Chapter 12.docx

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26 Apr 2012
Chapter 12 Psycholinguistics : the study of language processing
psycholinguistics the study of language-processing mechanisms; mental events
12.1 Methods of psycholinguistic research
o language users are unaware of the details of language processing subconscious
ability is maximized to operate with speed and efficiency
o saccades: a series of jerks in the movement of the eye while reading text
≠ move smoothly from left to right
12.1.1 Slips of the tongue
spoonerisms slips of the tongue produced during speech - [field technique]
o Reverend William A. Spooner
E.g. What he intended: Noble sons of toil
What he said: Noble tons of soil
o tendency to exchange the initial consonants of words in the utterance
o sentences are planned out before the person begins to say it
o ‘mixing and matching’ morphemes within words
E.g. Intended: easily enough
Produced: easy enoughly
o the morpheme, rather than the word, is the fundamental building block of English
sentence production
o morphological components of words can function independently during sentence
12.1.2 Experimental methods: words in the mind
‘tip of the tongue’ phenomena temporarily unable to access a word
reveals flexibility to access the mental lexicon
Lexical decision
o participant is seated at a computer, a word appears on the screen and the participant
must quickly judge whether the word is a real English word or not (‘yes’ or ‘no’)
o two dependent variables things that are being measured: the time that it takes for a
participant to respond (response latency) and whether the participant’s judgment is
correct (reponse accuracy)
o frequency effect participants take ½ a second (500 milliseconds) to press ‘yes’ for
common words but take longer for less common words
suggests our mental dictionaries are organized so that words we use more often
are more easily and quickly available to us
o pronounceable non-words take longer to reject
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aspects of phonology are automatically activated during word reading
The priming paradigm
- target word to be judged
- prime preceding stimulus
o the extent to which the prime influences the participant’s lexical decision
performance on the target stimulus is measured
response time is faster when a target is preceded by a semantically
related prime (e.g. cat-dog) networks
priming effect: when a word is seen, its representation is activated
in the mind and spreads to other words in the lexical network that
are semantically related; ‘warmed up’
orthographically related words couch, touch
phonologically related words light, bite
word roots and complex forms legal, illegality
12.1.3 Experimental methods: sentence processing
parsing unconscious automatic analysis of the meaning of a sentence’s words and syntactic
Timed-reading experiments
o Bar-pressing paradigm: participants are seated at a computer and read a sentence,
revealing only one word at a time
dependent variable = the time it takes to process the particular word
participants do not show equal bar-pressing times across a sentence, but a
pattern that reflects the syntactic structure of the sentence
bar-pressing times for processing content words (nouns and verbs) are longer
function words (determiners, conjunctions, and prepositions) are shorter
length of relative clauses and at the end of full sentences are longest
Eye movements
o when the eyes are at rest, they take a ‘snapshot’ of two or three words (lasting 200 to
250 milliseconds)
o meanwhile, the language-processing system calculates where to jump to next
o during a jump to the next fixation location (8 letters to the right), the reader is
“essentially blind”
o participant is seated at a computer displaying text, eye movements are tracked and
recorded by a device illuminating the participants eyes with low-intensity infrared light
fixation times are typically longer for less frequent words
points of fixation are typically centred on content words (nouns and verbs)
rather than function words (determiners and conjunctions)
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