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Psycholinguistics Coffee

Psycholinguistics Coffee

Informal Meeting to Discuss Psycholinguistic Research

Next session

Please join us for the following talk in room 7.01 DSB. The link to the online Teams meeting will be sent to the mailing list closer to the time for those who cannot join us in Edinburgh.



Fang Yang


Time and date

June 12th, 1.30 PM.


Title and abstract

What can sentence-continuation tasks tell us about speakers’ message planning during language production?


Sentence-continuation tasks are an experimental paradigm in which participants read or listen to a prompt sentence and then produce a continuation sentence that they think naturally follows (e.g., ‘Jackie kicked Beckham. __________’ ). Researchers manipulate linguistic cues (e.g., syntactic structure, semantic emphasis, verb type) in the prompt sentence, observe participants’ comprehension bias and production bias in their responses (e.g., which entity they First Mention, Jackie or Beckham; how explicit their chosen Referring Expression is, ‘the footballer’/ ‘Beckham’ vs ‘he’, what discourse Coherence Relation they establish, Explanation vs Elaboration etc), and investigate whether the two biases are influenced by the same or different sets of linguistic cues. Previous results are mixed. For example, there is still a lack of consensus on whether Coherence Relation influences the speaker’s choices of Referring Expression (Liao et al., 2024), and why information-structural or morphosyntactic cues sometimes yield null effects on these choices (Zhan et al., 2020). One solution to reconcile these mixed results might be to take a holistic approach in analysis. Specifically, when studying how a particular linguistic cue affects Referring Expression, one could control for both Coherence Relation and First Mention as covariates, and vice versa. Moreover, when inferring an entity’s Cognitive State (/accessibility/activation) in the speaker’s mental representation, instead of using its referring expression in isolation (e.g., noun vs pronoun), one could measure its relative explicitness as relative to the other entity (e.g., whether the referring expression for Beckham is more explicit than Jackie). In this talk, I will present the results of two Mandarin sentence-continuation experiments we analysed using this holistic approach, and discuss the implications with a greater psycholinguistic focus, that is, how speakers plan their pre-verbal messages during production in sentence-continuation tasks.



Link to session

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