Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human sentence processing unaffected by sentence structure, eye-movement finds

Date:
February 16, 2011
Source:
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA)
Summary:
The hierarchical structure of sentences appears to be less important in human sentence processing than previously assumed, according to a new study of readers' eye movements. Readers seem to pay attention to simple word sequences above all, according to researchers in the Netherlands. Their findings, which run counter to the prevailing view, provide new insights into human language cognition.

The hierarchical structure of sentences appears to be less important in human sentence processing than previously assumed, according to a new study of readers' eye movements. Readers seem to pay attention to simple word sequences above all. These are the conclusions of research conducted by Dr. Stefan Frank and Prof. Rens Bod from the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Their findings, which run counter to the prevailing view, will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science. These results provide new insights into human language cognition: structures that have been considered extremely important in understanding language do not appear to have psychological relevance.

Seen superficially, sentences consist of a series of words. However, sentences also have a deeper hierarchical structure: they consist of phrases, which may themselves consist of phrases, and so on. Since the pioneering work of the linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1950s, most psycholinguists believe that this structure plays a crucial role in sentence processing. However, Frank and Bod show that the cognitive system of language users is especially sensitive to the superficial, serial structure of sentences, so the hierarchical structure does not really matter.

Expectations during reading

While reading text, expectations are continuously built up with regard to the words to follow. Infringing on these expectations slows down reading, which is detectable in the reader's eye movements. The UvA researchers took a dataset of these types of eye movement patterns and connected that to various statistical models of language. Based on certain assumptions about the sentence structure, these models calculate the degree to which each word was to be expected. It appeared that the eye movements were accurately predicted by models that look only at the superficial word sequences rather than hierarchical structures. This suggests that the reader largely ignores sentence structure and pays attention to the word sequences instead.

The study is part of the Vici-programme 'Integrating Cognition' funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and headed by Rens Bod.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "Human sentence processing unaffected by sentence structure, eye-movement finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216083127.htm>.
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). (2011, February 16). Human sentence processing unaffected by sentence structure, eye-movement finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216083127.htm
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "Human sentence processing unaffected by sentence structure, eye-movement finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216083127.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins