Human Language Processing
Research in the Gibson lab addresses the question of how the minimal meaning units of human language (words, morphemes) get put together into more complex words, phrases, sentences and discourses. Specifically, our research addresses the following issues:
a). What factors affect the complexity of comprehending / producing a phrase, sentence or text?
- word frequency;
- the real-world plausibility of the meaning of the phrase / sentence;
- the discourse context in which the phrase / sentence occurs;
- the syntactic rules which the phrase / sentence uses;
- the working memory resources that the phrase / sentence requires in order to be produced or comprehended;
- for spoken language, the intonation of the spoken speech.
b). What is the architecture of the processing system?
- How do the factors interact?
- Is the processing mechanism serial or constrained parallel?
- Do the working memory resources that the language processor uses overlap with resources that are used in other tasks?
What representations does the processing mechanism work with?
- Is the structure for a sentence a tree structure?
- Is the structure for a discourse / text a tree structure?
- Are there empty elements mediating long-distance syntactic dependencies?
The methods that we use to investigate these questions include behavioral methods such as (self-paced) reading, listening, and simple sentence production tasks. We also collaborate with other labs in order to do brain imaging of language, such as ERP and fMRI. The studies are often done cross-linguistically, in order to discover the language generality / specificity of any results.
Fedorenko, E., Gibson, E. & Rohde, D. (2007). The nature of working memory in linguistic, arithmetic and spatial integration processes. Journal of Memory and Language, 56, 246-269.
Gibson, E. (2006). The interaction of top-down and bottom-up statistics in the resolution of syntactic category ambiguity. Journal of Memory and Language, 54, 363-388.
Wolf, F., & Gibson, E. (2005). Representing discourse coherence: A corpus-based analysis. Computational Linguistics, 31, 249-288.
Grodner, D. & Gibson, E. (2005). Consequences of the serial nature of linguistic input. Cognitive Science, 29, 261-291.
Watson, D. & Gibson, E. (2004). The relationship between intonational phrasing and syntactic structure in language production . Language and Cognitive Processes, 19, 713-755.
Hsiao, F. and Gibson, E. (2003). Processing relative clauses in Chinese. Cognition, 90, 3-27.
Gibson, E. (1998). Linguistic complexity: Locality of syntactic dependencies. Cognition, 68, 1-76.