A new Cornell study takes that view to task.
"What we have shown is that the sound of a word can tell us something about how it is used," said Morten Christiansen, associate professor of psychology at Cornell. "Specifically, it tells us whether the word is used as a noun or as a verb, and this relationship affects how we process such words."
Christiansen, along with Thomas Farmer, a Cornell psychology graduate student, are co-authors of a paper about how the sounds of words contain information about their syntactic role. Their work will be published in the Aug. 8 print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
To determine if the sound (phonology) of a word can indicate whether it is a noun or a verb, the researchers assessed the sounds of more than 3,000 nouns and verbs and analyzed their "relatedness" to one another.
"Nouns that are typical of other nouns in terms of what they sound like are processed faster, and similarly for verbs that have sounds typical of verbs," said Christiansen. "We show that such phonological typicality [sound relatedness] affects both the speed with which we access words in isolation as well as when we process them in the context of other words in a sentence."
In one experiment, the researchers asked Cornell undergraduate volunteers to read sentences with noun-verb homonyms -- word-forms that can be used both as a noun and as a verb. For example, "hunts" can be used as a plural noun ("the bear hunts were terrible") or as a verb ("the bear hunts for food"). In two other experiments, words that normally only occur either as a noun or as a verb were used. For example, "marble" and "insect" are almost always used as nouns, while "await" and "bury" are almost always used as verbs.
In all experiments, subjects read sentences on a computer screen, one word at a time, and the time spent reading each word was recorded. The researchers found that adults use the relationship between how words sound and how they are used to guide their comprehension of sentences.
"Because of the usefulness of this relationship for language acquisition, we suggest that it becomes an intricate part of the developing language system," he said, adding that these findings also suggest that "phonological typicality may be universal to all languages." Next, Christiansen plans to study how brain processing is affected by phonological typicality using neuro-imaging methods.
Padraic Monaghan, a lecturer in psychology at the University of York, United Kingdom, also contributed to the study.
Nicola Pytell | EurekAlert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences