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Fall 2020

September 4, 2020 - Carol Miller (Penn State)

Title: Developmental language disorder at the intersection of working memory and sentence processing:  Theoretical and clinical implications

Abstract: A substantial body of research shows the presence of verbal working memory deficits in almost all individuals with developmental language disorder (DLD).  However, relatively little is known about the mechanisms responsible for these deficits and how they affect, or are affected by, difficulties with language comprehension and production. Over a number of years, my collaborators and I have investigated verbal working memory and its relation to other variables in children and adults with DLD.  We have primarily focused on how working memory interacts with sentence processing and repetition.  In this talk, I will review our work, share some of our thinking and questions, and describe proposed next steps in this line of research.  We hope that by using working memory models from cognitive science to enhance experimental research in language disorders, we will contribute to both theory refinement and to improved assessment and intervention for people with DLD.

September 11, 2020 - Navin Viswanathan, Anne Olmstead, Dan Weiss, and Allison Link (Penn State)

Title: Panel on Remote Experimental Studies

No Abstract

September 18, 2020 - JD Patterson (Penn State)

Title: Label Context and Ambiguity in Active Word Learning

Abstract: Research on active category learning—i.e., where the learner manipulates continuous feature dimensions of novel referents and receives labels for their self-generated exemplars—has routinely shown that people prefer to sample from regions of the stimulus space with high class uncertainty (near category boundaries). Prevailing accounts suggest that this strategy facilitates an understanding of the subtle distinctions between categories. However, prior work has focused on situations where category boundaries are rigid. In actuality, the boundaries between natural categories are often fuzzy or unclear. Here, we ask: do learners pursue uncertainty sampling when labels at the boundary are themselves uncertain? And how does the size of the label domain affect this?

To answer these questions, in two experiments we introduce a fuzzy buffer around a target category where conflicting labels are returned from two ‘teachers,’ and we evaluate how sampling and representation are affected. In experiment 1 we target a single-label domain while we employ a dual-label domain in experiment 2—despite maintaining an identically placed category boundary between experiments. Under the single-label domain (experiment 1), we find that fuzzy boundary learners avoid uncertainty, opting to sample densely from highly certain regions of the target category as opposed to its boundary, which held consequences for learners' grasp of the category structure even outside the fuzzy buffer zone. In experiment 2 we find that the availability of a second label resolves this preference for high-certainty sampling and alleviates the representational shortcomings associated with learning label meanings in the context of a fuzzy boundary. Our data show that multi-label contexts alter how learners negotiate learning in the presence of fuzzy class boundaries and suggest a powerful role for label contrast in the active development of word knowledge.

September 25, 2020 - John Baugh (Washington University)

Title: Linguistics for Legal Purposes (Recorded Lecture)

Abstract: Dr. John Baugh is a Professor of Psychology, Anthropology, Education, English, Linguistics, and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and is the author of the book, "Linguistics in Pursuit of Justice" (Cambridge University Press, 2018). His presentation, "Linguistics for Legal Purposes", will provide an overview of some of the ways in which linguistics can be utilized for various legal purposes. The formulation of linguistic profiling will be included, along with matters related to housing discrimination. In addition, other civil and criminal cases will be discussed, including murder cases where linguistic experimentation or survey research was essential. The presentation concludes with a critical assessment of the field of forensic linguistics.

October 2, 2020 - Malte Rosemeyer (University of Freiburg)

Title: Variation, Change and Contact in Ibero-Romance wh-interrogatives

Abstract: In this talk, I will explore the systemic asymmetry in the use of wh-interrogatives between some European and American dialects of Spanish and Portuguese. In particular, both Caribbean Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese have generalized the use of preposed subject pronouns in these interrogatives (cf. Caribbean Spanish ¿qué tú quieres? ‚what do you want?‘), as well as clefted interrogatives (cf. Brazilian Portuguese que que vocé quer? ‚lit. what that you want?‘). Using both synchronic and diachronic data from these dialects, I investigate the possibility that one or both of these processes can be explained in terms of language contact between earlier dialects of Spanish and Portuguese and Romance-based creoles.

October 9, 2020 - PSUxLing6: Esther Brown (University of Colorado) & Gillian Lord (University of Florida)

Title: The World is Not Flat, So Why Are Our Textbooks? (Dr. Gillian Lord)

Abstract: Following the Modern Language Association’s (2007) recommendations, and in the face of declining enrollments nationwide, language programs are beginning to undertake serious self-reflection with respect to curricula and pedagogical approaches. This process often reveals the need to reenvision the approach to teaching languages, literatures, and cultures. One such way language educators look to innovate their teaching is by embracing digital tools, whether of their own design or those that accompany textbook packages. While there is no doubt that digital materials facilitate opportunities for fostering the “translingual and transcultural competence” called for by the MLA, it is less clear when and how these technologies will cease to be add-ons and begin to serve a more integrative function in transforming teaching and learning. To this end, Dr. Lord argues that the paper-based textbook has outlived its usefulness in today’s world, both logistically and pedagogically, and that the change we need in terms of how we teach cannot fully take place until we change the materials we use to teach. To demonstrate, Dr. Lord explains the theoretical underpinnings that went into the design and development of her new co-authored digital beginning Spanish textbook, Contraseña. To conclude, Dr. Lord will analyze student outcome data from learners using this program in order to show that this transformed approach benefits both students and instructors.

Title: The Long-Term Accrual in Memory of Contextual Conditioning Effects (Dr. Esther Brown)

Abstract: Scholarly research on variable production of linguistic forms has provided a clear understanding of the ways in which factors of the target context can shape realizations of sounds, words, and constructions. Studies investigating variation in speech seek to consider, or statistically control, linguistic, extralinguistic, and/or discourse~pragmatic factors operating upon the target form of interest, because these predictors constrain the variation in anticipated ways. Conditioning factors of the context of use, in other words, affect linguistic form in probabilistic fashion. Usage-based research has determined that these forms, which reflect the probabilistic conditioning of the factors of the production context, become registered in memory as variant forms of words (and/or constructions). Thus, contexts of use affect linguistic productions and such productions, in turn, can impact lexical representations. Nevertheless, words differ significantly with regard to their exposure to conditioning factors of the discourse context. That is, opportunity biases arise naturally in use whereby some words co-occur with specific conditioning factors significantly more than others. The conditioning effects of contextual predictors accumulate differentially, then, across the linguistic forms of the lexicon. As such, it is productive in studies of variation (and change) to consider words’ proportion of use in specific discourse environments conditioning variation.

This talk will substantiate each of these claims [(ii) that context of use shapes linguistic form, (ii) that linguistic forms become registered in memory, (iii) that words differ in their likelihood of occurrence in conditioning contexts] using data from Spanish. Dr. Brown will present projects on phonetic reduction (durational shortening of words) and morphosyntactic variation (variable subject personal pronoun expression) that reveal evidence of lexically specific accumulation in memory of words’ ratio of occurrence in discourse contexts conditioning variation. Dr. Brown will discuss efforts to disambiguate whether these results reflect outcomes of opportunity biases (predictability of contexts), episodic traces of experiences (counts of produced forms), or both. Results of both projects are interpreted as supporting Exemplar Models of lexical representation.

October 16, 2020 - Roger Beaty (Penn State)

Title: Using Computational Semantic Models to Assess Verbal Creativity

Abstract: Conducting creativity research often involves asking several human raters to judge responses to verbal creativity tasks. Although such subjective scoring methods have proved useful, they have two inherent limitations—labor cost (raters typically code thousands of responses) and subjectivity (raters vary on their perceptions of creativity)—raising classic psychometric threats to reliability and validity. In this talk, I attempt to address these limitations by capitalizing on recent developments in automated scoring of verbal creativity via semantic distance, a computational method that uses natural language processing to quantify the semantic relatedness of texts. Five studies compared the top performing semantic models (e.g., GloVe, continuous bag of words) previously shown to have the highest correspondence to human relatedness judgements. We assessed these semantic models in relation to human creativity ratings from a canonical verbal creativity task and novelty/creativity ratings from two word association tasks. We find that a latent semantic distance factor—comprised of the common variance from five semantic models—reliably predicts human ratings across all creativity tasks, with semantic distance explaining over 80% of the variance in creativity and novelty ratings. We also replicate an established experimental effect in the creativity literature and show that semantic distance correlates with other creativity measures, demonstrating convergent validity. I conclude by describing an open platform that can efficiently compute semantic distance, and I discuss potential applications of semantic distance for assessing creative language use.

October 23, 2020 - Katrina Connell (Penn State)

Title: Lexical Prediction on the Basis of Phonological Alternation in L2 English:A Visual World Eye-Tracking Investigation

Abstract: Past studies have demonstrated that asymmetric distributional patterns in language use differentially contribute to language comprehension and the ability to predict upcoming information. These effects have been reported largely for morphosyntactic alternations, such as grammatical gender, and provide mixed results for second language (L2) learners. In the present work, we ask if L2 learners are able to demonstrate use of a different type of alternation, such as a phonological alternation, to predict upcoming elements in spoken-speech comprehension. The English indefinite article system allows us to examine this question. In English, the indefinite articles a and an alternate depending on a phonological rule triggered by the upcoming word form, with a before consonant-initial words and an before vowel-initial ones. In this talk,Dr. Connell will present results from a visual world eye-tracking study that tested a group of L1-Spanish L2-Engish speakers’ use of this phonological rule to predict upcoming words in a spoken sentence. Dr. Connell will additionally discuss the role of proficiency and then conclude by briefly discussing how this experiment was adapted for remote data collection in Puerto Rico during summer of 2020.

October 30, 2020 - Eric Pelzl (Penn State)

Title: Investigating foreign-accented speech in a tonal language

Abstract: People who learn new languages as adults usually speak with some degree of foreign accent. Accented speech, however, does not necessarily cause problems for listeners, especially if they have time to get familiar with the speaker and their accent. Most research on foreign-accented speech has focused on segmental features, that is, the consonant and vowel sounds that are affected by accent. Dr. Eric Pelzl and his collaborators are building on such work to address foreign-accented speech in lexical tone languages, with particular focus on Mandarin Chinese.

Frequent tone errors are broadly recognized as a hallmark of foreign accent in adult second language Mandarin speech. A somewhat distinctive quality of second language tone errors is that they are often unsystematic, that is, where and how the errors will occur in speech is largely unpredictable. Listeners cannot be certain what words will have errors, nor can they be certain of what tone will replace the appropriate one. To the degree that tone errors are unsystematic, listeners may have no effective way to adapt to them. Dr. Pelzl will share recent and ongoing studies in which he and his collaborators tested whether listeners might learn to simply ignore all tones from a foreign-accented speaker, and whether there are more subtle ways in which tone errors might interfere with accent adaptation. He will consider implications of this work for theories of speech perception and word recognition, as well as possible practical take-aways for tone language teaching.

November 6, 2020 - Chaleece Sandberg (Penn State)

Title: Monolingual and bilingual abstract semantic associative network training (AbSANT/BAbSANT): theoretically-based anomia therapy that promotes within- and cross-language generalization

Abstract: Generalization to untrained items is one measure of therapeutic success in aphasia treatment research. Protocols that capitalize on theorized relationships within the semantic system are more likely to promote generalization. Previous work based on the complexity account of treatment efficacy (CATE; Thompson et al., 2003) and leveraging the unique relationship between abstract and concrete words has shown that when abstract words are trained, concrete words also improve, but not vice versa (e.g., Kiran et al., 2009). Additionally, previous work based on the revised hierarchical model (RHM; Kroll & Stewart, 1994) has shown that training in the non-dominant language promotes cross-language generalization in bilingual persons with aphasia (e.g., Edmonds & Kiran, 2006). This work replicates previous work showing the generalization benefit of training abstract words in monolingual aphasia, successfully extends this abstract word training protocol to bilingual aphasia, and shows the additive benefit of training in the non-dominant language in bilingual aphasia.

November 13, 2020 - Carrie Jackson (Penn State)

Title: The importance of production (and prediction?) for the acquisition of L2 grammatical structures

Abstract: An important question in instructed second language (L2) acquisition regards the relative effectiveness of comprehension-based instruction and production-based instruction for learning L2 grammatical forms. While recent meta-analyses (Shintani, 2015; Shintani, et al., 2013) show an immediate advantage of comprehension-based instruction for receptive knowledge and a long-term advantage of production-based instruction for productive knowledge, questions remain regarding the underlying cognitive mechanisms associated with language production, and how they may be particularly beneficial to the acquisition of L2 grammatical forms. In this talk I will discuss two recent studies from our lab: 1) A training study in which beginning L1 English-L2 learners of German learned German grammatical gender marking (e.g., ein blauer Becher “a.MASC blue.MASC cup.MASC” vs. eine blaue Schüssel “a.FEM red.FEM bowl.FEM”) via comprehension-based vs. production-based training units and (2) a structural priming study that measured the production of double object vs. prepositional object dative constructions (e.g., The boy gives the girl the book/The boy gives the book to the girl) among intermediate L1 Korean-L2 learners of English. Based on results from these two studies I will argue that learning is enhanced when learners must overtly produce targeted grammatical forms rather than simply comprehending these forms—and especially production-based activities that encourage learners to evaluate whether their own self-generated productions match predicted target forms. I attribute this advantage for production-based training to the cognitive mechanisms that underlie language production, including utterance planning and lexical retrieval, and the ways in which production-based training encourages learners to “notice the gap” between their own productions and target forms (e.g., Potts et al., 2019; Schmidt, 2001; Swain, 2005). Over time, these processes support the creation of stronger linguistic representations in memory than activities that only require learners to recognize target forms and map those forms to their intended meaning. 

November 20, 2020 - No CLS talk (Psychonomics)

November 27, 2020 - No CLS talk (Thanksgiving break)

December 4, 2020 - Jorge Valdes Kroff (University of Florida)

Title: The code-switcher’s flex: Integrating code-switches in real-time processing

Abstract: A cornerstone of sentence processing is that we deploy incremental and predictive processing during online comprehension. Code-switching, however, potentially presents unique challenges to the comprehension system. While parsing current linguistic input, bilinguals must be ready to integrate code-switches into the other language, which minimally includes switches in language membership, phonology, and morphosyntax. Additionally, lab-based studies robustly find processing costs associated with the comprehension of code-switching, despite its ubiquity among certain bilingual communities. To reconcile this apparent paradox, I will present the Adaptive Predictability Hypothesis, comprised of two components: 1. bilinguals globally adapt how they predict and 2. bilinguals locally increase cognitive control to integrate an immediate code-switch. I will illustrate the hypothesis across two studies and discuss future directions.

December 11, 2020 - So Yeon Chun (Penn State)

Title: The Underlying Mechanisms of Sentence Repetition in Assessing Children with Developmental Language Disorders

Abstract: Sentence repetition has been used widely as an effective screening tool to assess children with developmental language disorders (DLD). However, compared to its clinical use, little is known about the underlying mechanisms that enable the task to tap the deficits in children with DLD, mainly due to complex characteristics of the task. Therefore, the purpose of the review is to understand the task characteristics that allow it to be an effective screening tool, by inspecting the task from four different viewpoints: (a) sentence (linguistic characteristics of the task), (b) repetition (cognitive aspects of the task), (c) chunking (integrating processes during the task), (d) scoring (interpretations of the task results). First, in the “sentence” section, this review highlights how the linguistic characteristics of sentences could impact sentence repetition performance. Second, the “repetition” section considered sentence repetition as a memory task. Third, the “chunking” section provided a review of the role of chunking in sentence processing and repetition. Lastly, in the “scoring” section, this review categorized the different scoring systems that have been used in the previous studies involving sentence repetition in monolingual children with DLD. This review concludes that a variety of linguistic and cognitive characteristics of sentence repetition affect the task results in different ways depending on the difficulties of the target sentences and the participants’ cognitive-linguistic deficits.