Roger Levy (UC San Diego) will give a joint Linguistics/Psychology colloquium Wednesday 1/28 at 3:45PM in Jordan Hall Room 041 (420-041). There will be a reception in the Jordan Hall Lounge immediately afterward.
Expectation-based language comprehension and production
Using language to communicate is central to what makes us human. Elucidating the knowledge, expectations, and cognitive resources that allow us to communicate so effectively is one of the most fundamental problems in the study of mind. For much of the contemporary history of psychology and linguistics, motivated by the ideas of figures including Chomsky, Miller, and Fodor, work on this problem has conceptualized language processing as centrally about modular structure-building operations and the memory resources required to carry them out. Here I describe an alternative approach that conceptualizes language processing as centrally about rational, goal-driven inference and action. First, I outline a state-of-the-art theory of expectation-based incremental language understanding, in which comprehenders integrate diverse information sources from preceding context to guide interpretation of current input. This theory unifies three key, seemingly disparate topics in the domain of language understanding — ambiguity resolution, prediction, and syntactic complexity effects — and finds broad empirical support in data from both controlled experiments and naturalistic language understanding. Second, I describe several apparent empirical puzzles for this theory that ultimately lead us to revisit one of the implicit foundational assumptions in all theories of language understanding: that of modularity between the processes of word recognition and of inter-word, utterance-level comprehension. I generalize the expectation-based theory to a fully bidirectional, interactive theory of word recognition and utterance comprehension, and show how this generalized theory solves the apparent puzzles and leads to a range of new, empirically verified predictions. Finally, I touch briefly on the consequences of this view for language production: why do speakers choose to structure their utterances the way they do? The expectation-based theory novelly predicts that speakers use the options afforded them by their native language to come as close as possible to a uniform distribution of information content throughout their utterance. We confirm this prediction through statistical analysis of speaker choices regarding optional word omission in naturalistic speech.
Stanford department alum Tyler Schnoebelen was recently featured in the NY Times Style Section article on the Word of the Year. Read all about it here!
Robert Podesva will give a colloquium on “The Social and Linguistic Distribution of Creaky Voice (Vocal Fry)” at Brown University next Wednesday.
Bonnie Krejci will be giving a talk on “Chacobo verb splitting and the vP shell” jointly with Adam Tallman (UTexas) at the 20th Annual Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas this weekend at the University of Arizona.
Cleo Condoravdi will present ‘Assertions, Declarations and Explicit Performatives’ at the workshop ‘The Action-Product Distinction and Its Importance for Speech Act Theory and Social Ontology’ at UC Berkeley on January 31.
Attention linguists! UC Berkeley is hosting a workshop on ‘The Action-Product Distinction and Its Importance for Speech Act Theory and Social Ontology’ on Saturday, January 31, 2015, from 10:00AM to 6:45PM.
The schedule is given below. Attendance is free but please register with Maura Vrydaghs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10.00 – 11.45: Pranav Anand (UCSC): ‘A Factive Split in Reporting Beliefs and Assertions’
11.45 – 12.00: Coffee
12.00 – 1.45: Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford): ‘Assertions, Declarations and Explicit Performatives’
1.45 – 3.00: Lunch
3.00 – 4.45: John Searle (Berkeley): ‘What is a Proposition?’
4.45 – 5.00: Coffee
5.00 – 6.45: Friederike Moltmann (CNRS-IHPST / NYU): ‘Cognitive, Illocutionary, and Modal Products’
Linguistic Issues in Language Technology (LiLT), an open-access journal edited by Annie Zaenen, Bonnie Webber, and Martha Palmer, has a new volume out and a new CSLI-hosted web location: check it out here.
A really interesting NYT Magazine article with lengthy sections about Will Leben – check it out here.
Beverley McChesney, retired senior lecturer in Linguistics and former Director of English for Foreign Students, passed away on November 16, 2014.
She joined the EFS program in 1970 as part of what was then the Committee on Linguistics. She began coordinating the EFS summer program in 1972 and worked closely with emerita professor Clara Bush to develop the academic year and summer ESL programs for international graduate students at Stanford. She became Director of EFS in 1982, a position she held until 2003 when forced to take permanent leave for health reasons. During her two decades as director she was responsible for a number of innovations within the program, including developing international TA testing and training, creating a cross cultural communication course, designing a dedicated classroom and computer lab, and integrating corpora and concordance programs in writing classes. Her years at Stanford touched the lives of her staff, colleagues throughout the university, and many thousands of students directly or indirectly through her stewardship of the EFS program. These include a number of linguistics graduate students, both international students taking classes in the EFS program and those serving as teaching affiliates and acting instructors in academic year and summer programs. After leaving the university, she moved to Cloverdale and embarked on a career as a painter. In her final years, she was active in the Cloverdale Historical Society. Donations can be made there in her name to support the Cloverdale History Center.
Dan Jurafsky and his book continue to make a splash, with features on local radio here, at the Santa Fe Institute, and more.
Congrats, and sesquikudos, Dan!