Monthly Archives: May 2010

Linguistic Practice and False-belief Tasks

Jill de Villiers has argued that children’s mastery of sentential complements plays a crucial role in enabling them to succeed at false-belief tasks. Josef Perner has disputed that and has argued that mastery of false-belief tasks requires an understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives. This paper attempts to resolve the debate by explicating attributions of desires and beliefs as extensions of the linguistic practices of making commands and assertions, respectively. In terms of these linguistic practices one can explain why desire-talk will precede belief-talk and why even older children will have difficulty attributing incompatible desires.

from Mind and Language

Malapropisms and the Simple Picture of Communication

This essay defends an analysis of malapropisms consistent with the Simple Picture of communication, namely the view that speakers communicate that P by employing expressions associated with P by the regularities appropriate for the linguistic community to which they belong. My analysis, grounded on the distinction between traces, shapes, and forms, is consistent with an intuitive assessment of the contents conveyed by instances of malapropisms, and with a standard, ‘fully articulated’ approach to semantic interpretation.

from Mind and Language

Achieving mutual understanding in world Englishes

ABSTRACT: Given the rapid growth in international contacts worldwide, English is increasingly becoming the chosen medium to facilitate communication among people of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. However, the question remains as to how non-native speakers of English of varying levels of proficiency, using different varieties of English, are able to arrive at mutual understanding in this medium. The paper addresses this question by offering some insights into the process of negotiating understanding in English as a lingua franca and the interactional procedures used in this regard. Fifteen hours of transcribed audio recordings of naturally occurring spoken interactions in English as a lingua franca (ELF), between participants of a range of first language and cultural backgrounds, were examined using conversation analytic procedures. Several interactional practices were identified as the ones utilized in the process of constructing shared understanding, namely repetition, paraphrase and various confirmation and clarification procedures. These procedures are strategically employed by both speaker and recipient as warranted by the local context to address problems of understanding when they occur. Thus, regardless of the participants’ use of different varieties of English at varying levels of competency, communication is successful as the participants make skilful and adept use of common, shared interactional practices to arrive at mutual understanding.

from World Englishes

Cameroonian and foreign scholars’ discourse: the rhetoric of conference abstracts

ABSTRACT: This contribution explores rhetorical features in 207 abstracts submitted for four international conferences in Yaounde (Cameroon), Regensburg (Germany) and Birmingham (UK). Relevant text features are retrieved from the corpus via concordance software and results are discussed in the light of their frequency of occurrence. Furthermore, the abstracts are manually scanned to determine recurrent schematic patterns. Findings show that rhetorical choices and recurrent “moves” in the abstracts submitted for the Regensburg-Birmingham conferences are more attuned to the expectations of community discourse practices than those of the Yaounde-Cameroon conferences.

from World Englishes

Chinese perceptions of Inner Circle varieties of English

ABSTRACT: Research from populations around the world on attitudes to varieties of English is essential in order to have a better understanding of how the complexities of globalization play a role in the form of English as a world language. To that end, university students in China were asked to name countries around the world where they believe English is spoken and indicate what kind of impression they have of those varieties without the presentation of voice stimuli. This type of data elicitation enables the participants themselves to provide the researcher with evaluative categories and avoids problems associated with using voice stimuli. The results indicate that the effect of the cultural hegemony of US English as a variety is complex, and that, contrary to assumptions, US English is unlikely to be a model for a ‘standard’ variety of world English in the traditional sense.

from World Englishes

Hybrid compounding in New Zealand English

ABSTRACT: This study investigates hybrid compound formation of Maori and English terms in present day New Zealand English (NZE). On the background of Maori and English language contact, the phenomenon of hybrid compounding emerges as a process that, on the one hand, symbolizes the vitality of the Maori element in NZE and, on the other hand, marks the integration of Maori concepts in New Zealand culture. The investigation is based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the most frequent Maori loans in hybrid compounds drawn from a popular New Zealand newspaper (The New Zealand Herald). While the quantitative part establishes the total number of Maori loans, their usage in hybrid compounds, and their individual productivity values, the qualitative investigation disentangles semantic referential patterns underlying the formation of hybrid compounds. This approach to analysing hybrid compounds unveils a series of referential clusters that emerge from the semantic frame of the Maori borrowings and that allow for a conceptual categorization of the hybrid compounds.

from World Englishes

Linguistically privileged and cursed? American university students and the global hegemony of English

ABSTRACT: This paper analyzes written discourse generated in response to an open-ended questionnaire administered to 136 students at two different universities in the southwestern United States and to 15 non-American students at a large Danish university. The questionnaire aimed to inspire reflection about the impact of the global rise of English on American mother-tongue speakers of English as well as on those who do not have English as a mother tongue, especially with respect to the question of mono vs. multilingual practice. Most American and non-American respondents represented the learning of a foreign language as something American mother-tongue speakers should do but as something which is not necessary. There was widespread, though not unanimous, agreement that English is necessary for non-mother-tongue speakers. Responses are also grouped, discussed, and analyzed in terms of the instrumental, multicultural, or mix of multicultural and instrumental logic used. The author is especially concerned with the intersections between the global hegemony of English and the learning of foreign languages. The study and analysis conducted here offer insight into these intersections. Given that so much is at stake in terms of the relationship between the global expansion of English and foreign language learning, the author concludes that further research into this relationship is needed.

from World Englishes

Malaysian English: an instrumental analysis of vowel contrasts

ABSTRACT: This paper makes an instrumental analysis of English vowel monophthongs produced by 47 female Malaysian speakers. The focus is on the distribution of Malaysian English vowels in the vowel space, and the extent to which there is phonetic contrast between traditionally paired vowels. The results indicate that, like neighbouring varieties of English, Malaysian English vowels occupy a smaller vowel space than those of British English. The lack of contrast in vowel quality between vowel pairs was more apparent for /i/ – //, /e/ – /æ/ and // – //. However, there was a considerable difference in duration in the vowel pairs except for // – // which contrasted in terms of vowel quality.

from World Englishes

Research methods and intelligibility studies

ABSTRACT: This paper first briefly reviews the concept of intelligibility as it has been employed in both English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and world Englishes (WE) research. It then examines the findings of the Lingua Franca Core (LFC), a list of phonological features that empirical research has shown to be important for safeguarding mutual intelligibility between non-native speakers of English. The main point of the paper is to analyse these findings and demonstrate that many of them can be explained if three perspectives (linguistic, psycholinguistic and historical-variationist) are taken. This demonstration aims to increase the explanatory power of the concept of intelligibility by providing some theoretical background. An implication for ELF research is that at the phonological level, internationally intelligible speakers have a large number of features in common, regardless of whether they are non-native speakers or native speakers. An implication for WE research is that taking a variety-based, rather than a features-based, view of phonological variation and its connection with intelligibility is likely to be unhelpful, as intelligibility depends to some extent on the phonological features of individual speakers, rather than on the varieties per se.

from World Englishes

A Retrospective Survey of Research Design and Statistical Analyses in Selected Chinese Medical Journals in 1998 and 2008

Chinese medical research seems to have made significant progress regarding statistical analyses, but there remains ample room for improvement regarding study designs. Retrospective clinical studies are the most often used design, whereas randomized clinical trials are rare and often show methodological weaknesses. Urgent implementation of the CONSORT statement is imperative.

from PLoS ONE

Planning in sentence production: Evidence for the phrase as a default planning scope

Controversy remains as to the scope of advanced planning in language production. Smith and Wheeldon (1999) found significantly longer onset latencies when subjects described moving-picture displays by producing sentences beginning with a complex noun phrase than for matched sentences beginning with a simple noun phrase. While these findings are consistent with a phrasal scope of planning, they might also be explained on the basis of: (1) greater retrieval fluency for the second content word in the simple initial noun phrase sentences and (2) visual grouping factors. In Experiments 1 and 2, retrieval fluency for the second content word was equated for the complex and simple initial noun phrase conditions. Experiments 3 and 4 addressed the visual grouping hypothesis by using stationary displays and by comparing onset latencies for the same display for sentence and list productions. Longer onset latencies for the sentences beginning with a complex noun phrase were obtained in all experiments, supporting the phrasal scope of planning hypothesis. The results indicate that in speech, as in other motor production domains, planning occurs beyond the minimal production unit.

from Cognition

Contextual influences of emotional speech prosody on face processing: How much is enough?

The influence of emotional prosody on the evaluation of emotional facial expressions was investigated in an event-related brain potential (ERP) study using a priming paradigm, the facial affective decision task. Emotional prosodic fragments of short (200-msec) and medium (400-msec) duration were presented as primes, followed by an emotionally related or unrelated facial expression (or facial grimace, which does not resemble an emotion). Participants judged whether or not the facial expression represented an emotion. ERP results revealed an N400-like differentiation for emotionally related prime–target pairs when compared with unrelated prime–target pairs. Faces preceded by prosodic primes of medium length led to a normal priming effect (larger negativity for unrelated than for related prime–target pairs), but the reverse ERP pattern (larger negativity for related than for unrelated prime–target pairs) was observed for faces preceded by short prosodic primes. These results demonstrate that brief exposure to prosodic cues can establish a meaningful emotional context that influences related facial processing; however, this context does not always lead to a processing advantage when prosodic information is very short in duration.

from Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience

Early Detection of Parkinson’s Disease by Voice Analysis

A new technique assisting in early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease has been developed by Prof. Shimon Sapir of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Haifa. This technique involves analysis of voice and articulation. The research was carried out alongside U.S. scientists and with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and results have been published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. “This is a non-invasive, reliable and accurate technique that only requires the patient to read out a few simple sentences,” Prof. Sapir explains.


Reduced somatosensory activations in swallowing with age

Understanding the neural functional organization of swallowing in healthy elders is essential in diagnosing and treating older adults with swallowing difficulties. The primary aims of this investigation were to identify the neural activation sites of different components of deglutition in healthy elders using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and to investigate age differences in the neural control of swallowing. Ten young (age range 19-25 years of age) and nine older (age range 66-77 years of age) right-handed healthy individuals were scanned in a 3-Tesla MRI scanner. Subjects were visually cued for both a Swallow task and for component/control tasks ( Prepare to swallow, Tap your tongue, and Clear your throat). Behavioral interleaved gradient (BIG) methodology was used to address movement related artifacts. Between-group comparisons revealed statistically stronger activations in the primary somatosensory cortex of young adults during the motor tasks examined. Both groups showed activations in the major motor areas involved in the initiation and execution of movement; however, areas involved in sensory processing, sensorimotor integration and/or motor coordination and control, showed reduced or limited activity in the elderly. Potential implications of these findings for clinical practice are discussed. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

from Human Brain Mapping

The Bank of Standardized Stimuli (BOSS), a New Set of 480 Normative Photos of Objects to Be Used as Visual Stimuli in Cognitive Research

There are currently stimuli with published norms available to study several psychological aspects of language and visual cognitions. Norms represent valuable information that can be used as experimental variables or systematically controlled to limit their potential influence on another experimental manipulation. The present work proposes 480 photo stimuli that have been normalized for name, category, familiarity, visual complexity, object agreement, viewpoint agreement, and manipulability. Stimuli are also available in grayscale, blurred, scrambled, and line-drawn version. This set of objects, the Bank Of Standardized Stimuli (BOSS), was created specifically to meet the needs of scientists in cognition, vision and psycholinguistics who work with photo stimuli.

from PLoS ONE