Linguistics and English Language

Twenty-eighth PPLS Interdisciplinary Seminar

Speaker: Professor Maryellen C. MacDonald (Donald P. Hayes Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Title: Language Production is not Just for Producing Language

Abstract: The cognitive systems that allow us to convert an idea into language appear to have other critical functions in human cognition. For example, Pickering and colleagues have suggested that the language production system is central in generating predictions during language comprehension. I will offer three other hypotheses and data concerning the broader consequences of language production. First, language planning processes inherently create biases for certain word-syntax combinations over others, yielding robust lexico-syntactic statistical regularities in the perceiver’s linguistic environment. On this view, many human acquisition and comprehension results that were once attributed to inherent acquisition or parsing biases can instead be seen as emergent from the ways in which production creates certain distributional regularities that are learned by perceivers. Second, language production provides a stronger learning signal than comprehension, to the point that production practice can boost comprehension of a new artificial language better than comprehension practice itself. These first two points depend in part on the third hypothesis, that temporary maintenance of verbal information is not via a dedicated temporary store (‘verbal working memory’) but is actually part of language production processes. If these ideas are correct, then language production is central to temporary maintenance and long term learning of verbal information, both of which could support a role for production in prediction during comprehension. These memory-based functions would also be at the heart of why language production yields certain patterns of statistical regularities over others.

Discussants: Professor Holly Branigan (Edinburgh) and Dr Jennifer Culbertson (Edinburgh).


Richard Shillcock

Feb 08 2018 -

Twenty-eighth PPLS Interdisciplinary Seminar

2018-02-08: Professor Maryellen C. MacDonald

Lecture Theatre 3, Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9LE