Language Processing

     A shared symbolic system for communication

(a structured, shared symbolic system for communication)

Levels of Language





Chomsky described language production as starting with idea or meaning,
talk (umpires, players)
then person picks a sentence frame, then words, then sounds
the idea or meaning represents the DEEP STRUCTURE OF A SENTENCE

the surface structure is how it is actually said
When two sentences have different word orders, but same meaning:

          they have the same DEEP structure

          but a different SURFACE structure
john ate the apples
the apples were eaten by john
You can also have sentences with different meanings, but the same

word order

           Iraqi head seeks arms

          Prostitutes appeal to pope

          Hospitals are sued by 7 foot doctors

          Arson suspect held in fire

          They are cooking apples

          Visiting relatives can be a pain
when a sentence has more than one possible deep structure it is said to be ambiguous

They have one surface structure, but two deep structures.

Chomsky was the first to point out these two levels of structure

He proposed there are a set of rules that tell us how we can

TRANSFORM the deep structure into different surface structures


This allows for people to produce an unlimited number of novel

LEGAL utterances.
Language Comprehension reverses the sequence of units.
How do we understand sentences?

          1. One phrase at a time

               memory experiments
Evidence: best memory for most recent constituent, clause

          priming for words within same clause

     geese crossed the horizon as the wind shuffled the clouds


geese-horizon  709ms     geese-clouds 752ms    geese-clutch 900ms

               eyetracking experiments: people have wrap-up effects at end of clauses
          2. Modularity Theory says we go in a strictly BOTTOM UP fashion.

              phonology --> lexical --> syntax --> semantic

        After lexical and syntactic processing Overall meaning of sentence is computed

        What evidence is there that we try to compute syntax before semantics?
    After he played the piano was taken off the stage.
    Fat people eats accumulates.
    The old man the ships.
    While knitting the scarf fell off her lap.


    The boy hit the girl with a smile.

    The boy saw the girl with a smile.

Syntactic processing occurs immediately, with the help of a lexicon.

BUT sometimes people skip a few steps and use TOO MUCH

conceptually-driven processing:

        How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the ark?


people often overlook the errors in these sentences!