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Psycholinguistics

Successful language processing requires speaker and hearer to dynamically create richly structured representations within a few hundred milliseconds of encountering each new word.

Our group asks how this feat is achieved, whether it is achieved in the same fashion across languages with varying word order and morphological markers, what are the possible neural encoding mechanisms for richly structured information and how the dynamics of language processing differ in adult native speakers, child and adult language learners, or in atypical learners.
 
Some distinctive features of the Maryland group include its expertise in cross-language research (e.g., recent studies on Japanese, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Basque, Russian, American Sign Language and Spanish); its use of diverse tools to investigate language-related processes (reading time, eye-movement measures, EEG and MEG measures of millisecond-grain brain activity and fMRI measures of brain localization); and its work involving neuro-computational modeling of language processing and studies of developmental and atypical populations. The rich network of connections between investigators make it feasible to try to seamlessly align insights from formal grammars with findings from psycho/neurolinguistics and computational neuroscience, often in ways that we could not have imagined a few years ago.
 
Research in psycholinguistics at Maryland is not pursued as a separate enterprise, but rather is closely integrated into all research areas of the department and the broader language science community. Weekly research group meetings primarily feature student presentations of in-progress research and typically attract 20-30 people.

Primary Faculty

Naomi Feldman

Associate Professor, Linguistics

1413 A Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-5800

William Idsardi

Professor, Linguistics

1401 A Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-8376

Ellen Lau

Associate Professor, Linguistics

3416 E Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

Jeffrey Lidz

Professor, Linguistics

1413 Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-8220

Colin Phillips

Professor, Linguistics

1413F Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-3082

Andrea Zukowski

Research Scientist, Linguistics

1413 Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-5388

Secondary Faculty

Valentine Hacquard

Professor, Linguistics

1401 F Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4935

Maria Polinsky

Professor, Linguistics

1417A Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

Alexander Williams

Associate Professor, Linguistics, Philosophy

1401 D Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1607

Null Objects in Korean: Experimental Evidence for the Argument Ellipsis Analysis

Experimental evidence supports an analysis of Null Object constructions in Korean as instances of object ellipsis.

Linguistics

Contributor(s): Jeffrey Lidz
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Chung-hye Han, Kyeong-min Kim, Keir Moulton
Dates:

Null object (NO) constructions in Korean and Japanese have receiveddifferent accounts: as (a) argument ellipsis (Oku 1998, S. Kim 1999, Saito 2007, Sakamoto 2015), (b) VP-ellipsis after verb raising (Otani and Whitman 1991, Funakoshi 2016), or (c) instances of base-generated pro (Park 1997, Hoji 1998, 2003). We report results from two experiments supporting the argument ellipsis analysis for Korean. Experiment 1 builds on K.-M. Kim and Han’s (2016) finding of interspeaker variation in whether the pronoun ku can be bound by a quantifier. Results showed that a speaker’s acceptance of quantifier-bound ku positively correlates with acceptance of sloppy readings in NO sentences. We argue that an ellipsis account, in which the NO site contains internal structure hosting the pronoun, accounts for this correlation. Experiment 2, testing the recovery of adverbials in NO sentences, showed that only the object (not the adverb) can be recovered in the NO site, excluding the possibility of VP-ellipsis. Taken together, our findings suggest that NOs result from argument ellipsis in Korean.

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Enough time to get results? An ERP investigation of prediction with complex events

How quickly can verb-argument relations be computed to impact predictions of a subsequent argument? This paper examines the question by comparing two kinds of compound verbs in Mandarin, and neural responses to the following direct object.

Linguistics

Dates:
How quickly can verb-argument relations be computed to impact predictions of a subsequent argument? We take advantage of the substantial differences in verb-argument structure provided by Mandarin, whose compound verbs encode complex event relations, such as resultatives (kid bit-broke lip: 'the kid bit his lip such that it broke') and coordinates (store owner hit-scolded employee 'the store owner hit and scolded an employee'). We tested sentences in which the object noun could be predicted on the basis of the preceding compound verb, and used N400 responses to the noun to index successful prediction. By varying the delay between verb and noun, we show that prediction is delayed in the resultative context (broken-BY-biting) relative to the coordinate one (hitting-AND-scolding). These results present a first step towards temporally dissociating the fine-grained subcomputations required to parse and interpret verb-argument relations.

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Syntactic category constrains lexical access in speaking

When we choose which word to speak, do nouns and verbs compete, when the express similar concepts? New evidence says No: syntactic category plays a key role in limiting lexical access.

Linguistics

Contributor(s): Colin Phillips
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Shota Momma, Julia Buffinton, Bob Slevc
Dates:
We report two experiments that suggest that syntactic category plays a key role in limiting competition in lexical access in speaking. We introduce a novel sentence-picture interference (SPI) paradigm, and we show that nouns (e.g., running as a noun) do not compete with verbs (e.g., walking as a verb) and verbs do not compete with nouns in sentence production, regardless of their conceptual similarity. Based on this finding, we argue that lexical competition in production is limited by syntactic category. We also suggest that even complex words containing category-changing derivational morphology can be stored and accessed together with their final syntactic category information. We discuss the potential underlying mechanism and how it may enable us to speak relatively fluently.

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