Bob McMurray (University of Iowa) is visiting the RTG 2070 and will give a talk at the RTG Colloquium on January 10th, 2:30 p.m. (GEMI, Goßlerstraße 14, room 1.140):
It’s not what you know, It’s how you use it: The slow development of real-time lexical processing
Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dept. of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Dept. of Linguistics, Dept. of Otolaryngology
University of Iowa
Every utterance is at least partially ambiguous. Acoustic input is variable; word meanings are context dependent; and the fact that speech unfolds over time creates short periods where there is not sufficient information to parse the sentence, recognize a word, or even categorize a phoneme. Skilled listeners deploy complex real-time processes to solve these problems and map incoming speech to meaning. These processes are well understood in typical adults, but work on development and disordered language often treats real-time processes as a matter of performance, focusing on whether children have the right language “knowledge”. Yet, the inherent ambiguity of language means that knowledge alone cannot be sufficient to explain skilled communication. This talk examines these issues in the context of lexical and phonological processing. I present research using the visual world paradigm to assess these issues in typically developing children. This shows that even in typical children, when viewed from the lens of real-time processing, speech perception and spoken word recognition develop quite late—through adolescence. I also present work on children with language impairment which documents a deficit in real-time lexical processing that is distinct from delayed development. I next consider how these real-time processes develop and how they relate to learning, examining several mechanisms that may support the development of real-time processing skills, as well as the consequences of differences in real-time processing for learning. As a whole, these studies suggest that the dynamics of real-time lexical processing are process that is tuned with experience to better manage ambiguity.