematic role for ‘the dog’ The parser encounters … the rat > look for a predicate to supply a thematic role … the cat > wait, put the previous search on hold & look for another predicate to supply a thematic role … the dog > wait, put the previous search on hold & look for yet another predicate to supply a thematic role … Ok, now I am lost. push-down stack

6 Is the following a good way to describe the grammar of English? 1. Mary bought a book for John. The direct object THEME follows the verb in English. 2. Which book did Mary buy for John? The direct object THEME follows the verb in English or precedes the clause when it is introduced by which. 3. John asked Mary about a student. TOPIC tends to be the object of the preposition about. 4. Which student did John ask Mary about? TOPIC tends to be the object of the preposition about, or it precedes the clause when it is introduced by which. Is there a principle of science that can help us out here? 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 6

7 SENTENCE COMPREHENSION AND SYNTACTIC PARSING Ingram I, §13 On-line processing, working memory and modularity 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 7

8 Leprechauns! Think of an explanation for something: 1. The Earth spinning on its axis makes day and night. 2. The Earth spinning on its axis or leprechauns pushing it, makes day and night. 3. Rain falls when water condenses in the atmosphere. 4. Rain falls when water condenses in the atmosphere or leprechauns piss from clouds. Does adding leprechauns to all our explanations make them better? 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 8

9 Ockham’s razor, simplicity, economy lex parsimoniae Ockham’s razor is a principle that generally recommends selecting from among competing hypotheses the one that makes the fewest new assumptions. Einstein-ish: “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 9

10 Back to our sentences The sentences and their leprechauns a. Mary bought a book for John. b. Which book did Mary buy for John? c. John asked Mary about a student. d. Which student did John ask Mary about? How to get rid of the leprechauns a. Mary bought a book for John. b. Which book i did John buy ____ i for Mary? c. John asked Mary about a student. d. Which student i did John ask Mary about ____ i ? (b, d) are called filler-gap constructions, though the gap is also called a trace. 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 10

11 Cross-modal priming & trace reactivation sentence presented auditorily; prime & probe visually 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 11 16) Which book i did the harassed parent almost purchase t i for her child? prime probe: library/ vehicle faster for relatedsame for bothfaster for related

12 Gaps/traces in relative clauses The dog chased the cat. Subject relative clause The dog that chased the cat … = The dog i that t i chased the cat … Object relative clause The cat that the dog chased … = The cat i that the dog chased t i … Which one should be harder to process? The object relative clause, because the relationship between the real filler (the cat) and the gap has to ignore the potential filler (the dog). I am ignoring Ingram’s discussion of Gibson’s load/capacity theory of parsing, which is very interesting, but we don’t have time. 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 12

13 Self-paced reading & subject-object The data: reading time for us 20a) My brother wanted to know if Ruth will bring us home to Mom at Xmas. 20b) My brother wanted to know who will bring us home to Mom at Xmas. = 20b) My brother wanted to know who i t i will bring us home to Mom at Xmas. 20c) My brother wanted to know who Ruth will bring us home to at Xmas. = 20c) My brother wanted to know who i Ruth will bring us home to t i at Xmas. Which one should be slowest? (20c) because us is a possible site for the gap/trace of who. 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 13

14 NEXT TIME Ingram §14, Agrammatism revisited 11/20/13Brain & Language - Harry Howard - Tulane University 14


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