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Hannah Rohde

Hannah Rohde of Stanford will speak at the UCSD Linguistics Department Colloquium on May 23, 2011, at 2:00 pm in AP&M 4301.

Hearing and Seeing Discourse Dependencies

In order for a discourse to make sense, not only must the individual utterances that comprise the discourse be well-formed but the set of utterances as a whole must come together in a coherent way. Given this, comprehenders of a discourse can reasonably expect that upcoming linguistic material will not appear arbitrarily but rather will relate in meaningful ways to previous utterances. This leads to questions of whether and how such expectations influence language processing.  In this talk, I consider two types of discourse-level dependencies:  relationships between references (anaphora) and relationships between sentences (coherence).  I use these phenomena to address the following questions:  (i) What is the range of interactive effects between discourse-level and lower-level language processing?  (ii) What mechanisms do comprehenders use to establish discourse dependencies?  Results from a phoneme identification task show that discourse-level biases regarding coreference can have an impact on which sounds comprehenders think they hear.  Results from a new paradigm adapted from infant category-learning research show that comprehenders' eye movements reflect their expectations regarding upcoming sentence types. This work extends existing research that has shown that comprehenders anticipate upcoming relationships between sounds, words, and syntactic structures, demonstrating that processing depends on expectations at the discourse level as well.