The overarching goal of this project is to address both the methodological and theoretical challenges in real- time language processing in order to understand how listeners coordinate linguistic and non-linguistic information as they construct interpretations. Research from this project and research from other labs has strongly established that in addition to form-based probabilistic constraints, listeners make rapid use of information provided by visual context and action-relevant affordances of objects and task goals. It is less clear whether speakers and addressees take into account their interlocutor's knowledge and commitments during the earliest moments of language processing. Modeling the knowledge states of other individuals is presumably complex and resource-intensive. Inferring and tracking the knowledge states and intentions of interlocutors is often conceived of as a task separated from core real-time language processing. In contrast, we propose that targeted and probabilistic tracking of some aspects of interlocutors'knowledge states and intentions may be an essential part of language processing itself;interlocutors, in the linguistic choices they make, may be implicitly telling other individuals about elements of their own knowledge states and intentions that are relevant to the task of carrying on the current linguistic interaction. These choices of form by the speaker, and their interpretation by the addressee, involve integrating the content of the sentence with considerations of who knows (and does not know) what, a matter that relates more directly to the conduct of the discourse than to its descriptive content. We will examine processing of linguistic devices whose function is to shape the presentation of descriptive content rather than to form a description, including sentence-type, prosody, and forms of acknowledgment. The proposed research builds on our work with definite reference and our recent success in using eye movements to study real-time language processing in collaborative tasks. We address two central questions: (1) how and when interlocutors take into account each other's likely knowledge, both shared and privileged and (2) whether, and if so, when, interlocutors signal and monitor each other's intentions in conversation. The proposed work should make important empirical and theoretical contributions;it will helping resolve existing controversies and it will break new ground. We further develop the relatively novel eye-tracking targeted language games methodology and explore optimal cue-integration models and new methods for statistical modeling of eye-tracking data. Our results and methods should continue to: (a) advance our understanding of normal language comprehension;(b) inform investigations of language processing in children and special populations, including those with impairments that arise from brain injury, and they are beginning to influence development and evaluation of dialog systems with health-related applications.

Public Health Relevance

This project examines the mechanisms that allow people to rapidly coordinate multiple sources of information in order to plan utterances as speakers and comprehend spoken language as listeners. Our results and methods continue to advance our understanding of normal language comprehension and inform investigations of language processing in children and special populations, including those with impairments that arise from brain injury. They are also beginning to influence the development and evaluation of computer-based spoken language systems are beginning to be applied to many health-related issues, including providing guidance in medical emergencies.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01HD027206-22
Application #
8512748
Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Miller, Brett
Project Start
1991-06-01
Project End
2015-06-30
Budget Start
2013-07-01
Budget End
2014-06-30
Support Year
22
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$290,832
Indirect Cost
$101,791
Name
University of Rochester
Department
Other Basic Sciences
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
041294109
City
Rochester
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
14627
Degen, Judith; Tanenhaus, Michael K (2016) Availability of Alternatives and the Processing of Scalar Implicatures: A Visual World Eye-Tracking Study. Cogn Sci 40:172-201
Ibarra, Alyssa; Tanenhaus, Michael K (2016) The Flexibility of Conceptual Pacts: Referring Expressions Dynamically Shift to Accommodate New Conceptualizations. Front Psychol 7:561
Gegg-Harrison, Whitney M; Tanenhaus, Michael K (2016) What's in a Name? Interlocutors Dynamically Update Expectations about Shared Names. Front Psychol 7:212
Farmer, Thomas A; Yan, Shaorong; Bicknell, Klinton et al. (2015) Form-to-expectation matching effects on first-pass eye movement measures during reading. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 41:958-76
Heller, Daphna; Arnold, Jennifer E; Klein, Natalie et al. (2015) Inferring Difficulty: Flexibility in the Real-time Processing of Disfluency. Lang Speech 58:190-203
Brown, Meredith; Salverda, Anne Pier; Gunlogson, Christine et al. (2015) Interpreting prosodic cues in discourse context. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:149-166
Brown, Meredith; Salverda, Anne Pier; Dilley, Laura C et al. (2015) Metrical expectations from preceding prosody influence perception of lexical stress. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 41:306-23
Carbary, Kathleen; Brown, Meredith; Gunlogson, Christine et al. (2015) Anticipatory Deaccenting in Language Comprehension. Lang Cogn Neurosci 30:197-211
Heeren, Willemijn F L; Bibyk, Sarah A; Gunlogson, Christine et al. (2015) Asking or Telling--Real-time Processing of Prosodically Distinguished Questions and Statements. Lang Speech 58:474-501
Kim, Christina S; Gunlogson, Christine; Tanenhaus, Michael K et al. (2015) Context-driven expectations about focus alternatives. Cognition 139:28-49

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