Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Psycholinguistic talk in COGS seminar, 3 Feb

Here's a relevant-to-linguists talk coming up in the Centre for Cognitive Science at Sussex:

3 February 2015, 16.00-17.30
Jubilee 144

Semantic and Syntactic Factors influencing language production: 

"WHO" are we likely to refer to and "HOW" in repeated text?

Bojana Ivic
University of Sussex
Who are we likely to refer to in the repeated discourse or text? How are we likely to refer to them? This talk presents 5 experiments, looking at which one out of the people that have already been mentioned we are likely to refer to again, and in doing so, are we likely to repeat their full name or use the pronoun. Pronoun resolution is extensively researched topic, and the present research is looking at two previous studies with the conflicting results. One suggests that different factors influence “who” are we likely to refer to and “how” are we likely to refer to them (Fukumura & van Gompel, 2010) and the other that the same factor affects these two questions (Arnold, 2001). In particular, Fukumura and van Gompel, suggest that semantic role that a person mentioned in preceding clause, plays (e.g. stimulus/experiencer), determines who is referred to again, but that the way in which they are referred to (pronoun/name) is determined by the grammatical role (subject or object). Arnold, who looked at the thematic roles of source and goal, suggests that semantic roles influence both “who” we refer to and “how” we refer to them.
In an attempt to understand why these studies produced different results we carried out 5 studies asking people to write continuations to the sentences which introduce two people related by an interpersonal verb. Both implicit causality verbs (following Fukumura & van Gompel) and the source-goal verbs (following Arnold) were used. The 5 experiments were varied in terms of the materials and methodologies used, in experiments 1,4, 5 we used a method of the forced referent, by indicating with an arrow who should participants refer to (thus creating bias-consistent and bias-inconsistent items), and in these experiments the main question was “whether the pronoun or repeated name are used?”. The answer is that the choice of name  vs. pronouns is influenced by the grammatical (subject) or structural factor (position of the antecedent in its clause); it is not clear, however, whether it is the first-mention or the subject of the preceding clause.
In the ‘no arrow’ experiments (exp. 2,3), semantics does seem to influence “who” we are likely to refer to; for the implicit causality items, people tend to refer to the “stimulus” rather than an “experiencer” for both types of verbs (SE/ES). For the Arnold materials, when participants are asked to provide causal continuation (exp. 2) there is no clear effect, but when participants are free to continue the sentence as they wish (cause, consequence, elaboration were the main types of cont.) they choose “goal” over the “source”. This suggests the “goal” preference, rather than straightforward causality bias. When people are free to choose the continuation, for the ES/SE verbs their preferred choice of ending is “cause”, whilst for the GS/SG verbs, causes are less popular as the continuation, and this might allow people to refer to “goals” rather than “sources”.  Further studies will investigate these questions by asking  people to write consequential continuations. Insofar, it seems that slight changes in either items or instructions, affect changes on more levels than one. This might be an approach analogous to Marr’s theory of vision, which suggests that statistical properties of language affect language comprehension and language production at the very basic level.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Psychology colloquia Spring 2015

Another School with linguist-relevant talks this term:

School of Psychology
University of Sussex

Psychology Colloquia
Spring and Summer Programme 2015

All seminars are to be held in Pevensey 1 Room 1B3.
Seminars start at 4.00 pm (except where indicated otherwise)


Spring Term Programme

22/01/15 Week 1
      Dr Polly Dalton (Royal Holloway, University of London)
      Host: Dr Sophie Forster                                                                                           

“The cocktail party revisited: Mechanisms of auditory attention and awareness”

In order to function effectively in a complicated world, we need to prioritise relevant information at the expense of irrelevant information. Research into this process of selective attention began with a range of influential auditory studies, but has since tended to focus more heavily on visual mechanisms. I will describe a range of studies asking whether established principles of visual attention also apply within the auditory domain. In particular, I will present an auditory correlate of the well-known ‘inattentional blindness’ effect, as well as addressing the question of whether perceptual load theory (e.g. Lavie, 2005) holds for auditory stimuli.

29/01/15 Week 2
      Prof Gert Westermann (Lancaster University)
      Hosts: Dr Anna Franklin and Dr Jessica Horst

“Learning about objects and words in their first year of life”

A considerable amount of research has addressed the early abilities of infants to form categories of objects. Much of this work has focused on static visual stimuli and it has been found that even 3-4-month-olds can form categories from such stimuli. I will describe research that investigates multimodal aspects of object and category learning. I will address two main questions: first, by what age can infants rapidly link visual and auditory aspects of objects for ecologically valid stimuli? Second, by what age can infants use the names for objects to shape perceptual categories? After describing experimental work I will then present a computational model that provides an account of the mechanisms of integrating visual and verbal information in object category learning.

05/02/15 Week 3
    Speaker: TBC

12/02/15 Week 4
     Prof Kate Cain (Lancaster University)                                                                                         
     Host: Prof Jane Oakhill

“The language bases of reading comprehension: A developmental perspective”

I will present findings from an ongoing longitudinal study of the language bases of reading comprehension in children aged 4 to 9. Issues that will be addressed include: the relative contributions of word reading and listening comprehension to reading comprehension in the early stages of reading development; the relations between different critical oral language skills in this age range; and how these different oral language skills predict reading comprehension outcomes. Implications for the instruction of reading comprehension will be discussed.

19/02/15 Week 5    
    Speaker: TBC

26/02/15 Week 6    
    Prof Michael E. Lamb (University of Cambridge)                                                                                             
    Host: Prof Robin Banerjee

“Helping abused children become effective witnesses”

I will describe how, over the last several decades, research on children cognitive, emotional, social, and communicative development has informed the design and implementation of forensic investigative techniques that had radically transformed our conception of how useful and informative child witnesses can be. When interviewers use these best practice techniques, they are able to elicit richer information that, in turn, changes the disposition of child abuse cases in the criminal justice system.

05/03/15 Week 7              
    Prof Caroline Rowland (University of Liverpool)                                                                     
    Host: Dr Jessica Horst

How do children learn syntax? Evidence from production, comprehension and explanatory models”

Research on syntax acquisition has traditionally focused on debating the extent to which language learning depends on innate knowledge or environmental support. On the one hand, many studies, mainly on speech production (e.g. Pine et al., 1998), have suggested that children start out with pockets of knowledge based round an inventory of item-based frames. This evidence supports an approach that sees syntax development as a gradual process of abstraction across specific instances in the child’s input. On the other hand, a different body of work, mainly on language comprehension, suggests that children use abstract grammatical categories from the earliest age tested (e.g. Gertner et al., 2006). This evidence supports an approach that proposes innate syntactic, semantic or conceptual knowledge at the core of syntax acquisition, and which predicts more rapid learning.

However, recent work suggests that this is a false dichotomy; children and adults have both abstract knowledge and knowledge centred around lexical items at all stages of development. Thus, the traditional approaches are breaking down. What is replacing them is a focus on explanatory models designed to answer a different question: ‘How do the child’s learning mechanisms exploit information in the environment to build mature linguistic knowledge?’ In this talk I use recent work from our lab to demonstrate what this approach has taught us so far about syntax acquisition. I focus on work that demonstrates what kind of learning mechanism best explains developmental differences in structural priming and show how this new approach requires that we factor into our models the mechanisms underlying language processing, since the results of all our studies reflect not only children’s knowledge of syntax, but also the processing constraints that operate when we produce or comprehend language.

12/03/15 Week 8
     Prof Paul Norman (University of Sheffield) 
     Host: Prof Pete Harris
           Title and abstract: TBC

19/03/15 Week 9
     Dr James McCutcheon (University of Leicester)
     Host: Dr Eisuke Koya

“Phasic dopamine signalling and its involvement in reward prediction and hedonic encoding

The neurotransmitter dopamine has for decades been linked to motivated behaviour, in part due to its prominent role in mediating feeding and the pursuit of other rewarding stimuli. However, debate remains as to its precise role, as the majority of experiments have been unable to distinguish various overlapping processes, for example, sensory processing vs. motor generation vs. reward prediction. Equally, although far more studies have addressed dopamine’s role in response to reward, it also seems to be heavily involved in signalling aversive stimuli. 

Here, I will discuss recent experiments in which I have tried to address some of these issues. My studies combine rat behaviour with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, an electrochemical technique with sub-second resolution. The high temporal precision allows individual dopamine ‘spikes’ to be correlated with specific behavioural events. I will show that the idea that dopamine subserves one function may be outdated. In fact, dopamine signalling plays a far more nuanced role, and is modulated by region, learning, and hedonic processing.

Summer Term Programme

21/05/15 Week 2
        Speaker: TBC

28/05/15 Week 3
     Prof Paul Fletcher (University of Cambridge) 
            Host: Prof Pete Clifton
     Title and abstract: TBC

04/06/15 Week 4
     Prof Charles Spence (University of Oxford)
     Host: Dr Chris Bird

     Title and abstract: TBC

11/06/15 Week 5
     Dr Sander Begeer (VU University Amsterdam) 
     Host: Prof Robin Banerjee

Testing and Training Theory of Mind in autism”

Deviant perspective taking or Theory of Mind (ToM) skills are a central feature of autism. However, the literature is unclear about specific strengths and weaknesses of individuals with autism. This is partly due to the way ToM is measured. Moreover, many treatments for children with autism involve attempts to ‘train’ ToM skills, while the evidence base for these treatments is generally poor. In the current presentation, different ways of testing ToM, and the effects of training ToM in children with autism will be discussed, with specific regard to passive or active social interaction styles of the children. The difference between conceptual and applied ToM skills is highlighted, and the question is raised whether ToM is a proclivity, rather than a capacity.

COGS talks this term

In addition to our own ROLLS series this term, the Centre for Cognitive Science has several talks that may be of interest to linguists. Click on the links for more information.

At COGS Seminars, internationally recognised researchers from all corners of cognitive science research present and discuss their latest findings. All are welcome to attend.

Spring 2015

Tuesdays 16:00 - 17:30

Jan 27 
Construction Kits for Evolvable Types of Minds
Aaron Sloman
University of Birmingham
Jubilee 144 
Feb 3
Jubilee 144 
Feb 10
Jubilee 144 
Feb 17
The Immorality of Artificial Emotions
Blay Whitby
University of Sussex 
Jubilee 144 
Feb 24
Jubilee 144 
Mar 3
Live Coding, Notation and Improvisation 
Thor Magnusson
University of Sussex
Jubilee 144 
Mar 10
Evidence for Hierarchical Processing of the Watercolor Effect
Ken Knoblauch
Stem-cell and Brain Research Institute
Jubilee 144 
Mar 17
Jubilee 144 
Mar 24
The Brain as a Model of the World
Oron Shagrir
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jubilee 144 
Mar 31
Jubilee 144 
Apr 7
Easter Break

Apr 14
Objective Meaning
Alan Costall
University of Portsmouth
Jubilee 144 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Spring 2015 ROLLS

Research on Languages and Linguistics at Sussex

Spring 2015
All welcome!
All talks in Jubilee G36

28 January, 13.00-15.00
PG linguistics at Sussex
A new classification for antonymy functions in discourse:
A corpus study on Modern Standard Arabic, (Rukayah AlHedayani)
An analysis of the development of ‘critical stance taking’ in the English-medium academic writing produced by Omani authors (Jonathan McDonald)
Representing Processes in Graphic Narrative (Paul Davies)
A cognitive stylistic approach to narrative comprehension in Ten (Saeedeh Tahiri)

                  4 February, 13.00-14.30
Zoe Hopkins (University of Sussex)
The contribution of inhibitory control to language alignment in children with autism

18 February, 13.00-14.30,
Gerlinde Mautner (Vienna University of Economics and Business)

25 February, 13.00-14.30,
Kat Gupta (University of Nottingham)
"Breaking the law for selfish purposes"?
suffragettes, suffragists and direct action in The Times, 1909-1914