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You are here: Home / News & Events / CLS Speaker Series / Fall 2007 - Spring 2020 / Spring 2017

Spring 2017

Jan 13, 2017 -  Lauren (Perrotti) Halberstadt (Penn State University) 

Title: Investigating How Community Norms Affect the Processing of Codeswitched Language

Abstract: Is codeswitching costly? And if so, can the costs be mitigated? These questions guide the present studies to better understand how we produce and comprehend codeswitches. Given links between language usage and language processing, there is a glaring need to examine codeswitches in speakers who regularly engage in codeswitching. This was accomplished by recruiting participants from a single codeswitching community in Albuquerque, New Mexico and using natural speech samples as the experimental materials. To study production, a corpus of natural spoken codeswitched samples was created; to study comprehension, two experiments were conducted. During this talk, I will discuss the results of these studies which shed light on the way language variation within the community affects language processing in the individual.

Jan 20, 2017 -  Katharina Schumann(Penn State University) 

Title: Perceptual Learning Within and Across Languages

Abstract: Mounting evidence suggests that adult listeners readily fine-tune their speech perception in their native language (L1) to accommodate novel accents or atypical pronunciations. The general process of perceptual learning, whereby non-canonical speech leads to a change in the listeners’ phoneme category boundary, has been well established in laboratory studies of native listeners (Norris et al. 2003, McQueen et al. 2006, Kraljic & Samuel 2005, 2006, inter alia). In this talk, I examine how non-native (L2) and bilingual listeners of different proficiency levels handle phonetic variability in their speech input. The results of several studies involving novice and advanced L1 English–L2 German listeners (in the US) and advanced L1 German–L2 English listeners (in Germany) show that perceptual learning can generalize across languages. In particular, phonetic variability in English can affect perception of the L1 and the L2 for both native English listeners and native German listeners. Perceptual learning in the native language further generalizes to related phoneme contrasts within and across languages. Perceptual learning in a non-native language, on the other hand, appears to be specific to the trained phoneme contrast and does not generalize to other phoneme contrasts with shared phonological features. Additionally, cross-linguistic generalization effects are modulated by the listeners’ L2 language proficiency and L2 use. The aforementioned complex pattern of cross-linguistic perceptual learning in L1 English–L2 German and L1 German–L2 English listeners suggests that the grammatical representations of the tested phonemic contrasts in English and German are not independent for bilingual listeners. These findings have interesting implications for models of knowledge of sound and speech processing. Consequences for mental representations and directions for future research will be discussed.

Jan 13, 2017 -  Deborah Morton(Penn State University) 

Title: Language Development and Changing Language Attitudes Among the Anii People

AbstractThe Anii people of Togo and Benin (West Africa) are a minority language group, surrounded by unrelated languages whose speaker populations are much bigger than those of Anii. For over fifty years, the Anii have also been exposed to conflicting language ideologies from outside their community. These ideologies come from governmental and non-governmental organizations that have both promoted the use of French as the language of education and government, and sought to encourage language development and literacy in the 'languages of the people', including Anii. The earliest efforts to expand the use of Anii beyond its traditional use (as an oral means of communication within the Anii community), such as government-sponsored literacy classes starting in the 1970s, were often regarded as being directed towards the poor and uneducated. These types of initiatives were generally not embraced by wealthy and educated Anii, and resulted in many Anii people viewing their language as rural, or even backwards. In contrast, more recent language-development initiatives such as the creation of Anii programs on local and national radio, and a magazine that is published in paper and on-line formats, appear to have given rise to much more positive attitudes towards Anii. In particular, the use of modern technologies has been viewed as making Anii more similar to (and thus more equal in value to) both European languages and (perhaps more importantly) the languages of the larger ethnic groups the Anii people come in contact with. This talk presents data from interviews and language development materials to investigate how language attitudes affect and are affected by the ways in which the language is used within the community.

Feb 3, 2017 - Roberta Golinkoff (University of Delaware)

Title: Carving Events for Language

Abstract: Events are continuous.  Our perception of them is not.  Remembering the past and predicting the future demand that we parse events into components that will also lay the foundation for language learning.  In this talk, we present a series of relatively new studies designed to examine infant attention to and interpretation of event structure.  Using Mandler (2012) and Talmy (2000) as our inspiration, we find that infants are sensitive to event components like paths and manners and figures and grounds, among others.  Infants also detect statistical relationships within event components that allow them to abstract predictable patterns with relatively little exposure.   Finally, our work suggests that infants use both bottom up and top down processes to parse continuous events into the categories of experience.  We explore several ways in which these new findings on event processing might interface with the acquisition of language. 

Feb 10, 2017 - Abby Walker (Virginia Tech)

Title: Listening with an Accent: Long-term Multidialectal Exposure and Speech Perception

Abstract: Some people are exposed to a broader range of dialects than others, perhaps since birth, or throughout their lifetime due to social or regional mobility. Similarly, some people experience being “accented” in a way that other speakers do not. In this talk I will present three studies that highlight the ways in which these differences in experience result in differences in how people listen. In the first study, English and American expatriates and non-migrants transcribed English and American speakers in noise. There is evidence that participants with the most transatlantic experience do better with their non-native dialect than those with less-experience, reflecting the well-attested fact that greater familiarity with a dialect results in more accurate transcriptions. However, there is also evidence of some asymmetry between English and American listeners that may be due to the relative prestige of the two dialects. 

In the second study, again using a listening in noise transcription task, we found that L1-English listeners who self-report having an accent were more accurate with L2-English than “unaccented” listeners. Error analysis reveals that “accented” listeners were attempting more answers than unaccented listeners. Finally, in a cross-modal lexical decision task we find that listeners who have lived in multiple dialect regions show less facilitation and more inhibition than monodialectal listeners. We interpret this difference as a “keep your options open” strategy by the former group resulting from the dialect-based ambiguity in their linguistic histories. Taken together, these findings highlight the ways in which (socio)linguistic experience may shape speech perception beyond familiarity.

Feb 17, 2017 - Rhonda McClain (Penn State University)

Title: Zooming In On Interaction Between Planning and Articulation Through the Lens of Disruptions

Abstract: A challenge in research on speech production has been determining whether interaction spans a single level at most or extends across several stages of processing. Many studies have demonstrated that semantic and phonological stages of lexical access involve co-activation of multiple representations, influencing the output of selection at adjacent stages of processing. There is also some evidence that effects originating in phonological planning extend to phonetic processing, altering the phonetic properties of speech. However, evidence for interaction extending from lexical access to phonetic processing is inconsistent. I will present a study conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern that aimed to demonstrate the extent and ways in which, activation of non-target forms influences phonetic processing. We exploited the sentence completion task to investigate whether disruptions that produce consequences for lexical access also affect articulation. We tested this hypothesis by varying the degree of cognitive disruption. In Experiment 1, we examined young adult monolinguals. In Experiment 2, young adults completed the paradigm under time-pressure. In Experiment 3, we examined a group of older adults, for whom normal cognitive aging increases the demands of lexical access. Our results revealed extended interaction from planning to articulation that was greater in Experiment 2 relative to the baseline of Experiment 1. We observed facilitation in all experiments when picture targets matched the expected sentence completion, but there was no evidence of semantic interference. I will discuss the implications of these results for dynamic accounts of interaction during speech production.

Mar 3, 2017 - Scott Fraundorf (University of Pittsburgh)

Title: What Happened (and What Didn’t): Prosody, Gesture, and Salient Alternatives in Discourse

Abstract: Representing salient alternatives to true propositions may contribute to successful understanding and memory of discourse (e.g., Rooth, 1992). I review recent work from my laboratory investigating how memory for discourse may benefit from linguistic devices that indicate contrasting alternatives. In Experiments 1-2,participantslistenedtoshort recorded discourses that contained contrast sets with two items (e.g. “Both the British scientists and French scientists were searching for the endangered monkey"); a continuation specified one item from the set (e.g., “Eventually, the British scientists found the monkey and planted a radio tag on it”). Prosodic pitch accenting on the critical word in the continuation was manipulated between non-contrastive (H* in the ToBI system) and contrastive (L+H*). On a subsequent recognition memory test, the L+H* accent facilitated correct rejections of the contrast item (i.e., “French scientists”) but did not benefit rejections of lure items never mentioned in the original discourse (e.g., “German scientists"), suggesting that participants had encoded something about the specific contrastive alternative. Subsequent work (Experiment 3) replicated these memory benefits in written discourse as a function of font emphasis. Further, increased reading times on emphasized words suggests that encoding contrastive alternatives may be effortful and time-consuming. Consequently, it might be more difficult for comprehenders processing in their second language (L2), and I present recent work (Experiments 4-5) on how and why these cues are processed differently by L2 learners. Finally, I close by discussing ongoing work examining how these prosodic cues may be integrated with gesture in multi- modal discourse processing (Experiment 6). On the whole, the results suggest that computing and remembering salient alternatives contributes to successful memory for discourse, but that doing so can be time-consuming and difficult. 

Mar 17, 2017 - Laurel Brehm (Penn State University)

Title: Language Anomalies in Comprehension and Production

Abstract: Not all utterances are produced as planned, and not all individuals would consider the same utterances to be well- formed. This variability means that comprehenders are required to extract meaning from utterances that are anomalous to them. In the present work, I demonstrate the interplay between what is produced, what is comprehended, and the speaker-specific cues that listeners use to infer meaning from anomalous utterances. I outline two experiments that show how readers extract meaning from speech errors and dialect variations alike in a fashion that considers speaker- specific properties. I then integrate these data within new models of production and comprehension, showing how examination of errors and speaker-driven variable forms can illuminate the mind’s architecture. 

Mar 24, 2017 - Kevin McManus (Penn State University)

Title: Investigating the Benefits of L1 Explicit Instruction in L2 Input Processing

Abstract: Persistent L1 effects throughout L2 learning are repeatedly acknowledged (Izquierdo & Collins, 2008; Tokowicz & Warren, 2010; Roberts & Liszka, 2013), but very little research has investigated the impact of explicit instruction about L1 properties on L2 learning. This paper presents an experimental intervention designed to examine how differences in the type of explicit instruction impact L2 learners’ online processing of the French Imparfait – a feature with complex L1-L2 form-meaning mapping differences and similarities. Four instructional conditions manipulated explicit information (EI) and/or practice: 

i)                EI about L1 and L2, with practice in L1+L2 (n=17)

ii)               EI only about the L2, with practice in L1+L2 (n=19)

iii)              EI only about the L2, with practice in L2 (n=17)

iv)              Test-only (n=16)

In this talk I build on previous analyses of learners’ performance in offline and online outcome measures and examine learners’ accuracy and speed of input processing during the intervention. Results show more accurate and faster processing over time for learners receiving L2+L1 EI plus practice (group i) than in the other groups (ii and iii). These results are consistent with previous findings about the benefits of L1+L2 EI plus practice for online processing (McManus & Marsden, 2016, in press). In addition to the unique nature of this intervention, how differences in the nature of EI and practice influence L2 learning is discussed (with links to L2 theory about the role of L1 and awareness, e.g. Ellis 2006, Truscott 2015), including why explicit instruction about both the L2 and L1 appears particularly beneficial for this target feature.

Mar 31, 2017 - Janna Oetting (Louisiana State University)

Title: Variability within Varieties of English: Profiles of Typicality and Impairment

Abstract: Although advances have been made in the study of childhood language impairment in nonmainstream dialects of English, there remain significant gaps in our knowledge of these dialects and of the manifestations of impairment within them. These gaps in the literature create barriers to the representation of nonmainstream English-speaking children within applied and theoretical research, and this impedes the development of valid and efficient clinical services for children who speak these dialects. Within this talk I will present findings from studies conducted with children who speak different nonmainstream dialects of English, including African American English as spoken in MI, DC, rural LA, and the Gullah/Geechee Corridor of SC, and Southern White English as spoken in rural LA by children with and without a Cajun French heritage. Using data from these studies, I will present some of the ways in which child speakers of various nonmainstream dialects differ from each other and some of the ways in which nonmainstream English-speaking children with language impairment differ from their same dialect-speaking, typically developing peers.

Apr 7, 2017 - Cristobal Lozano (University of Granada)

Title: From Experiments to Corpora and Back: Anaphora Resolution in L2 Spanish

Abstract: In this talk, we will argue for the need to combine experimental data with naturalistic corpus production data to study the same linguistic phenomenon.  A case in point is anaphora resolution (AR) in L2 Spanish, i.e., how anaphoric expressions (null pronouns, overt pronouns and NPs) refer to their antecedents in prior discourse.  Much experimental work has overrelied in one type of context (Position of Antecedent Strategy), but naturalistic production data from recent L2 corpus studies reveals that there are additional scenarios and factors that have been overlooked in experimental work (Lozano 2016).  Therefore, relevant factors from corpus findings can be implemented and controlled in experiments, both offline in L1 Greek-L2 Spanish (Lozano forth. 2017), and an online (reaction time experiment in L1 English-L2 Spanish that we are currently designing in PSU).

We will discuss the implications of these findings within a current theory of L2 acquisition / bilingualism (Sorace's 2011 Interface Hypothesis) and within a ‘cyclic model’ of data triangulation in L2 acquisition research (Mendikoetxea & Lozano submitted):  The experimental findings can be the departure point for an exploratory corpus study, which in turn reveals factors that can be manipulated/controlled in an experiment, which in turn may show additional factors to explore in the corpus, and so on. 

Apr 14, 2017 - Grant Berry (Penn State University)

Title: Shrinking Down Sound Change: Dual Mechanisms of Cognitive Control and Phonological Adaptation

Abstract: Language users readily adapt to linguistic variation, both in the short term—after exposure to another’s speech—and in the long term—as linguistic structures change in the surrounding community. How is an individual’s interaction with linguistic variation influenced by the general cognitive strategies they use to resolve competition inherent to their surrounding environment? Under a dual mechanisms framework (e.g., Braver et al., 2007; Braver, 2012), cognitive control—the mechanisms engaged to resolve conflict and regulate expectations—is divided into two interrelated strategies: proactive and reactive control. Less habitual engagement of these strategies is hypothesized to facilitate the integration of phonological variation (Berry, 2016; see also Darcy et al., 2016; Lev-Ari and Peperkamp, 2013, 2014; Lev-Ari and Keysar, 2014). In this talk, I discuss two studies examining the relationship between dual mechanisms of cognitive control and phonological adaptation. Study 1 investigates how proactive and reactive control modulate participants’ adaptation to distributional changes in their speech input, using a controlled laboratory setting to simulate sound change (lowering of /ɪ/ to /ɛ/precedingvoicelesscoronalcodas). In this paradigm, participants alternated between listening to a model talker produce 80 controlled mono- and bi-syllabic words in isolation and blocks where they spoke those words aloud themselves (cf. Maye et al., 2008; Kittredge and Dell, 2016). Gradually, a sound change was embedded in the exposure blocks, such that the relative frequency of a lowered variant in a pre-specified phonetic context increased by 25% in each block. The degree to which this change was integrated was calculated by measuring participants’ log-mean normalized F1 from the production block for words in the pre-specified environment asafunctionofblock number and the variant heard in the preceding listening block, and these were correlated to composite indices of proactive and reactive control. Results of linear mixed effects modeling (cf. Barr et al., 2013; Bates et al., 2015) indicate that individuals with weaker reactive control integrated the simulated sound change into their own production gradually as the relative proportion of the novel, lowered variant increased in the exposure stimuli. This finding suggests that cognitive strategies engaged to resolve conflict correlate to one’s tendency to resolve distributional changes in one’s linguistic input. Study 2 explores some long-term implications of these findings in community-based research examining individual participation in three socially-stratified sound changes-in-progress in Philadelphia. An example is EY-raising (when ‘wait’ sounds more like ‘wheat’), which is rapidly advancing in that community (cf. Labov et al., 2013). The hypothesis is that—modulo the influence of community-level social valuation of a given variable—findings from Study 1 will also correlate to findings from Study 2, i.e., that those who are most advanced in the target sound changes-in-progress are also those who demonstrate less habitual engagement of cognitive control. Connections between laboratory and field approaches to this question are then discussed, which together motivate the inclusion of cognitive control strategies in models of language variation and change.

Apr 21, 2017 - David Adger (Queen Mary University of London)

Title: Three Sources of Syntactic Variation

Abstract: In this talk I distinguish three sources of syntactic variation and exemplify them through some preliminary findings that have emerged from the SCOSYA project (Scots Syntactic Atlas, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council). One source of variation in syntax is to be understood as deriving from the way that syntax is spelled out as morphological form. I show this by an investigation of aspects of the morphosyntax of negation across Scottish dialects and argue that certain phenomena that have been treated as head movement are better understood, not as syntactic movement, but as a direct link between syntactic and morphological structures. The second source involves a difference, not in how syntax is spelled out, but in the inventory of syntactic features. I present an analysis of agreement differences between different Scottish dialects that shows surface variation in this area emerges through the interaction of feature inventory variation and spellout mechanisms. The third source of syntactic variation is that varieties syntactically combine different resources to attain structures which can be uniformly mapped to the interface with semantic interpretation to achieve similar semantic. I illustrate this by looking at variation in the interaction between certain auxiliary and main verbs across Scottish dialects. The sources of variation, then, lie at the interface with morphology, the inventory of syntactic features available in a language, and in how languages combine their syntactic resources to achieve structures which uniformly map to semantic interpretation. We can see how all three sources interact to give rise to a rich pattern of variation across the dialects of Scottish English.

Apr 28, 2017 - Laura Sabourin (University of Ottowa)

Title: The Bilingual Mental Lexicon: An ERP Masked Priming Investigation

Abstract: Research on the mental representations of language and how it is processed by the bilingual brain is an important aspect of not only understanding linguistic processes but also for understanding neural organization. It is still under debate whether bilingual and monolingual language processing make use of similar neural networks. One major reason for the uncertainty is due to the numerous types of bilinguals used in research. For example, studies have tested early bilinguals, late bilinguals, second-language (L2) learners (considered as bilinguals), bilinguals whose languages are typologically re­lated, and bilinguals whose languages are not related. The research presented here will contribute to rectifying this. This study investigates the role of age of L2 immersion (AoI) on the organization of the bilingual mental lexicon. Our behavioural research has demonstrated that both early and simultaneous bilinguals show evidence of an integrated lexicon while late bilinguals and second language learners (functional monolinguals) do not (Sabourin, Brien & Burkholder, 2014). However, later research investigating manner of L2 acquisition (MoA), showed that late learners with a naturalistic MoA did show evidence of an integrated bilingual lexicon (Sabourin, Leclerc, Burkholder & Brien, 2014). To further understand these results we are currently combining Event-Related brain Potentials (ERPs) with a masked priming paradigm to examine early, automatic lexical processing at the semantic level by testing both a within-language semantic priming condition as well as a cross-language translation condi­tion. Four groups of par­ticipants were tested: 1) English native speakers with minimal exposure to French (Functional Monolinguals; N=20); 2) English-French bilinguals whose initial immersion in French was from age 7 or lat­er (Late Bilinguals; N=9); 3) English-French bilinguals whose initial immersion in French was before age 7 (Early Bilinguals; N=23); and 4) Simultaneous English-French bilinguals (N=12). Using this ERP data we hope to further support and build upon our claims concerning bilingual lexical organization.