Language Processing

The focus in this module is on the nature of the mental representations and processes underpinning online language use in experienced language users, although their precursors in the acquisition process are also included in the study. Our primary interests concern reading and spelling.

In the domain of reading, our attention has mainly gone to the basic process that supports all higher-order reading processes, i.e., word recognition, although more recently we have also addressed issues of syntactic parsing in sentence processing. Three topics have dominated our research on word recognition:

  • the role of a word's morphological structure, which is linked with the question whether morphological representations are activated by a postlexical process or by a 'blind' process at
    a prelexical level, whose task it is to identify all ortographic strings that are potential morphemes,
  • the role of prelexical phonological recoding as an automatic, i.e., uncontrollable, process, achieving lexical access through a word's phonological representation,
  • the organization of a bilingual's mental lexicon and the nature of its access processes (language-nonselective or language-selective).

An early precursor of reading achievement is the child's phonological awareness, a topic that has also resulted in a number of studies. In our spelling research we have focused on a peculiar property of the Dutch language, where descriptively quite simple morphographic spelling rules remain a source of spelling errors, even among highly educated people. Studies on the nature of the error patterns during the process of rule learning and at the stage of adequate rule knowledge have enabled us to identify a source of noise that interferes with rule application under conditions of limited working memory resources: the relative occurrence frequency of two homophonic inflectional variants.

 The research project has two major objectives: 1. An in-depth study of cognitive control in the process of visual word recognition 2. The integration of research on intralingual and interlingual lexical processing   1. The process of cognitive control in visual word recognition has almost exclusively focussed on an unconscious suppression process. For instance, it has been shown that such a process inhibits irrelevant representations when bilinguals read interlingual homographs (...
Homophone intrusions in the spelling of regularly inflected Dutch verb forms are used to address a central question in psycholinguistics – and cognitive science in general: do people rely on symbolic mental rules or on a knowledge base that captures the co-occurrence probabilities in the learning domain (statistical learning)? Earlier findings in our research group indicated an effect of homophone dominance in the pattern of intrusion errors when spelling homophonic verb forms: such errors...
Masked priming is a commonly used technique in psycholinguistics to investigate how words are stored in our Mental Lexicon. This technique, developed by Forster & Davis (1984), investigates the effect of one word on another without participants’ awareness. Preceding a target in uppercase, a prime in lowercase is presented for a very short duration. Participants have to respond to the target, but the prime, which cannot be seen consciously, can influence the processing of the target. An...

Past Projects

  Masked priming has become a very popular technique in psycholinguistics and other areas of cognitive psychology. In this paradigm a stimulus (the prime) is presented for a very short presentation duration and is immediately followed by the target, which causes backward masking of the prime. The combined action of the two masking stimuli and the short presentation duration of the prime result in a consciously imperceptible stimulus.  The advantage of masked priming is that it allows...
The aim of this project is to develop an exemplar-based model of human sentence parsing that is capable of identifying the relations between the different words of a sentence in a psychologically adequate manner. Exemplar-based models of language processing (Daelemans & Van den Bosch, 2005) explicitly store every language experience in memory. New linguistic tasks are solved in analogy with these stored experiences. This approach can form an alternative to formal-symbolic and connectionist...
The aim of this project consists in systematically archiving and making available 200 hours of spoken Standard Dutch, produced by 160 Flemish and Dutch teachers of Dutch. The speech collection concerned is highly valuable. With respect to the composition of the corpus several social and linguistic variables were taken into account. Furthermore, the recordings are of high (stereo) quality. Therefore this corpus can be used for phonetic, phonological as well as for sociolinguistic purposes.
This project studies schwa epenthesis in spoken Standard Dutch.
The objective of this project is to study tonal structures of a number of Limburgian dialects, as spoken in The Netherlands and Flanders. The goals of the project are: (1) to collect prosodic data for a number of Limburgian dialects and to describe their phonological structures, (2) to exploit existing and newly collected data to study to what extent the specific tonal contrasts are perceptually relevant for listeners and (3) to investigate whether such tonal differences can influence the...
The aim of this project is the study of reduction phenomena in spontaneous (= non-read) Standard Dutch. We use speech from the Spoken Dutch Corpus (Corpus Gesproken Nederlands) and speech collected for the VNC-project Variation in the pronunciation of Standard Dutch. A more specific aim is to compare the pronunciation of highly educated speakers without linguistic training with the pronunciation of teachers of Dutch, who are often considered to be prototypical speakers of Standard Dutch. This...
The two national varieties of Dutch, spoken resp. in the Netherlands and Belgium, differ in a considerable number of features. Phonetic differences are among the most stable ones. This project has three distinct aims: the collection of data representative of speech in the two countries description of the phonetic variation evaluation of the variation. The analysis will be carried out beyond the traditional limitations of the segmental level, and will encompass both auditive and acoustic...