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Lecture 19

Tuesday, Nov 13/2012 - Lecture 19

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 2650
Professor
Dan Meegan
Semester
Fall

Description
Tuesday, November 13/2012 PSYC 2650 Lecture 17 Syntax: Phrase Structure • The hierarchical division of the sentence into units called phrases • Language is one of those topics that can be very technical • Some of that technical content is not necessary for an introductory cognition course • Syntax is the most important aspect of grammar ◦ When referring to people with bad grammar you are typically referring to their misuse of english syntax rules ◦ Syntax: Rules governing the sequences and combinations of words in the formation of phrases and sentences ▪ All languages have rules that govern how words are ordered so that they make sense (even if those rules aren't all the same) • Phrases are smaller than sentences but still possess conceptual meaning • NP: Noun phrase ◦ Describing the subject of the sentence ◦ Describing any noun or object either acting or being acted on in a sentence • VP: Verb phrase ◦ Describing the action of the subject of the sentence ◦ Don't need to know these terms for the exam SyntacticAmbiguity • Focus is on parsing • Parsing: Understanding what other people are saying to you • Some people you speak to are easy to understand and other people are more difficult to understand • Syntactic ambiguity makes parsing more difficult • In syntactic ambiguity, there are two possible interpretations of the same sentence. ◦ Asentence with more than one possible phrase structure • Example: ◦ He wants to discuss sex with Dick Cavett (Dick Cavette has a talk show) ▪ Interpretation 1:Amale participant is coming onto a show to discuss sexual issues ▪ Interpretation 2: Two individuals who have had sex with Dick Cavette are going to discuss his sexual prowess ◦ I saw the gorilla in my pajamas ◦ The shooting of the hunters was terrible ◦ They are roasting chickens ◦ Visiting relatives can be awful ◦ Two computers were reported stolen by the TV announcer Parsing and Phrase Structure • When comprehending sentences, we interpret individual phrases and then combine these interpretations • Even though we may not feel it, our minds are aware of the phrases as part of the sentences • At the boundary between phrases is an important place for parsing • Evidence... Effects of Presentation on Comprehension • FormAand Form B are written the same way but read differently • Commas something you use as a writer to give the reader a clue about when to parse • As a speaker, the comma introduces a pause • Pauses indicate when the listener should think about what you have just said • Form B sounds strange when it is read aloud because breaks were inserted in the middle phrases instead of at phrase boundaries like in FormA • FormA: ◦ During World War II, ◦ even fantastic schemes ◦ received consideration ◦ if they gave promise ◦ of shortening the conflict • Form B: ◦ During World War ◦ II, even fantastic ◦ schemes received ◦ consideration if they gave ◦ promise of shortening the conflict • Sentences were read one line at a time, in either formAor form B • Better comprehension was found inAthan B ◦ What we take from this is that the boundaries between phrases are points where we understand ◦ If we break sentences at phrase boundaries, comprehension is optimized ◦ If we break sentences inside phrase boundaries, comprehension is debilitated Effects of Phrase Structure on Reading Speed • If you are reading and it's an important place to parse, you may spend measurably more time there • Read sentences word-by-word. Press a button to view the next word • Even though the differences are small, there is a reliable difference between how long you spend on each word • Measured amount of time subjects looked at a word before pressing • Results: With the completion of each major phrase, subjects need time to process the phrase • Bars indicate the phrase boundary (eg. 1 bar is the first phrase boundary, 2 bars is the second phrase boundary) • As far as mental chronometry goes, the time taken really is significant ARecency Effect for Non-Semantic Details • Subjects heard passages • When interrupted, they had to write down as much of the passage as they could remember • Task was to write down literally every word you could remember ◦ Not to write down your comprehension – but the words • Having failed to disprove the charges, Taylor was later fired by the president • People are very accurate at identifying the words in the last half of the sentence • People are poor at identifying the words at the beginning of the sentence ◦ Implies that parsing has not happened yet ◦ Drop-off of word memory is a phrase boundary ▪ Parsed the first phrase and then you no longer remember the words, but rather you remember the meaning ▪ You remember the meaning of the sentence, but not the sentence word for word ▪ You can't throw away the words and their order until you have parsed them and determined their semantic content ARecency Effect for Non-Semantic Details • Once phrase has been processed there is no need Word-by-Word Comprehension • May have implied that we take in a bunch of words and once we arrive at a phrase boundary, we parse all the words in our “buffer” • Not really the way it happens, though • As each word comes in, you are actively trying to interpret things ◦ When you get to a phrase boundary you can then make sense of a larger piece of information • We do not wait for a phrase to end before attempting to interpret its meaning • Immediacy of Interpretation: People try to extract meaning out of each word as it arrives Eye Movements During Reading • Time spent looking at an individual word is proportional to its meaningfulness • Showed individuals a page of text and monitored eye movements as they read • Eye movements do follow the text, but spend more time on phrase boundaries and important/meaningful words Garden-Path Sentences • Word-by-word interpretation can get us into trouble • Garden-Paths are mazes • In language, if you're listening to something that has multiple interpretations, you have to make a quick decision about which interpretation is the most likely • Commit to one interpretation of a transiently ambiguous sentence before all of the relevant information is available ◦ These are sentences that by the end can only have one way to interpret it, but at earlier points in the sentence there is ambiguity • Example: ◦ The old train the young ◦ If you only hear “the old train” you would think of an older freight train, probably not using train as a verb ◦ Really means that older individuals teach younger individuals ◦ In the end, there is really only one interpretation, but when you hear only the first portion, ambiguity is introduced ◦ Often ambiguity is introduced by the presence of homonyms in the sentence Syntactic Cues for Comprehension • Word order • Function words • Word inflections Word Order • Same words in a different order produces a different meaning • Not all orders are legal, so you can't simply randomly shuffle them around • Example: ◦ The dog bit the cat ◦ The cat bit the dog ◦ Obviously these two sentences are very different in meaning Function Words • The boy the girl liked was sick ◦ Transient ambiguity that is not necessarily because of word choice, but word ordering ◦ eg. The boy, the girl, and the dog... (When you hear two nouns without and suggests that a list is coming up) • Use function word to avoid ambiguity ◦ The boy whom the girl liked was sick. ◦ Make
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