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Word lengths are optimized for efficient communication

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      Linguistic complexity: locality of syntactic dependencies.

       Edward Gibson (1998)
      This paper proposes a new theory of the relationship between the sentence processing mechanism and the available computational resources. This theory--the Syntactic Prediction Locality Theory (SPLT)--has two components: an integration cost component and a component for the memory cost associated with keeping track of obligatory syntactic requirements. Memory cost is hypothesized to be quantified in terms of the number of syntactic categories that are necessary to complete the current input string as a grammatical sentence. Furthermore, in accordance with results from the working memory literature both memory cost and integration cost are hypothesized to be heavily influenced by locality (1) the longer a predicted category must be kept in memory before the prediction is satisfied, the greater is the cost for maintaining that prediction; and (2) the greater the distance between an incoming word and the most local head or dependent to which it attaches, the greater the integration cost. The SPLT is shown to explain a wide range of processing complexity phenomena not previously accounted for under a single theory, including (1) the lower complexity of subject-extracted relative clauses compared to object-extracted relative clauses, (2) numerous processing overload effects across languages, including the unacceptability of multiply center-embedded structures, (3) the lower complexity of cross-serial dependencies relative to center-embedded dependencies, (4) heaviness effects, such that sentences are easier to understand when larger phrases are placed later and (5) numerous ambiguity effects, such as those which have been argued to be evidence for the Active Filler Hypothesis.
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        Expectation-based syntactic comprehension.

         Roger Levy (2008)
        This paper investigates the role of resource allocation as a source of processing difficulty in human sentence comprehension. The paper proposes a simple information-theoretic characterization of processing difficulty as the work incurred by resource reallocation during parallel, incremental, probabilistic disambiguation in sentence comprehension, and demonstrates its equivalence to the theory of Hale [Hale, J. (2001). A probabilistic Earley parser as a psycholinguistic model. In Proceedings of NAACL (Vol. 2, pp. 159-166)], in which the difficulty of a word is proportional to its surprisal (its negative log-probability) in the context within which it appears. This proposal subsumes and clarifies findings that high-constraint contexts can facilitate lexical processing, and connects these findings to well-known models of parallel constraint-based comprehension. In addition, the theory leads to a number of specific predictions about the role of expectation in syntactic comprehension, including the reversal of locality-based difficulty patterns in syntactically constrained contexts, and conditions under which increased ambiguity facilitates processing. The paper examines a range of established results bearing on these predictions, and shows that they are largely consistent with the surprisal theory.
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          Integration of visual and linguistic information in spoken language comprehension

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
            Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
            Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
            0027-8424
            1091-6490
            March 01 2011
            March 01 2011
            March 01 2011
            January 28 2011
            : 108
            : 9
            : 3526-3529
            10.1073/pnas.1012551108
            © 2011

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