Integrated Language Science and Technology Seminar
Monday, September 24
1:30pm – 3:30pm
3401 Walnut Street, Room 401B
Monica Do – University of Pennsylvania
How to Think Before You Speak: Getting from Abstract Thoughts to Sentences
In order to produce a sentence, speakers have to go from an abstract, unordered message to a highly structured linguistic representation. This transition from abstract thought to language is known as linguistic encoding. To shed some light on the process of linguistic encoding, I present four visual-world eye-tracking studies, which investigate how constraints stemming from linear, syntactic, and semantic structures in language interact and guide the way that messages are encoded. Taken together, my work shows that syntactic structure is privileged over linear structure, but both syntactic and semantic structure collaboratively inform the process of linguistic encoding. Specifically, I suggest that the primary task of the language production system at the point of linguistic encoding, is to align conceptual prominence with linguistic prominence. And, though what precisely constitutes ‘prominence’ is still difficult to define, this work offers a model for how the language processing system handles ‘prominence’ within and across different levels of representation in cognition and language.