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Doctoral Student Presentations

Individual differences in prediction: An investigation of the N400 in word-pair semantic priming. 

Lauren Covey and Xiao Yang. Joint presentation given at 2016 KU Cognitive Brain Science Brownbag Talk series: Lawrence, KS.


Investigating island sensitivity in the processing of wh- dependencies: An ERP study. 

Lauren Covey, Alison Gabriele, and Robert Fiorentino. Poster presented at 30th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. MIT. 

This study investigates the nature of island constraints by comparing the processing of licit and illicit wh-dependencies using EEG and including cognitive measures targeting processing abilities. An N400 emerged only within licit dependencies, and was correlated with Stroop reaction times; implications for grammatical and processing accounts of islands will be discussed.


Using event-related potentials to examine individual differences in the processing of pronominal reference. 

Lauren Covey, Robert Fiorentino, and Alison Gabriele. Poster presented at 29th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. University of Florida.

Recent studies have shown variability in the processing of pronominal reference in both ambiguous contexts (David shot at John as he...vs. David shot at Linda as he) and in contexts of ‘referential failure’ in which there is no gender-matching antecedent within the sentence (The boy thought that she/he....) (Osterhout and Mobley, 1995; Nieuwland and Van Berkum, 2006; Van Berkum and Nieuwland, 2008; Nieuwland, 2014). These contexts have been shown to give rise to a sustained, frontal negative shift (Nref) or a P600 (or both ERP components) depending on both the accompanying behavioral task and individual differences in working memory (e.g. Nieuwland, 2014). For cases of ‘referential failure,’ it has been proposed that the presence of an explicit acceptability judgment task may give rise to P600s, suggesting attempts at co- reference despite the mismatch in the gender of the pronouns (Osterhout and Mobley, 1995; Nieuwland, 2014). In both ambiguous contexts and contexts of ‘referential failure,’ high working memory has been associated with Nref, a component that indexes the inability to assign a unique referent, as opposed to P600 (Nieuwland and Van Beckum, 2006; Nieuwland, 2014. The present study further examines individual differences in pronominal processing, testing both kinds of pronominal contexts, and including a wider range of cognitive measures. Experiment 1 targeted ambiguous pronouns (One/Two referent: Linda/Tyler grabbed Eric because he was falling down the stairs) and Experiment 2 targeted referential failure (One/No Referent: Nicole believe Steven/Alice because he was a very genuine person). Participants included native English speakers (n=33) who completed tests of working memory (counting span, reading span), attentional control (Stroop), and an offline measure assessing the ambiguity of the experimental sentences. In the ERP experiment, participants read 240 sentences (160 targets, 80 fillers) and were asked to respond to fill-in-the-blank recall questions following one third of the stimulus sentences. Results of Experiment 1 for all participants (n=33) showed no significant effect of ambiguity. However, follow-up analyses following Van Berkum and Nieuwland (2008), revealed two distinct groups of participants: Individuals who showed a positivity in the posterior region in the 500-1400 time window (n=18) also showed a significant positivity in the anterior region, revealing a broad positivity which may index revision of the initial reference assignment at the pronoun or analyzing the gender of the pronoun as a grammatical violation. Individuals who did not show a positivity in the posterior region (n=15) showed a sustained frontal negativity in the anterior region (Nref). The size of the Nref was significantly correlated with performance on the counting span task, suggesting in line with previous research that the Nref is larger in individuals with high working memory. Results of Experiment 2 showed a significant positivity in the posterior region in the 500-900 time window, consistent with the P600, suggesting that participants may attempt co-reference even in the absence of an explicit acceptability judgment task. The P600 effect size was significantly positively correlated with the reading span task suggesting that P600 may not necessarily be associated with low working memory (cf. Nieuwland, 2014). Furthermore, additional analyses revealed an emerging trend in which the group differences in Experiment 1 impact the processing of referential failure in Experiment 2: an anterior negativity (Nref) emerges only in the group which yielded an Nref in Experiment 1 suggesting a possible commonality in the processing of pronominal reference across contexts that require a kind of complex inferencing in response to referential difficulty. 


Individual differences in the processing of pronominal ambiguity in English and Spanish: An ERP investigation. 

Lauren Covey, Nicholas Feroce, Alison Gabriele, and Robert Fiorentino. Poster presented at Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics. Georgetown University.

We examine variability in the processing of pronominal ambiguity in English and Spanish using ERP. Results revealed two distinct groups with one showing an Nref, which indexes referential ambiguity, and the other, a broad positivity. e size of the Nref in both languages was positively correlated with working memory. 


How within-category gradience in lexical tones influences native Chinese listeners and second-language Chinese learners recognize words: An eye-tracking study. 

Zhen Qin, Jie Zhang, and Annie Tremblay. Paper presented at the 173rd meeting Acoustical Society of America and 8th Forum Acusticum: Boston, MA.

This study investigates whether within-category gradience in lexical tones influences native and non-native Chinese listeners’ word recognition. Previous offline research found that Chinese listeners have a more categori- cal perception of lexical tones, and thus show less sensitivity to within-cate- gory variability in tones, than non-native listeners. However, it is unclear whether native and non-native listeners have sensitivity to within-category gradience during online word recognition. Native Chinese listeners and pro- ficient adult English-speaking Chinese learners were tested in a visual-world eye-tracking experiment. The target was a level tone and the competitor was a high-rising tone, or vice versa. The auditory stimuli were manipulated such that the target tone was either canonical in the standard condition, pho- netically more distant from the competitor in the distant condition, or pho- netically closer to the competitor in the close condition. Growth curve analysis on fixations suggested that native listeners showed a gradient pat- tern of lexical competition, with less competition in the distant condition and more competition in the close condition than in the standard condition; learners, on the other hand, showed increased competition in both the distant and close conditions than in the standard condition. The native and non- native listeners’ difference suggested the influence of their language backgrounds. 


Cross-linguistic perception of clearly spoken English tense and lax vowels based on auditory, visual, and auditory-visual information. 

Charles Redmon, Keith Leung, Yue Wang, Allard Jongman, and Joan Sereno. Poster presented at the 5th Joint Meeting of the ASA and ASJ: Honolulu, HI.

Studies on acoustic and visual characteristics of English tense and lax vowels show consistent enhancement of tensity contrasts in clear speech. However, the degree to which listeners utilize these enhancements in speech perception remains unclear. The present study addresses this issue by testing speech style effects on tense and lax vowel perception by 23 native English and 30 non-native Mandarin-Chinese listeners in audio-only (AO), audio-visual (AV), and visual-only (VO) stimulus modes. English and Chinese listeners showed similar relative differences in performance by mode (VO < AO < AV) and style (plain < clear). However, the two groups differed in the nature of the interaction between tensity, style, and stimulus mode. English listeners showed advantages for clear speech for both tense and lax vowels in all but VO stimuli, whereas Chinese listeners showed a clear speech advantage only for tense vowels, while clear lax vowels showed no improvement in AO and reduced accuracy in AV and VO. While temporal and spectral acoustic cues may coordinate to preserve or improve tense-lax category identity in clear speech, non-native listeners may not be attending to both dimensions. Further, Chinese listeners' greater reliance on visual information may account for their less accurate lax vowel identification.


Quantifying the information carried in tonal contrasts in Phom. 

Charles Redmon and Phongshak Phom. Poster presented at the 22nd Himalayan Languages Symposium: Guwahati, India.

Corpus measurements of tonal ambiguity in written Phom as a function of word size, N-gram context, and frequency are reported. A significant inverse relation between the number of syllables in a word and the tonal contrast size was found, while frequency of the preceding context was shown to be positively correlated with the size of the contrast comprising the ambiguity. N-gram context was also inversely related to the probability of disambiguation, but measures of relative entropy revealed this effect to be nonlinear; i.e. gains in information at the bigram were significantly greater than further gains in the trigram context.


Acoustic classification of velar fricatives in Assamese. 

Charles RedmonPoster presented at the 171st Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America: Salt Lake City, UT

Previous work on the acoustic discrimination of fricativecontrasts has commonly studied categories which are not held to vary phonemically; instead the focus is placed on accounting for variation in the salience and stability of the acoustic cues mapping onto those categories (cf. Forrest et al., 1988; Jongman et al., 2000; McMurray and Jongman, 2011). The present study, like Jannedy et al. (2015), addresses a set of contrasts—the voiceless posterior obstruents /x, h, kh/ in Assamese—where /h/-voicing and /kh/-lenition processes interact with the discriminability of the velar fricativedifferentially according to positional (CV, VCV, and VC) and speaker (gender, dialect) variables. Results of principal components logistic regression (PCLR) models applied at both fixed and cumulative time windows over consonant and transition intervals are presented. Overall, /x/-/h/ discrimination was significantly more accurate in intervocalic position (96%) relative to word-initial position (84%). Data from intervocalic productions further suggest a significant dialectal difference in the /x/-/kh/ contrast, with discrimination poorer in Nalbari (68%) than in Jorhat (86%) data, in line with Sarma’s (2012) analysis. Implications for the integration of lexical information by means of phonotactic priors derived from a corpus (Baker et al., 2002) are also discussed.


Source properties of dorsal fricatives.  

Charles Redmon and Allard Jongman. Poster presented at the 5th Joint Meeting of the ASA and ASJ: Honolulu, HI.

Present models of voiceless fricative acoustics assume excitation of the vocal cavity anterior to a narrow constriction by an aperiodic source generated from turbulence within that constriction (or in the case of dipole sources from interaction of the jet with an obstacle downstream). This model has been applied successfully to anterior places of articulation (labial to palatal) but for dorsal fricatives, i.e. velar /x/ and uvular /χ/, there is evidence to suggest the assumption of a line source may not hold. Rather, preliminary data from our lab and from studies such as Zeroual (ICPhS, 2003) and Shosted & Chikovani (JIPA, 2006) indicates intermittent presence of a mixed source due to passive vibration of the uvula, yet no study to date has directly addressed this element of the sound source in dorsal fricative production. Acoustic and aerodynamic data on dorsal fricatives produced by 4 speakers each of Arabic, Persian, and Spanish are presented to validate the nature of the dorsal fricative source component and the degree of cross-linguistic variation in production of these sounds. Measures of periodicity duration and cycle amplitude/shape are employed to estimate the oscillatory pattern of the uvula and model its contribution to the radiated acoustic signal.


Context-dependent meaning computation: The role of question under discussion and individual differences in scalar implicature. 

Xiao Yang, Robert Fiorentino, and Utako Minai. Invited presentation at the Child Language Proseminar: Lawrence, KS.


The role of individual differences in the context-dependent interpretation of some.  

Xiao Yang, Robert Fiorentino, and Utako Minai. Poster presented at the 30th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing: Cambridge, MA.


An EEG investigation of the role of prediction and individual differences in word-pair semantic priming. 

Xiao Yang. Presentation given at 2016 KU Graduate Research Competition: Lawrence, KS.


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