Individual differences in online spoken word recognition: Implications for SLI.
ABSTRACT: Thirty years of research has uncovered the broad principles that characterize spoken word processing across listeners. However, there have been few systematic investigations of individual differences. Such an investigation could help refine models of word recognition by indicating which processing parameters are likely to vary, and could also have important implications for work on language impairment. The present study begins to fill this gap by relating individual differences in overall language ability to variation in online word recognition processes. Using the visual world paradigm, we evaluated online spoken word recognition in adolescents who varied in both basic language abilities and non-verbal cognitive abilities. Eye movements to target, cohort and rhyme objects were monitored during spoken word recognition, as an index of lexical activation. Adolescents with poor language skills showed fewer looks to the target and more fixations to the cohort and rhyme competitors. These results were compared to a number of variants of the TRACE model (McClelland & Elman, 1986) that were constructed to test a range of theoretical approaches to language impairment: impairments at sensory and phonological levels; vocabulary size, and generalized slowing. None of the existing approaches were strongly supported, and variation in lexical decay offered the best fit. Thus, basic word recognition processes like lexical decay may offer a new way to characterize processing differences in language impairment.
Project description:Much research has explored how spoken word recognition is influenced by the architecture and dynamics of the mental lexicon (e.g., Luce and Pisoni, 1998; McClelland and Elman, 1986). A more recent question is whether the processes underlying word recognition are unique to the auditory domain, or whether visually perceived (lipread) speech may also be sensitive to the structure of the mental lexicon (Auer, 2002; Mattys, Bernstein, and Auer, 2002). The current research was designed to test the hypothesis that both aurally and visually perceived spoken words are isolated in the mental lexicon as a function of their modality-specific perceptual similarity to other words. Lexical competition (the extent to which perceptually similar words influence recognition of a stimulus word) was quantified using metrics that are well-established in the literature, as well as a statistical method for calculating perceptual confusability based on the phi-square statistic. Both auditory and visual spoken word recognition were influenced by modality-specific lexical competition as well as stimulus word frequency. These findings extend the scope of activation-competition models of spoken word recognition and reinforce the hypothesis (Auer, 2002; Mattys et al., 2002) that perceptual and cognitive properties underlying spoken word recognition are not specific to the auditory domain. In addition, the results support the use of the phi-square statistic as a better predictor of lexical competition than metrics currently used in models of spoken word recognition.
Project description:Much of the literature surrounding bilingual spoken word recognition is based on bilinguals of non-tonal languages. In the Mandarin spoken word recognition literature, lexical tones are often considered as equally important as segments in lexical processing. It is unclear whether and how lexical tones contribute to bilingual language processing. One recent study demonstrates that tonal bilinguals require the availability of both tonal and segmental information to induce cross-language lexical competition during bilingual lexical access, even without phonological overlap between the target and non-target language. The current study investigates whether overt phonological overlap between the target and non-target language would equally require both tonal and segmental information available to induce cross-language lexical competition. We employed two auditory lexical decision experiments with both Mandarin-English bilinguals and English monolinguals to test whether inter-lingual homophones (IH) would induce lexical competition from the non-target language, L1 Mandarin. Our results show that cross-language lexical competition was only observed with the presence of lexical tones, in addition to segmental overlap.
Project description:The left ventral occipitotemporal cortex (vOT) is important in visual word recognition. Studies have shown that the left vOT is generally observed to be involved in spoken language processing in skilled readers, suggesting automatic access to corresponding orthographic information. However, little is known about where and how the left vOT is involved in the spoken language processing of young children with emerging reading ability. In order to answer this question, we examined the relation of reading ability in 5-6-year-old kindergarteners to the activation of vOT during an auditory phonological awareness task. Two experimental conditions: onset word pairs that shared the first phoneme and rhyme word pairs that shared the final biphone/triphone, were compared to allow a measurement of vOT's activation to small (i.e., onsets) and large grain sizes (i.e., rhymes). We found that higher reading ability was associated with better accuracy of the onset, but not the rhyme, condition. In addition, higher reading ability was only associated with greater sensitivity in the posterior left vOT for the contrast of the onset versus rhyme condition. These results suggest that acquisition of reading results in greater specialization of the posterior vOT to smaller rather than larger grain sizes in young children.
Project description:Spoken language unfolds over time. Consequently, there are brief periods of ambiguity, when incomplete input can match many possible words. Typical listeners solve this problem by immediately activating multiple candidates which compete for recognition. In two experiments using the visual world paradigm, we examined real-time lexical competition in prelingually deaf cochlear implant (CI) users, and normal hearing (NH) adults listening to severely degraded speech. In Experiment 1, adolescent CI users and NH controls matched spoken words to arrays of pictures including pictures of the target word and phonological competitors. Eye-movements to each referent were monitored asa measure of how strongly that candidate was considered over time. Relative to NH controls, CI users showed a large delay in fixating any object, less competition from onset competitors (e.g., sandwich after hearing sandal), and increased competition from rhyme competitors (e.g., candle after hearing sandal). Experiment 2 observed the same pattern with NH listeners hearing highly degraded speech. These studies suggests that in contrast to all prior studies of word recognition in typical listeners, listeners recognizing words in severely degraded conditions can exhibit a substantively different pattern of dynamics, waiting to begin lexical access until substantial information has accumulated.
Project description:Word recognition includes the activation of a range of syntactic and semantic knowledge that is relevant to language interpretation and reference. Here we explored whether or not the number of arguments a verb takes impinges negatively on verb processing time. In this study, three experiments compared the dynamics of spoken word recognition for verbs with different preferred argument structure. Listeners' eye movements were recorded as they searched an array of pictures in response to hearing a verb. Results were similar in all the experiments. The time to identify the referent increased as a function of the number of arguments, above and beyond any effects of label appropriateness (and other controlled variables, such as letter, phoneme and syllable length, phonological neighborhood, oral and written lexical frequencies, imageability and rated age of acquisition). The findings indicate that the number of arguments a verb takes, influences referent identification during spoken word recognition. Representational complexity and amount of information generated by the lexical item that aids target identification are discussed as possible sources of this finding.
Project description:Two cross-modal priming experiments were conducted to investigate morphological processing in Chinese spoken word recognition during sentence comprehension. Participants heard sentences that contained opaque prime words and performed lexical decisions on visual targets that were related to second morpheme meanings of opaque words or whole-word meanings. The targets were presented at the auditory onset of the second morphemes or the subsequent syllables after the opaque primes to examine the time course of effects. In a neutral sentence context (Experiment 1), opaque word morpheme meanings produced morphological priming on target word recognition, which preceded lexical priming. When context biased toward whole opaque words (Experiment 2), morphological priming disappeared, while the effect of lexical meanings remained significant and emerged earlier than the effect of lexical meanings in the neutral context. These findings suggest that morphemes play a role in Chinese spoken word recognition, but their effects depend on the prior context during sentence comprehension.
Project description:Behavioral and imaging studies in alphabetic languages have shown that morphological processing is a discrete and independent element of lexical access. However, there is no explicit marker of morphological structure in Chinese complex words, such that the extent to which morpheme meaning is related to word meaning is unknown. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were used in the present study to investigate the dissociation of morphemic and whole-word meaning in an auditory-auditory primed lexical decision task. All the prime and target words are compounds consisting of two Chinese morphemes. The relationship between morpheme and whole-word meaning was manipulated while controlling the phonology and orthography of the first syllable in each prime-target pair. A clear dissociation was found between morphemic and whole-word meaning on N400 amplitude and topography. Specifically, sharing a morpheme produced a larger N400 in the anterior-central electrode sites, while sharing whole-word meaning produced a smaller N400 in central-posterior electrode sites. In addition, the morphological N400 effect was negatively correlated with the participants' reading ability, with better readers needing less orthographic information to distinguish different morphemes in compound words. These findings indicate that morphological and whole-word meaning are dissociated in spoken Chinese compound word recognition and that even in the spoken language modality, good readers are better able to access the meaning of individual morphemes in Chinese compound word processing.
Project description:This research determined (1) how phonological priming of picture naming was affected by the mode (auditory-visual [AV] versus auditory), fidelity (intact versus nonintact auditory onsets), and lexical status (words versus nonwords) of speech stimuli in children with prelingual sensorineural hearing impairment (CHI) versus children with normal hearing (CNH) and (2) how the degree of HI, auditory word recognition, and age influenced results in CHI. Note that the AV stimuli were not the traditional bimodal input but instead they consisted of an intact consonant/rhyme in the visual track coupled to a nonintact onset/rhyme in the auditory track. Example stimuli for the word bag are (1) AV: intact visual (b/ag) coupled to nonintact auditory (-b/ag) and 2) auditory: static face coupled to the same nonintact auditory (-b/ag). The question was whether the intact visual speech would "restore or fill-in" the nonintact auditory speech in which case performance for the same auditory stimulus would differ depending on the presence/absence of visual speech.Participants were 62 CHI and 62 CNH whose ages had a group mean and group distribution akin to that in the CHI group. Ages ranged from 4 to 14 years. All participants met the following criteria: (1) spoke English as a native language, (2) communicated successfully aurally/orally, and (3) had no diagnosed or suspected disabilities other than HI and its accompanying verbal problems. The phonological priming of picture naming was assessed with the multimodal picture word task.Both CHI and CNH showed greater phonological priming from high than low-fidelity stimuli and from AV than auditory speech. These overall fidelity and mode effects did not differ in the CHI versus CNH-thus these CHI appeared to have sufficiently well-specified phonological onset representations to support priming, and visual speech did not appear to be a disproportionately important source of the CHI's phonological knowledge. Two exceptions occurred, however. First-with regard to lexical status-both the CHI and CNH showed significantly greater phonological priming from the nonwords than words, a pattern consistent with the prediction that children are more aware of phonetics-phonology content for nonwords. This overall pattern of similarity between the groups was qualified by the finding that CHI showed more nearly equal priming by the high- versus low-fidelity nonwords than the CNH; in other words, the CHI were less affected by the fidelity of the auditory input for nonwords. Second, auditory word recognition-but not degree of HI or age-uniquely influenced phonological priming by the AV nonwords.With minor exceptions, phonological priming in CHI and CNH showed more similarities than differences. Importantly, this research documented that the addition of visual speech significantly increased phonological priming in both groups. Clinically these data support intervention programs that view visual speech as a powerful asset for developing spoken language in CHI.
Project description:Many models of spoken word recognition posit that the acoustic stream is parsed into phoneme level units, which in turn activate larger representations [McClelland, J. L., & Elman, J. L. The TRACE model of speech perception. Cognitive Psychology, 18, 1-86, 1986], whereas others suggest that larger units of analysis are activated without the need for segmental mediation [Greenberg, S. A multitier theoretical framework for understanding spoken language. In S. Greenberg & W. A. Ainsworth (Eds.), Listening to speech: An auditory perspective (pp. 411-433). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2005; Klatt, D. H. Speech perception: A model of acoustic-phonetic analysis and lexical access. Journal of Phonetics, 7, 279-312, 1979; Massaro, D. W. Preperceptual images, processing time, and perceptual units in auditory perception. Psychological Review, 79, 124-145, 1972]. Identifying segmental effects in the brain's response to speech may speak to this question. For example, if such effects were localized to relatively early processing stages in auditory cortex, this would support a model of speech recognition in which segmental units are explicitly parsed out. In contrast, segmental processes that occur outside auditory cortex may indicate that alternative models should be considered. The current fMRI experiment manipulated the phonotactic frequency (PF) of words that were auditorily presented in short lists while participants performed a pseudoword detection task. PF is thought to modulate networks in which phoneme level units are represented. The present experiment identified activity in the left inferior frontal gyrus that was positively correlated with PF. No effects of PF were found in temporal lobe regions. We propose that the observed phonotactic effects during speech listening reflect the strength of the association between acoustic speech patterns and articulatory speech codes involving phoneme level units. On the basis of existing lesion evidence, we interpret the function of this auditory-motor association as playing a role primarily in production. These findings are consistent with the view that phoneme level units are not necessarily accessed during speech recognition.
Project description:Rapid information processing in the human brain is vital to survival in a highly dynamic environment. The key tool humans use to exchange information is spoken language, but the exact speed of the neuronal mechanisms underpinning speech comprehension is still unknown. Here we investigate the time course of neuro-lexical processing by analyzing neuromagnetic brain activity elicited in response to psycholinguistically and acoustically matched groups of words and pseudowords. We show an ultra-early dissociation in cortical activation elicited by these stimulus types, emerging ?50?ms after acoustic information required for word identification first becomes available. This dissociation is the earliest brain signature of lexical processing of words so far reported, and may help explain the evolutionary advantage of human spoken language.