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      Be Careful When Assuming the Obvious : Commentary on “The Placement of the Head that Minimizes Online Memory: A Complex Systems Approach”

      Language Dynamics and Change


      word order, head placement, language dynamics, memory and language

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          Ferrer-i-Cancho (this volume) presents a mathematical model of both the synchronic and diachronic nature of word order based on the assumption that memory costs are a never decreasing function of distance and a few very general linguistic assumptions. However, even these minimal and seemingly obvious assumptions are not as safe as they appear in light of recent typological and psycholinguistic evidence. The interaction of word order and memory has further depths to be explored.

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          Most cited references 4

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          An activation-based model of sentence processing as skilled memory retrieval.

          We present a detailed process theory of the moment-by-moment working-memory retrievals and associated control structure that subserve sentence comprehension. The theory is derived from the application of independently motivated principles of memory and cognitive skill to the specialized task of sentence parsing. The resulting theory construes sentence processing as a series of skilled associative memory retrievals modulated by similarity-based interference and fluctuating activation. The cognitive principles are formalized in computational form in the Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) architecture, and our process model is realized in ACT-R. We present the results of 6 sets of simulations: 5 simulation sets provide quantitative accounts of the effects of length and structural interference on both unambiguous and garden-path structures. A final simulation set provides a graded taxonomy of double center embeddings ranging from relatively easy to extremely difficult. The explanation of center-embedding difficulty is a novel one that derives from the model' complete reliance on discriminating retrieval cues in the absence of an explicit representation of serial order information. All fits were obtained with only 1 free scaling parameter fixed across the simulations; all other parameters were ACT-R defaults. The modeling results support the hypothesis that fluctuating activation and similarity-based interference are the key factors shaping working memory in sentence processing. We contrast the theory and empirical predictions with several related accounts of sentence-processing complexity. 2005 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
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            The sausage machine: A new two-stage parsing model

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              The extended argument dependency model: a neurocognitive approach to sentence comprehension across languages.

              Real-time language comprehension is a principal cognitive ability and thereby relates to central properties of the human cognitive architecture. Yet how do the presumably universal cognitive and neural substrates of language processing relate to the astounding diversity of human languages (over 5,000)? The authors present a neurocognitive model of online comprehension, the extended argument dependency model (eADM), that accounts for cross-linguistic unity and diversity in the processing of core constituents (verbs and arguments). The eADM postulates that core constituent processing proceeds in three hierarchically organized phases: (1) constituent structure building without relational interpretation, (2) argument role assignment via a restricted set of cross-linguistically motivated information types (e.g., case, animacy), and (3) completion of argument interpretation using information from further domains (e.g., discourse context, plausibility). This basic architecture is assumed to be universal, with cross-linguistic variation deriving primarily from the information types applied in Phase 2 of comprehension. This conception can derive the appearance of similar neurophysiological and neuroanatomical processing correlates in seemingly disparate structures in different languages and, conversely, of cross-linguistic differences in the processing of similar sentence structures. Copyright 2006 APA.

                Author and article information

                Language Dynamics and Change
                Brill (The Netherlands )
                : 5
                : 1
                : 138-146
                Copyright 2015 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

                Social & Behavioral Sciences, Law

                memory and language, language dynamics, head placement, word order


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