The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 2/8 - Youngah Do

Speaker: Youngah Do
Title: Interaction of the top most and the bottom most: pragmatic bias and perceptual confusability
Time: Tuesday 2/8, 5-6pm, 32-D831

It is well known that multiple linguistic levels interact in language processing (e.g. lexical knowledge to phoneme perception, Ganong 1980; pragmatic contexts to syntactic parsing, Crain & Steedman 1985). This study explores a very challenging case; the interaction of the top most level, pragmatics, and the bottom most level, phonetics.

I conduct an experiment in which listeners were presented with nouns containing acoustically ambiguous phonemes, the interpretation of which was potentially biased by (a) the pragmatic context (implicit causality: IC) and (b) the phonological context (velar softening before a high and back vowels).

I expected IC verbs to bias listeners’ expectation for which participant cause the event as in (1).

    1. Subject-biased context
      Ko apologizes Cho because ?
      Expectation for ?: Ko over Cho
    2. Object-biased context
      Ko admires Cho because ?
      Expectation for ?: Cho over Ko

    I also expect that perceptually more confusable nouns such as Ki and Chi override pragmatic inference more.

    Results show that pragmatic contexts do bias the perception: listeners perceive confusable nouns more as a subject in subject-biased context. At the same time, acoustic confusability also affects the interpretation of the nouns: [k~ch] before a front vowel [i] context affects pragmatic bias toward or against pragmatically expected noun more than back vowel context.

Upcoming talks:
Feb 11 3:30-5pm: Jonah Katz (Note special day and time!)
Feb 15 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
Mar 1 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
Mar 8 5-6pm: Michael Kenstowicz and Filomena Sandalo
Mar 15 5-6pm: Igor Yanovich
Mar 29 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
Apr 5 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
Apr 12 5-6pm: WCCFL practice talks
Apr 26 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
May 3 5-6pm: AVAILABLE
May 10 5-6pm: AVAILABLE

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