Language understanding






Hengqi Ye

Psyc 712

Maureen Gillespie 

Language understanding

  As human beings who live in a connected society, we all use our language to communicate with each other on the daily basis. We usually greet to the first person we see every morning, by hearing “good morning”, we can sense the kindness from others. At school or work places, when we receive an order from our teacher or supervisor, we are able to react in an appropriate way. These two are the perfect real life examples for language understanding. However, I personally have never thought about what is the key premises of language understanding, in other words, what part of language can trigger our brain processors to understand the sentences?

  A study conducted by Altmann and Kamide(1999) examined the three questions, 1.Can our language function without adjectives

2.When having a conversation, are adverbs necessary? Or not?

3.which part of a language is the most important one? adjectives, adverbs or verbs?

  the researchers believed that, in a sentence, words need to be placed in a correct grammatical order for us to understand it perfectly, for example, in “the boy will pick the ornate red vase.” We understand the vase will be picked up by the boy because the vase was described after the verb pick up.

the participants were 24 college students from University of York. All the participants were asked to put on devices to record their eye movement, to measure the how long they took from the point when they perceived different type of words in the sentences to indicate the object targets with their eyes looking at them. In my own interpretation, I would say the major finding of this experiment is that verbs can affect our eye movement the same way as adjtives. Also, verbs can help us indicate the target object before adjtives and nouns are spoken. Additionally, as people getting used to this linguistic mechanism, certain words might be assigned to less activities or objects as the language evolving. So it might affect the development of certain languages

  In my opinion, these findings showed a sign that people are having a much faster reaction towards language than we think. And it could potentially be the sign of human brain evolvement.





















Altmann,G.T.M. & Kamide, Y. (1999). Incremental interpretation at verbs:        

  Restricting the domain of subsequent reference. Cognition, 73, 247–264.