Last LinguistMix of the year

Posted on March 16, 2013 by

The seventh and final LinguistMix of 2012–13 will be taking place this Thursday (21st) at 5pm in University Place 3.204. Speakers are both from outside LEL this week: Graham Stevens (Philosophy) on The Semantics and Pragmatics of Racial Pejoratives and Louise Connell (Psychology) on I see/hear what you mean: Perceptual attention interacts with meaning to affect word recognition. Here are the abstracts:

How should we analyse the derogatory meaning of a racial pejorative? There are two main strategies found in the existing literature. On a semantic approach, the derogatory content of a racial pejorative is taken to be part of its literal meaning and is expressed in every context in which it is used. According to the pragmatic approach, the derogatory content of racial pejoratives depends upon the use to which the expression is put. Both semantic and pragmatic theories, however, face unresolved problems. In this talk (which draws on co-authored material by myself and Michael Scott) I will first explain what these problems are and then propose a semantic theory of racial pejoratives that avoids them.

How does the meaning of a word affect how quickly we read it? The ability of semantic information to influence early word recognition processes is a controversial issue in theories of word recognition. Recent findings from the field of grounded/embodied mental representation, however, suggest that word meaning must affect word recognition because semantics and perception share representational and attentional resources, such that directing attention to a particular perceptual modality facilitates processing conceptual information in that modality. In the present study, we therefore tested whether modality-specific attention implicitly engaged during reading affects how quickly and accurately a word is processed. By asking people whether or not a string of letters is a valid word, the lexical decision task inherently focuses visual attention on orthographic word form. We therefore expected strongly-visual words to be judged more quickly and accurately than weakly-visual words because having attention focused on vision means that visual information is automatically and rapidly represented, which in turn facilitates the lexical decision. In contrast, by asking people to pronounce a word aloud, the word naming task focuses both visual attention on the orthographics and auditory attention on the phonological word form. Here, we expected both auditory and visual strength in a word’s meaning to benefit its naming aloud. Results supported our hypotheses. These findings suggest that the active reading of text and production of speech influence how a word is processed by directing perceptual attention to different modalities and determining which aspects of the semantic meaning are preferentially represented.

Manchet thinks the LinguistMix organizers have done a fantastic job this year, and hopes that LinguistMix will continue strongly into the next year – but in order for that to happen we need a new committee. Get in touch with the current LinguistMix team via the Facebook group if you’re interested.