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Embedding epistemic modals in English: A corpus-based study

A corpus study on the distribution of epistemic modals, targeted at the question of whether such modals do or do not contribute to the content of their sentences.

Linguistics

Contributor(s): Valentine Hacquard
Dates:
The question of whether epistemic modals contribute to the truth conditions of the sentences they appear in is a matter of active debate in the literature. Fueling this debate is the lack of consensus about the extent to which epistemics can appear in the scope of other operators. This corpus study investigates the distribution of epistemics in naturalistic data. Our results indicate that they do embed, supporting the view that they contribute semantic content. However, their distribution is limited, compared to that of other modals. This limited distribution seems to call for a nuanced account: while epistemics are semantically contentful, they may require special licensing conditions.

http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/sp.5.4" target="_blank" class="button">Read More about Embedding epistemic modals in English: A corpus-based study

Lingering effects of disfluent material on the comprehension of garden path sentences

Do we experience garden path effects when a disfluent speaker replaces one verb with another (as in "chosen, uh, I mean selected") and only one of the two yields the garden-path ambiguity?

Linguistics

Contributor(s): Ellen Lau
Dates:

In two experiments, we tested for lingering effects of verb replacement disfluencies on the processing of garden path sentences that exhibit the main verb/reduced relative (MV/RR) ambiguity. Participants heard sentences with revisions like "The little girl chosen, uh, selected for the role celebrated with her parents and friends." We found that the syntactic ambiguity associated with the reparandum verb involved in the disfluency (here "chosen") had an influence on later parsing: Garden path sentences that included such revisions were more likely to be judged grammatical if the reparandum verb was structurally unambiguous. Conversely, ambiguous non-garden path sentences were more likely to be judged ungrammatical if the structurally unambiguous disfluency verb was inconsistent with the final reading. Results support a model of disfluency processing in which the syntactic frame associated with the replacement verb ‘‘overlays’’ the previous verb’s structure rather than actively deleting the already-built tree.

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The role of temporal predictability in semantic expectation: An MEG investigation

Is prediction of an upcoming item improved when its timing is predictable? Maybe yes for vision and audition, but evidently no for language, argue Ellen Lau and Elizabeth Nguyen.

Linguistics

Contributor(s): Ellen Lau
Dates:
Prior research suggests that prediction of semantic and syntactic information prior to the bottom-up input is an important component of language comprehension. Recent work in basic visual and auditory perception suggests that the ability to predict features of an upcoming stimulus is even more valuable when the exact timing of the stimulus presentation can also be predicted. However, it is unclear whether lexical-semantic predictions are similarly locked to a particular time, as previous studies of semantic predictability have used a predictable presentation rate. In the current study we vary the temporal predictability of target word presentation in the visual modality and examine the consequences for effects of semantic predictability on the event-related N400 response component, as measured with magnetoencephalography (MEG). Although we observe robust effects of semantic predictability on the N400 response, we find no evidence that these effects are larger in the presence of temporal predictability. These results suggest that, at least in the visual modality, lexical-semantic predictions may be maintained over a broad time-window, which could allow predictive facilitation to survive the presence of optional modifiers in natural language settings. The results also indicate that the mechanisms supporting predictive facilitation may vary in important ways across tasks and cognitive domains.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2015.02.022" target="_blank" class="button">Read More about The role of temporal predictability in semantic expectation: An MEG investigation