Project C7 (Spalek, Wartenburger)

The effect of linguistic and non-linguistic contextual information on the use of information-structural alternatives in language production and language processing


Project C7 looks into the effect contextual information has on language processing. Both language production and language comprehension will be investigated. In a number of different studies, two types of context will be compared – linguistic context and visually presented context. The leading question is whether visually induced saliency has a comparable effect on the interpretation and processing of different word orders and on linguistic choice as verbally expressed information structure.

The question is interesting for two different reasons: First, it is theoretically relevant in that it will shed some light on the question whether and how information structure can be explained by underlying cognitive mechanisms like, e.g., selective attention. Second, if our studies can show that visual context affects language processing in a similar way as verbal context, this finding will be practically relevant, too. It will allow us to develop experimental paradigms for research on information structure with children and adults with acquired language disorders, e.g., after a stroke. Prospectively, such a course of action will permit investigating whether successful processing of information structure occurs independently of successful syntactic processing. With the visually-based methods developed in the present project, we will be able to look at the ability to process information structure in patients who have known deficits in syntactic processing.

In different studies we want to look at different language modalities (language comprehension and language production) and different information structural phenomena (word order, focus particles, and syntactic function assignment).


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