Blog Archives

Speech perception in noise deficits in Japanese children with reading difficulties: Effects of presentation rate

We examined the effects of presentation rate on speech perception in noise and its relation to reading in 117 typically developing (TD) children and 10 children with reading difficulties (RD) in Japan. Responses in a speech perception task were measured for speed, accuracy, and stability in two conditions that varied stimulus presentation rate: high rate and same rate conditions. TD children exhibited significantly more stable responses in the high rate condition than they did in the same rate condition. Multiple regression analyses indicated that response stability in the high rate condition accounted for a unique amount of variance in reading and mora deletion. As a group, children with RD performed less accurately than did TD children in the high rate condition, but not in the same rate condition. Findings suggest that the dependence of speech perception on stimulus context relates to reading proficiency or difficulty in Japanese children. The influences of phonology and orthography of language on the relationships between speech perception and reading are discussed.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

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Conceptual influences on word order and voice in sentence production: Evidence from Japanese

Two experiments using a sentence recall task tested the effect of animacy on syntactic processing in Japanese sentence production. Experiment 1 and 2 showed that when Japanese native speakers recalled transitive sentences, they were more likely to assign animate entities earlier positions in the sentence than inanimate entities. In addition, Experiment 2 showed that they were more likely to recall animate entities than inanimate entities as sentence subjects in active and passive sentences. Thus conceptual information influenced both the way in which grammatical functions were assigned and choice of word order. We consider the implications of these findings for theories of language production.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

An event-related potential investigation of lexical pitch-accent processing in auditory Japanese

Lexical prosody plays an important role in speech comprehension. However, the electrophysiological nature and time course of processing lexical prosody in mora-timed languages are rarely known in contrast to the wealth of knowledge in stress-timed languages and syllable-timed languages like German and French. In the present study, lexical pitch-accent processing in Japanese is investigated using event-related potentials. Participants listened to sentences with verbs either correct or incorrect with respect to pitch-accent (phonological condition), word meaning (semantic condition) or sentence type (syntactic condition). When the brain potentials of correct and incorrect sentences were compared within conditions, the phonological and semantic conditions showed a negativity and positivity (P600), while the syntactic condition displayed a P600. Furthermore, the negativity in response to pitch-accent violations (pitch-accent negativity) appeared approximately 60 ms earlier than the response to semantic violations (N400), while no significant topographical distributions were found between the two components. These results suggest that the pitch-accent negativity reflects initial phonological processing followed by lexical access and word recognition. Moreover, the P600 displayed in all conditions was interpreted as a general integration process that is common across the three domains.

from Brain Research

Morphological Congruency and the Acquisition of L2 Morphemes

The present study examined the proposal that the presence of a similar morpheme in the learner’s first and second languages (L2) facilitates morphological development in the L2. Advanced Russian and Japanese speakers of English as a second language performed a self-paced reading task in which they read English sentences word by word for comprehension. Russian participants showed a reliable sensitivity to plural errors, but Japanese participants did not. The findings supported the morphological congruency hypothesis. A theoretical proposal is put forward to explain how morphological congruency affects L2 morpheme acquisition. The findings and the proposal are relevant to the discussion of the critical period hypothesis, ultimate attainment in L2, and the characterization of L2 competence of steady-state adult L2 learners.

from Language Learning

Age and amount of exposure to a foreign language during childhood: behavioral and ERP data on the semantic comprehension of spoken English by Japanese children

Children’s foreign-language (FL) learning is a matter of much social as well as scientific debate. Previous behavioral research indicates that starting language learning late in life can lead to problems in phonological processing. Inadequate phonological capacity may impede lexical learning and semantic processing (phonological bottleneck hypothesis). Using both behavioral and neuroimaging data, here we examine the effects of age of first exposure (AOFE) and total hours of exposure (HOE) to English, on 350 Japanese primary-school children’s semantic processing of spoken English. Children’s English proficiency scores and N400 event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were analyzed in multiple regression analyses. The results showed (1) that later, rather than earlier, AOFE led to higher English proficiency and larger N400 amplitudes, when HOE was controlled for; and (2) that longer HOE led to higher English proficiency and larger N400 amplitudes, whether AOFE was controlled for or not. These data highlight the important role of amount of exposure in FL learning, and cast doubt on the view that starting FL learning earlier always produces better results.

from Neuroscience Research

Subversive script and novel graphs in Japanese girls’ culture

This article describes how young women in Japan transgress ideals of proper literacy, particularly notions about normative women’s writing, when they compose carefully wrought yet hard-to-read texts. Writing in this novel style serves as a generational and gendered identity marker, and elders and outsiders find it nonsensical, unfeminine and unsightly. In addition, the writing style itself demonstrates an expansionist stance through appropriation of multiple script sets, fonts and icons. The findings offer a corrective to scholarship on writing systems that routinely neglects the importance of a gestalt understanding of writing.

from Language & Communication

Effects of sequential and discrete rapid naming on reading in Japanese children with reading difficulty

To clarify whether rapid naming ability itself is a main underpinning factor of rapid automatized naming tests (RAN) and how deep an influence the discrete decoding process has on reading, we performed discrete naming tasks and discrete hiragana reading tasks as well as sequential naming tasks and sequential hiragana reading tasks with 38 Japanese schoolchildren with reading difficulty. There were high correlations between both discrete and sequential hiragana reading and sentence reading, suggesting that some mechanism which automatizes hiragana reading makes sentence reading fluent. In object and color tasks, there were moderate correlations between sentence reading and sequential naming, and between sequential naming and discrete naming. But no correlation was found between reading tasks and discrete naming tasks. The influence of rapid naming ability of objects and colors upon reading seemed relatively small, and multi-item processing may work in relation to these. In contrast, in the digit naming task there was moderate correlation between sentence reading and discrete naming, while no correlation was seen between sequential naming and discrete naming. There was moderate correlation between reading tasks and sequential digit naming tasks. Digit rapid naming ability has more direct effect on reading while its effect on RAN is relatively limited. The ratio of how rapid naming ability influences RAN and reading seems to vary according to kind of the stimuli used. An assumption about components in RAN which influence reading is discussed in the context of both sequential processing and discrete naming speed.

from Brain and Development

Effects of sequential and discrete rapid naming on reading in Japanese children with reading difficulty

To clarify whether rapid naming ability itself is a main underpinning factor of rapid automatized naming tests (RAN) and how deep an influence the discrete decoding process has on reading, we performed discrete naming tasks and discrete hiragana reading tasks as well as sequential naming tasks and sequential hiragana reading tasks with 38 Japanese schoolchildren with reading difficulty. There were high correlations between both discrete and sequential hiragana reading and sentence reading, suggesting that some mechanism which automatizes hiragana reading makes sentence reading fluent. In object and color tasks, there were moderate correlations between sentence reading and sequential naming, and between sequential naming and discrete naming. But no correlation was found between reading tasks and discrete naming tasks. The influence of rapid naming ability of objects and colors upon reading seemed relatively small, and multi-item processing may work in relation to these. In contrast, in the digit naming task there was moderate correlation between sentence reading and discrete naming, while no correlation was seen between sequential naming and discrete naming. There was moderate correlation between reading tasks and sequential digit naming tasks. Digit rapid naming ability has more direct effect on reading while its effect on RAN is relatively limited. The ratio of how rapid naming ability influences RAN and reading seems to vary according to kind of the stimuli used. An assumption about components in RAN which influence reading is discussed in the context of both sequential processing and discrete naming speed.

from Brain and Development

Functional MRI evidence for the importance of visual short-term memory in logographic reading

Logographic symbols are visually complex, and thus children’s abilities for visual short-term memory (VSTM) predict their reading competence in logographic systems. In the present study, we investigated the importance of VSTM in logographic reading in adults, both behaviorally and by means of fMRI. Outside the scanner, VSTM predicted logographic Kanji reading in native Japanese adults (n = 45), a finding consistent with previous observations in Japanese children. In the scanner, participants (n = 15) were asked to perform a visual one-back task. For this fMRI experiment, we took advantage of the unique linguistic characteristic of the Japanese writing system, whereby syllabic Kana and logographic Kanji can share the same sound and meaning, but differ only in the complexity of their visual features. Kanji elicited greater activation than Kana in the cerebellum and two regions associated with VSTM, the lateral occipital complex and the superior intraparietal sulcus, bilaterally. The same regions elicited the highest activation during the control condition (an unfamiliar, unpronounceable script to the participants), presumably due to the increased VSTM demands for processing the control script. In addition, individual differences in VSTM performance (outside the scanner) significantly predicted blood oxygen level-dependent signal changes in the identified VSTM regions, during the Kanji and control conditions, but not during the Kana condition. VSTM appears to play an important role in reading logographic words, even in skilled adults, as evidenced at the behavioral and neural level, most likely due to the increased VSTM/visual attention demands necessary for processing complex visual features inherent in logographic symbols.

from the European Journal of Neuroscience

Changes in encoding of path of motion in a first language during acquisition of a second language

Languages vary typologically in their lexicalization of path of motion (Talmy, path to realization: A typology of event conflation: 480–519, 1991). Furthermore, lexicalization patterns are argued to affect syntactic packaging at the level of the clause (e.g., Slobin, Two ways to travel: Verbs of motion in English and Spanish, Oxford University Press, 1996b) and tend to transfer from a first (L1) to a second language (L2) in second language acquisition (e.g., Cadierno and Ruiz, Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 4: 183–216, 2006). Crosslinguistic and developmental evidence suggests, then, that typological preferences for path expression are highly robust features of a first language.
The current study examines the robustness of preferences for path encoding by investigating (1) whether Japanese follows patterns identified for other verb-framed languages like Spanish, and (2) whether patterns established in an L1 can change after acquisition of an L2. L1 performance of native speakers of Japanese with intermediate-level knowledge of English was compared to that of monolingual speakers of Japanese and English. Results showed that monolingual Japanese speakers followed basic lexicalization patterns typical of other verb-framed languages, but with different realizations of path packaging within the clause. Moreover, native Japanese speakers with knowledge of English displayed mixed patterns for lexicalization and expressed significantly more path information per clause than either group of monolinguals. Implications for typology and second language acquisition are discussed.

from Cognitive Linguistics

The development of perceptual grouping biases in infancy: A Japanese-English cross-linguistic study

Perceptual grouping has traditionally been thought to be governed by innate, universal principles. However, recent work has found differences in Japanese and English speakers’ non-linguistic perceptual grouping, implicating language in non-linguistic perceptual processes (Iversen, Patel, & Ohgushi, 2008). Two experiments test Japanese- and English-learning infants of 5–6 and 7–8 months of age to explore the development of grouping preferences. At 5–6 months, neither the Japanese nor the English infants revealed any systematic perceptual biases. However, by 7–8 months, the same age as when linguistic phrasal grouping develops, infants developed non-linguistic grouping preferences consistent with their language’s structure (and the grouping biases found in adulthood). These results reveal an early difference in non-linguistic perception between infants growing up in different language environments. The possibility that infants’ linguistic phrasal grouping is bootstrapped by abstract perceptual principles is discussed.

from Cognition

The green leaves of love: Japanese romantic heroines, authentic femininity, and dialect1

How is ‘authentic’ linguistic femininity in Japan manifested in popular texts? We analyze the dialogue of female characters in Wakaba, a 2005 Japanese drama set in two very different parts of ‘regional’ Japan – Miyazaki and Kobe. Through this analysis, we examine two contradictory discourses circulated through popular media. The first is that linguistic femininity is based in Standard Japanese – a surprisingly persistent ideology despite a current trend to examine cases in which language ideology and practice do not match. Other studies reflect another dominant discourse, that of the ‘authentic’ dialect speaker, who expresses local alignment by using dialect forms outside the bounds of ideologically modern linguistic forms. The tension between acting linguistically feminine and ‘authentically’ local raises some interesting questions for Japanese language and gender studies, including studies of gendered representations: are women who are speakers of regional dialects authentically ‘feminine’? Can they be? Do some dialects express femininity better than others?

from Journal of Sociolinguistics

A Cognitive Grammar account of time motion ‘metaphors’: A view from Japanese

Abstract
This article focuses on motion metaphors of time and complements Moore’s (Cognitive Linguistics 17: 199–244, 2006) analysis, which insightfully discusses time metaphors, from the standpoint of Japanese data. The present paper argues that time metaphors should be analyzed in terms of Langacker’s (Observations and speculations on subjectivity, John Benjamins, 1985, Cognitive Linguistics, 1: 5–38, 1990a, Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar, Mouton de Gruyter, 1990b) subjective/objective construal if Japanese data are considered. More specifically, the present analysis classifies time metaphors in terms of the ground’s subjective/objective construal and depends on whether they are deictic or not. When the ground is placed offstage, a given expression is non-deictic and can have the order meaning. This article emphasizes that the order meaning is produced by the ground’s objective construal and that this cognitive ability is crucial for comparing two events or persons. By focusing on the ground’s subjective/objective construal, the difference between Japanese mae and saki can be captured. The present paper will show that the application of the Cognitive Grammar approach to Japanese temporal expressions can supplement existing metaphor theories and that the cognitive linguistic theory of subjectivity is a useful tool with respect to capturing the properties of Japanese temporal expressions.

from Cognitive Linguistics

Multimodal Indices to Japanese and French Prosodically Expressed Social Affects

Whereas several studies have explored the expression of emotions, little is known on how the visual and audio channels are combined during production of what we call the more controlled social affects, for example, “attitudinal” expressions. This article presents a perception study of the audovisual expression of 12 Japanese and 6 French attitudes in order to understand the contribution of audio and visual modalities for affective communication. The relative importance of each modality in the perceptual decoding of the expressions of four speakers is analyzed as a first step towards a deeper comprehension of their influence on the expression of social affects. Then, the audovisual productions of two speakers (one for each language) are acoustically (F0, duration and intensity) and visually (in terms of Action Units) analyzed, in order to match the relation between objective parameters and listeners’ perception of these social affects. The most pertinent objective features, either acoustic or visual, are then discussed, in a bilingual perspective: for example, the relative influence of fundamental frequency for attitudinal expression in both languages is discussed, and the importance of a certain aspect of the voice quality dimension in Japanese is underlined.

from Language and Speech

Multimodal Indices to Japanese and French Prosodically Expressed Social Affects

Whereas several studies have explored the expression of emotions, little is known on how the visual and audio channels are combined during production of what we call the more controlled social affects, for example, “attitudinal” expressions. This article presents a perception study of the audovisual expression of 12 Japanese and 6 French attitudes in order to understand the contribution of audio and visual modalities for affective communication. The relative importance of each modality in the perceptual decoding of the expressions of four speakers is analyzed as a first step towards a deeper comprehension of their influence on the expression of social affects. Then, the audovisual productions of two speakers (one for each language) are acoustically (F0, duration and intensity) and visually (in terms of Action Units) analyzed, in order to match the relation between objective parameters and listeners’ perception of these social affects. The most pertinent objective features, either acoustic or visual, are then discussed, in a bilingual perspective: for example, the relative influence of fundamental frequency for attitudinal expression in both languages is discussed, and the importance of a certain aspect of the voice quality dimension in Japanese is underlined.

from Language and Speech</em