Alma Veenstra

Adventures of a psycholinguist

BUCLD poster

Resisting Attraction: The Role of Executive Control in Monolingual, Bilingual, and Bi-Dialectal Children

Boston University Conference on Language Development 41

4-6 November 2016

Boston University, United States

Click here for the poster

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Notional and grammatical number in subject-verb agreement

In an earlier paper, we have argued that for subject-verb agreement, not only the grammatical number properties of the subject phrase are important, but also the notional number properties. Speakers make agreement errors when a grammatically singular head noun is combined with a grammatically plural local noun: #The bowl with the stripes are broken (versus The bowl with the stripe is broken). But more errors are also made when a grammatically singular head noun is combined with a notionally plural subject phrase: #The bowl with the spoon are broken (versus The bowl with the stripe is broken). This notional number mismatch effect appears to be additive to the grammatical number mismatch effect (attraction). In this paper, we investigated whether the two factors work independently from each other, by observing the change in agreement error rates when the notional number is made more salient.

One group of presentation1participants heard subject phrases with nouns that matched and mismatched in grammatical number, and subject phrases in which the notional number matched and mismatched with the head noun. Participants had to press a button for the singular or plural verb phrase with which they wished to continue the sentence. Another group of participants heard the same subject phrases, while being presented with a drawing of that subject phrase. This drawing made the notional number of the phrase very clear.

There were effects both of grammatical and notional number mismatch, which did not interact. Moreover, the notional number effect was stronger in the group that saw the drawings, whereas the grammatical number effect was identical across both groups. This suggests that notional and grammatical number information each have their independent influences on the agreement process.

Read more:

Veenstra, A., & Acheson, D. J. (2016). Semantic integration and subject-verb agreement: Independent effects of notional and grammatical number. Studies of the Belgian Linguistics Circle, 10:5.

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The acquisition of clitics and pronouns

This study develops a single elicitation method to test the acquisition of third-person pronominal objects in 5-year-olds for 16 languages. This methodology allows us to compare the acquisition of pronominals in languages that lack object clitics (“pronoun languages”) with languages that employ clitics in the relevant context (“clitic languages”), thus establishing a robust cross-linguistic baseline in the domain of clitic and pronoun production for 5-year-olds. High rates of pronominal production are found in our results, indicating that children have the relevant pragmatic knowledge required to select a pronominal in the discourse setting involved in the experiment as well as the relevant morphosyntactic knowledge involved in the production of pronominals. It is legitimate to conclude from our data that a child who at age 5 is not able to produce any or few pronominals is a child at risk for language impairment. In this way, pronominal production can be taken as a developmental marker, provided that one takes into account certain cross-linguistic differences discussed in the article.

Read the original article:

Varlokosta, S., Belletti, A., Costa, J., Friedmann, N., Gavarro, A., Grohmann, K. K., Guasti, M. T., Tuller, L., Lobo, M., Anđelković, D., Argemí, N., Avram, L., Berends, S., Brunetto, V., Delage, H., Ezeizabarrena, M-J., Fattal, . I., Hamann, E., van Hout, A., Jensen de Lopez, K., Katsos, N., Kologranic, L., Krstić, N., Kuvac Kraljevic, J., Miękisz, A., Nerantzini, M., Queraltó, C., Radic, Z., Ruiz, S., Sauerland, U., Sevcenco, A., Smoczynska, M., Theodorou, E., van der Lely, H., Veenstra, A., Weston, J., Yachini, M. & Yatsushiro, K. (2016). A cross-linguistic study of the acquisition of clitic and pronoun production. Language Acquisition, 23(1), 1-26.

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Parallel planning and agreement

We know that speakers make agreement errors when the subject phrase consists of a singular head noun followed by a plural local noun (e.g., the key to the cabinets are missing). It has been suggested that more agreement errors are made when these two mismatching nouns are planned simultaneously before speech onset, compared to when they are planned one-by-one: the singular and plural number features would be active simultaneously and lead to more interference, and thus, to more errors.

We tried to find out whether this statement is true. In a picture description task with eye-tracking, we asked participants to name two sets of pictures: a head noun and a local noun, and complete the sentence with a color adjective. This lead to sentences such as “the apple next to the cars is green.” To make sure agreement errors were made, the head and local nouns differed in number. To make sure that the two nouns were planned in parallel, the pictures were located at such a short distance, that the second picture could be processed while focusing on the first. Of course, there was also a condition in which the pictures were located at a large distance where simultaneous processing was much more difficult. The next step was to make sure that this manipulation indeed affected the planning strategy. We used pictures that were semantically related and unrelated. We predicted to find semantic interference (when speech onsets and gaze durations take longer because it is harder to name two similar pictures, compared to unrelated pictures) in the close condition, and not in the far condition. Then, you can compare the agreement error rates between the parallel and sequential planning conditions.

First of all, agreement errors were made for items in which the head and local noun differed in number (both for singular and plural head nouns). Second, we found semantic interference in the close condition, and not in the far condition. This suggests that we were succesful in creating a parallel and a sequential planning condition. However, the error rates did not differ between those conditions. Parallel planning of mismatching nouns does not seem to increase error rates.

Read the original article:

Veenstra, A., Meyer, A. S., & Acheson, D. J. (2015). Effects of parallel planning on agreement production. Acta psychologica, 162, 29-39.

 

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That was UICM5!

Thanks to co-organizers Fanny Stercq and Nicolas Ruytenbeek, assistants Isabelle Lorge and Marlein Rusch, and everyone who participated, it was a very interesting two days!

Click here to find the program book with abstracts

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UICM5 poster

Cognitive and Linguistic Development in Bilinguals and Bi-dialectals

5th Edition of Utterance Interpretation and Cognitive Models

24 & 25 September 2015

Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Click here for the poster

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UICM5 news!

Finally some UICM5 news!

We have been working hard to put together an exciting program for our upcoming conference. It promises to be two very interesting days of talks and posters on the impact of bilingualism: an excellent opportunity to learn about the state of the art in an intimate setting in lovely (and multilingual) Brussels.

We managed to include one more key note speaker: Sue Fletcher-Watson from the University of Edinburgh will tell us all about bilingualism in autism. Her talk completes the line up of key note talks which already included Ton Dijkstra (NL), Istvan Kecskes (US), Napoleon Katsos (UK), and Antonella Sorace (UK).

A provisional schedule can be found on the conference website, HERE.

Registration for presenters has opened, and the general registration is now open as well. To register, please download and fill out the registration form and return to UICM5.Brussels@gmail.com. Deadline for the general registration is September 1st.

We have some space for additional poster presentations, please drop us a line at UICM5.Brussels@gmail.com if you are interested!

Hope to see you in Brussels on 24-25 September!

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More UICM5 info

The deadline for abstract submissions has been extended to May 1st. So if you hadn’t already sent in your abstract, you now have two more weeks to do so! See below for submission guidlines.

In the spirit of the UICM conference series, the keynote sessions by Ton Dijkstra, Napoleon Katsos, Istvan Kecskes, and Antonella Sorace will deal with bilingualism and the semantics/pragmatics interface. However, please note that we are welcoming abstracts for talks and posters on the impact of bilingualism on cognitive and linguistic development, more generally.

Registration will open in July. The fee for junior researchers (BA/MA/PhD students) is EUR 50, the fee for senior researchers is EUR 80 (this includes lunch on both days and drink/snacks). ULB members can participate free of charge. There will be a conference dinner on the first day, 24th of September, for which you can sign up separately.

Hope to see you all at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on 24 and 25 September 2015 for the 5th edition of the Utterance Interpretation and Cognitive Models conference!

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Abstracts are restricted to one page A4 (including figures, tables, and references). Please leave out any identifying information from the abstract. The abstract should be submitted in pdf format to uicm5.brussels@gmail.com, with in the body of the email the title, author names, and affiliations. Please also indicate whether you want to be considered for an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or both. The deadline for submission is May 1st 2015. Abstracts will be reviewed by the scientific committee, and notifications of acceptance will be sent out around July 1st 2015.

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Call for abstracts

We are pleased to announce the 5th edition of

Utterance Interpretation and Cognitive Models (UICM5)

held at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, on 24 – 25 September 2015.

http://UICM5.ulb.ac.be
Submission deadline: April 1st, 2015
Notification of acceptance: June 1st, 2015

Invited Speakers:
Ton Dijkstra (Donders Institute/Radboud University Nijmegen)
Napoleon Katsos (University of Cambridge)
Istvan Kecskes (State University of New York)
Antonella Sorace (University of Edinburgh)

This edition focuses on the connection between bilingualism and semantics/pragmatics:

How does bilingualism influence utterance interpretation? Can we identify differences in semantic or pragmatic skills between monolinguals and bilinguals? How about bi-dialectals? What are the mechanisms leading to these differences? We welcome researchers from various backgrounds to share their work on cognition and interpretation and invite them to a lively discussion of views and results.

Abstracts are invited for oral presentations (20 min. presentation plus 10 min. for discussion) and poster presentations. Abstracts are restricted to one page A4 (including figures, tables, and references). Please leave out any identifying information from the abstract. The abstract should be submitted in pdf format to uicm5.brussels@gmail.com, with in the body of the email the title, author names, and affiliations. Please also indicate whether you want to be considered for an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or both. The deadline for submission is April 1st 2015. Abstracts will be reviewed by the scientific committee, and notifications of acceptance will be sent out around June 1st 2015.

We hope to see you in Brussels in September!

On behalf of the UICM5 Organizing committee,

Local organizers: Isabelle Lorge, Nicolas Ruytenbeek, Fanny Stercq, and Alma Veenstra

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We have a date!

Every other year, the ULB organizes a conference on Utterance Interpretation and Cognitive Models. The fifth edition will focus on the effects of bilingualism on utterance interpretation and semantic/pragmatic skills. We are very excited to have Antonella Sorace, Napoleon Katsos, Istvan Kecskes, and Ton Dijkstra as keynote speakers. UICM5 will take place in Brussels on 24 and 25 September 2015.

The daily organizing committee consists of Isabelle Lorge, Nicolas Ruytenbeek, Fanny Stercq, and Alma Veenstra. We are proud to announce that UICM5 will also have a poster session. A call for abstracts is expected to go out in January, so stay tuned!

 

 

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