Skip to main content
×
×
Home

One word at a time: Mental representations of object shape change incrementally during sentence processing

  • Manami Sato (a1), Amy J. Schafer (a2) and Benjamin K. Bergen (a3)
Abstract

We report on two experiments that ask when and under what linguistic conditions comprehenders construct detailed shape representations of mentioned objects, and whether these can change over the course of a sentence when new information contradicts earlier expectations. We used Japanese because the verb-final word order of Japanese presented a revealing test case where information about objects can radically change with a subsequent verb. The results show that language understanders consistently generate a distinct and detailed shape for an object by integrating the semantic contributions of different sentential elements. These results first confirm that the tendency to generate specific shape information about objects that are involved in described events is not limited to English, but is also present in Japanese, a typologically and genetically distinct language. But more importantly, they shed light on the processing mechanism of object representation, showing that mental representations are initiated sentence medially, and are rapidly revised if followed by a verb that implies a change to an object shape. This work contributes to ongoing research on incremental language processing – comprehenders appear to construct extremely detailed semantic representations early in a sentence, and modify them as needed.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Altmann, G. T. M. & Kamide, Y.. 1999. Incremental interpretation at verbs: Restricting the domain of subsequent reference. Cognition 73. 247264.
Altmann, G. T. M. & Steedman, M. J.. 1988. Interaction with context during human sentence processing. Cognition 30. 191238.
Aoshima, S. 2003. The grammar and parsing of wh-dependencies. College Park, MD: University of Maryland dissertation.
Aoshima, S., Phillips, C. & Weinberg, A.. 2004. Processing filler-gap dependencies in a head-final language. Journal of Memory and Language 51. 2354.
Aoshima, S., Yoshida, M. & Phillips, C.. 2009. Incremental processing of coreference and binding in Japanese. Syntax 12. 93134.
Barclay, J. R., Bransford, J. D., Franks, J. J., McCarrell, N. S. & Nitsch, K.. 1974. Comprehension and semantic flexibility. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 13. 471481.
Barsalou, L. W. 1999. Perceptual symbol systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22. 577660.
Barsalou, L. W. 2008. Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59. 617645.
Byrne, R. M. J. & Johnson-Laird, P. N.. 2002. Conditionals: A theory of meaning, inference, and pragmatics. Psychological Review 109. 646678.
Byrne, R. M. J. & Johnson-Laird, P. N.. 2009. ‘If’ and problems of conditional reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13. 282287.
Chao, L. L. & Martin, A.. 2000. Representation of manipulable man-made objects in the dorsal stream. NeuroImage 12. 478484.
Choi, S. & Gopnik, A.. 1995. Early acquisition of verbs in Korean: A cross-linguistic study. Journal of Child Language 22. 497529
Christianson, K., Hollingworth, A., Halliwell, J. F. & Ferreira, F.. 2001. Thematic roles assigned along the garden path linger. Cognitive Psychology 42. 368407
Clifton, C. Jr., 1993. Thematic roles in sentence parsing. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 47. 222246.
Connell, L. 2007. Representing object colour in language comprehension. Cognition 102. 476485.
Connell, L. & Lynott, D.. 2007. Is a bear white in the woods? Parallel representations of implied object color during language comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16(3). 573577.
Dahan, D. & Tanenhaus, M. K.. 2004. Continuous mapping from sound to meaning in spoken-language comprehension: Immediate effects of verb-based thematic constraints. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 30(2). 498513.
Ditman, T., Brunyé, T. T., Mahoney, C. R. & Taylor, H. A.. 2010. Simulating an enactment effect: Pronouns guide action simulation during narrative comprehension. Cognition 115. 172178.
Frazier, L. 1982. Sentence processing: A tutorial review. In Coltheart, M. (ed.), The psychology of reading (Attention and Performance 7), 559586. London: Erlbaum.
Frazier, L. & Rayner, K.. 1982. Making and correcting errors during sentence comprehension: Eye movements in the analysis of structurally ambiguous sentences. Cognitive Psychology 14. 178210.
Gennari, S. P. & MacDonald, M. C.. 2008. Semantic indeterminacy and relative clause comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language 58. 161187.
Gentner, D. 1982. Why nouns are learned before verbs: Linguistic relativity and natural partitioning. In Kuczaj, S. A. (ed.), Language, thought and culture (Language Development 2), 301334. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Glenberg, A. M. & Kaschak, M. P.. 2002. Grounding language in action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 9. 558565.
Kamide, Y., Altmann, G. T. M. & Haywood, S. L.. 2003. The time-course of prediction in incremental sentence processing: Evidence from anticipatory eye movements. Journal of Memory and Language 49. 133156.
Kamide, Y., Scheepers, C. & Altmann, G. T. M.. 2003. Integration of syntactic and semantic information in predictive processing: Cross-linguistic evidence from German and English. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 32(1). 3755.
Kaup, B., Lüdtke, J. & Zwaan, R. A.. 2006. Processing negated sentences with contradictory predicates: Is a door that is not open mentally closed? Journal of Pragmatics 38. 10331050.
Knoeferle, P., Crocker, M. W., Scheepers, C. & Pickering, M. J.. 2005. The influence of the immediate visual context on incremental thematic role-assignment: Evidence from eye movements in depicted events. Cognition 95. 95127.
Levy, R. 2008. Expectation-based syntactic comprehension. Cognition 106. 11261177.
MacWhinney, B. 1999. The emergence of language from embodiment. In MacWhinney, B. (ed.), Emergence of language, 23256. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
MacWhinney, B. 2005. The emergence of linguistic form in time. Connection Science 17. 191211.
Mazuka, R. & Itoh, K.. 1995. Can Japanese speakers be lead down the garden path? In Mazuka, R. & Nagai, N. (eds.), Japanese sentence processing, 295329. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Mazuka, R., Itoh, K. & Kondo, T.. 2002. Cost of scrambling in Japanese sentence processing. In Nakayama, M. (ed.), Sentence processing in East Asian languages, 131166. Stanford, CA: CSLI.
Miyagawa, S. 1997. Against optional scrambling. Linguistic Inquiry 28. 125.
Miyamoto, E. T. & Takahashi, S.. 2002. Sources of difficulty in the processing of scrambling in Japanese. In Nakayama, M. (ed.), Sentence processing in East Asian languages, 167188. Stanford, CA: CSLI.
Nakatani, K. & Gibson, E.. 2010. An on-line study of Japanese nesting complexity. Cognitive Science 34. 94112.
Sedivy, J. C., Tanenhaus, M. K., Chambers, C. G. & Carlson, G. N.. 1999. Achieving incremental semantic interpretation through contextual representation. Cognition 71. 109147.
Stanfield, R. A. & Zwaan, R. A.. 2001. The effect of implied orientation derived from verbal context on picture recognition. Psychological Science 12. 153156.
Tabossi, P. 1988. Accessing lexical ambiguity in different types of sentential context. Journal of Memory and Language 27. 324340.
Talmy, L. 1991. Path to realization: A typology of event conflation. Berkeley Linguistics Society 17. 480519.
Taylor, L. J. & Zwaan, R. A.. 2008. Motor resonance and linguistic focus. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 61. 896904.
Tanenhaus, M. K., Spivey-Knowlton, M. J., Eberhard, K. M. & Sedivy, J. C.. 1995. Integration of visual and linguistic information in spoken language comprehension. Science 268. 16321634.
Traxler, M. J., Bybee, M. D. & Pickering, M. J.. 1997. Influence of connectives on language comprehension: Eye-tracking evidence for incremental interpretation. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 50A(3). 481497.
Tucker, M. & Ellis, R.. 1998. On the relations between seen objects and components of potential actions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 24. 830846.
Tucker, M. & Ellis, R.. 2004. Action priming by briefly presented objects. Acta Psychologica 116. 185203.
Vasishth, S. & Lewis, R.. 2006. Argument-head distance and processing complexity: Explaining both locality and antilocality effects. Language 82. 767794.
Yamashita, H. 1997. The effects of word-order and case marking information on the processing of Japanese. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 26. 163188.
Yaxley, R. H. & Zwaan, R. A.. 2007. Simulating visibility during language comprehension. Cognition 105. 229238.
Zeelenberg, R., Pecher, D., Shiffrin, R. M. & Raaijmakers, J. G. W.. 2003. Semantic context effects and priming in word association. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 10. 653660.
Zwaan, R. A. 2004. The immersed experiencer: Toward an embodied theory of language comprehension. In Ross, B. H. (ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation, 3562. New York: Academic Press.
Zwaan, R. A. & Radvansky, G. A.. 1998. Situation models in language and memory. Psychological Bulletin 123. 162185.
Zwaan, R. A. & Taylor, L. J.. 2006. Seeing, acting, understanding: Motor resonance in language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135(1). 111.
Zwaan, R. A., Stanfield, R. A. & Yaxley, R. H.. 2002. Language comprehenders mentally represent the shape of objects. Psychological Science 13. 168171.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1866-9808
  • EISSN: 1866-9859
  • URL: /core/journals/language-and-cognition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed