Dr. Katja Maquate

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Projects

C03 Situation-register congruence meets morphosyntax and verb-argument violations: Real-time and post-sentence comprehension

Contact

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Dorotheenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin

(030) 2093-9678

katja.maquate@hu-berlin.de

Publications & Presentations

    Publications

  • Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Maquate, Katja; Ito, Aine; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Investigating the effect of situation-formality on spoken language comprehension of register In: AMLaP 2022 [ViVo]

    During comprehension, listeners can draw upon different sources of non-linguistic information for reference resolution and structural disambiguation (e.g., Tanenhaus et al., 1995). While non-linguistic information plays an active role in extant accounts of sentence processing, social-context effects (e.g., of situation-formality on register processing) have received little attention (but see van Berkum, et al., 2008). Using the Visual World eye-tracking paradigm (Fig.1) we investigate whether (i) formality conveyed by a linguistic context can rapidly affect the visual interrogation of objects and associated comprehension processes; (ii) we see rapid effects of verb-argument congruence; (iii) congruence in context formality and register interacts with verb-argument congruence (testing to what extent we can assume a single conceptual store and closely-linked mental representation that encompasses register information).

    Method and Design: In two eye-tracking pilot studies (32 critical items), we examine native German speakers' comprehension of register variants (Latschencolloquial vs. Schuhestandard transl:.‘shoes’) in a German target sentence when this target sentence (mis)matches the formality of a preceding context sentence, given the object argument either matches or mismatches verb meaning constraints (e.g. Ich binde gleich meine Schuhe/Latschen/ #Kleidung/#Klamotten, transt.: ‘I’m about to tie my shoesstandard/ shoescoll/#clothesstandard/ #clothescoll’). Pilot 2 (n=8) uses the same stimuli as Pilot 1 (n=9). Pilot 1 adopts a blocked-presentation of situation-formality (where one block is formal and the other one informal). Pilot 2, on the other hand, alternates between each formality condition in a mixed-presentation order. The comparison between the formality-blocked vs mixed design serves to evaluate whether comprehenders can swiftly adjust to situation-formality shifts (Pilot 2) or whether they benefit from the habituation to situation-formality facilitated by the blocked design (Pilot 1).

    Hypotheses: If participants are sensitive to formality-register and verb-argument congruence we expect this to manifest in eye gaze: more looks to formality-register and verb-argument matching than mismatching objects, time-locked to an object argument conveying semantic information about register and permitting the computation of verb-argument congruence. The inclusion of these two factors permits us to assess not only questions (i), (ii) but also (iii), via the presence or absence of a factorial interaction. In addition, if formality-register and verb-argument congruence interact during the post-verbal object noun region, how verb-argument congruence is processed may depend on formality-register congruence. Furthermore, if presentation mode (blocked vs mixed) interacts with formality-register congruence, we anticipate more fixations on register-matching objects after previously encountering a collective set of sentences with the same formality level, as opposed to when they appear in a mixed design.

    Results: LME Pilot 1 and 2 results show a main effect of verb-argument congruence and formality-register anticipation based on the context sentence and the object features at the verb region (from the verb onset to the object-argument onset) and a main effect of verb-argument congruence at the post-verbal object noun region (from the onset to offset of the object-argument) in the mixed design (Fig.3). Contrary to our hypothesis, the formality-register anticipation effect observed at the verb region was more pronounced in the mixed than in the formality-blocked design. Our analysis also revealed an interaction of formality-register anticipation and verb-argument congruency in the verb-region in both pilot studies (Fig.2). These findings taken together imply that (a) situation-formality might modulate the processing of verb-argument congruence indicating that standard language processing mechanisms are in close interaction with register representations, and (b) this effect appears to be modulated by the presentation mode. The main experiments with 64 participants are underway (Experiment 1 n=32; Experiment 2 n=32). 

  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) How do formality-register congruence and subject-verb agreement effects unfold during sentence reading? Two eye-tracking pilot studies In: AMLaP 2022 [ViVo]

    While it is well-known that syntactic constraints are rapidly processed (e.g., Hagoort et al., 1999; Pearlmutter et al., 1999), world knowledge (e.g., Ferretti et al., 2001; Troyer & Kutas, 2020) and social context (e.g., Münster & Knoeferle, 2018; Nieuwland & Van Berkum, 2006) are also integrated to resolve ambiguity. Uncovering how context information, such as formality, affects sentence comprehension in real time, and whether and how this interacts with morphosyntactic constraints, can help better understand variability in language processing (e.g., Adger, 2006). We tracked eye movements during sentence reading to investigate: (i) whether context formality-register congruence is rapidly processed; (ii) whether and how sensitivity to formality-register congruence and subject-verb agreement interact during sentence comprehension. We expected rapid, incremental integration costs for mismatches (relative to matches; e.g., Hagoort et al., 2004; Van Berkum et al., 2008), with additive or interactive effects reflecting, respectively, distinct versus shared underlying mechanisms/representations (Hagoort, 2003). We also explored whether variability in perceived formality modulates such effects.

    Methods: In two eye-tracking pilot studies, monolingual German adults (aged 18-31) read 40 critical items interleaved with 56 filler items. Each item (see Table 1) comprised two context sentences conveying a formal or informal situation, followed by a target sentence, which featured an animate subject, a high- or low-register verb (matching or mismatching context formality) and a direct object. In the register-only pilot (N=8), we manipulated formality-register congruence (match vs. mismatch). In the register-by-subject-verb-agreement pilot (N=8), we additionally manipulated subject-verb agreement (match vs. mismatch), such that the verb would be incorrectly inflected, in the infinitive form, in the mismatch conditions. Linear mixed-effects models were fitted to log-transformed first-pass duration, regression path duration, and total reading time at the verb and object (NP2) regions in the target sentence. Average (independent) target and context sentence formality ratings served as covariates; random intercepts were fitted for items and participants.

    Results: In the register-only pilot, as predicted, longer verb total reading times were observed (Fig. 1) for register mismatches (vs. matches, t=-2.05, p=.040, d=-.25), and for higher target sentence formality ratings (t=3.22, p=.001, d=.37; post-verbal effects n.s.). In the register-by-subject-verb-agreement pilot, as expected, verb total reading times (Fig. 2) were longer for subject-verb agreement mismatches (vs. matches, t=-1.98, p=.048, d=-.24); contrary to predictions, total reading times were longer for register-matching verbs (vs. mismatching, t=3.24, p=.001, d=.39; formality rating effects n.s.). In the NP2 region (Fig. 3), we observed first-pass reading effects of subject-verb agreement (t=2.07, p=.038, d=.25), register congruence (t=-2.50, p=.012, d=-.31), and of their interaction (t=2.00, p=.045, d=.25). Finally, longer regression path durations in NP2 regions were observed following agreement mismatching verbs (t=-2.83, p=.005, d=-.35), register-matching verbs (t=2.55, p=.011, d=.31), and as a function of higher context formality ratings (t=2.45, p=.014, d=.29, Fig. 4).

    Conclusions: Effects of formality-register congruence, as well as subject-verb agreement in the second pilot, emerged at a late processing stage in the verb region, and at earlier stages in the object/spillover region (second pilot). While rapid integration of context effects is not fully supported by our findings, when both factors were manipulated, the direction of the register congruence effect was opposite to that predicted. This may suggest an interference between context and subject-verb agreement processing during sentence reading. The ongoing register-by-subject-verb-agreement main experiment, with a larger N (=40) will be presented at the conference, helping to further address these questions.

  • Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Maquate, Katja; Ito, Aine; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Investigating the real-time effect of register-situation formality congruence versus verb-argument semantic fit during spoken language comprehension In: CogSci [ViVo]

    This visual world eye-tracking pilot study investigates the comprehension of register variants (Stelzencolloquial vs. Beinestandard transl:.‘’legs’) in a German target sentence when this target sentence (mis)matches the formality of a preceding context sentence, given the object argument either matches or mismatches verb meaning constraints (e.g. Ich rasiere bald meine Beine/Stelzen/#Autos/#Karren, transt.: ‘I shave my legsstandard/legscoll/#carsstandard/#carscoll’). The aim of this study is to examine whether register congruence rapidly interacts with verb-argument semantic relations. LME results (n=9) show a main effect of verb-argument congruence but no main effect of formality-register congruence at the region between the verb onset and object-argument onset, indicating that verb-argument relations are computed and used rapidly in online language comprehension. These pilot results suggest that situation formality may indeed modulate verb-argument congruency processing, possibly indicating that standard language processing mechanisms interact closely with register representations.

  • Plesca, Ana-Maria; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) The interplay of situation-formality register congruence and verb-argument relations In: CogSci [ViVo]
    The semantic relation between a verb and its argument rapidly impacts language comprehension much like world knowl-edge and the linguistic context (Altmann & Steedman, 1988; Kutas & Hillyard, 1984; McRae et al., 1998). As part of thesocially situated context, register could incrementally modulate comprehension and interact with standard languageknowledge processing. Two self-paced reading experiments with an additional picture selection task examined howsocial-formality contexts and their (mis)matches with register use are comprehended in the presence of verb-argumentsemantic relation (mis)matches. We assessed whether comprehenders can rapidly adapt to shifting situation formality(Exp 2, N=64), or whether they benefit from habituation enabled by blocked presentation of formality (Exp 1, N=64). Wesuccessfully replicated incremental verb-argument (mis)match effects. No significant register effect was found, but theobserved picture selection accuracy patterns could be taken to suggest that the processing of social contextual informa-tion might impact late sentence processing.
  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) (How) Do Register and Morphosyntactic Congruence Effects Interact during Sentence Reading? Two Eye-Tracking Pilot Studies In: CogSci [ViVo]

    In two eye-tracking pilots during reading, we investigated real-time processing of formality-register congruence and subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence, and their relation. Participants read, in German, two context sentences conveying a formal or informal situation, followed by a target sentence containing a high- or low-register verb (e.g., Engl. transl. ”The policeman detained the activist” vs. ”The policeman grabbed the activist”) which matched or mismatched context formality. The second pilot additionally manipulated subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence (e.g., Engl. transl. ”*The policeman detain the activist”; ”*The policeman grabbed the activist”). We observed main effects of formality-register and morphosyntactic congruence on verb reading times, as well as an interaction effect at the postverbal object noun. Higher degrees of context and target sentence formality resulted in longer reading times. Ongoing investigation will further clarify our pilot findings, which suggest some interference between formality-register and morphosyntactic congruence processing.

  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Serova, Dina; Lukassek, Julia; Sauermann, Antje; Schäfer, Roland; Adli, Aria; Bildhauer, Felix; Egg, Markus; Hülk, Kristina; Ito, Aine; Jannedy, Stefanie; Kordoni, Valia; Kühnast, Milena; Kutscher, Silvia; Lange, Robert; Lehmann, Nico; Liu, Mingya; Lütke, Beate; Maquate, Katja; Mooshammer, Christine; Mortezapour, Vahid; Müller, Stefan; Norde, Muriel; Pankratz, Elizabeth; Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Plesca, Ana-Maria; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Rotter, Stephanie; Sauerland, Uli; Schulte, Britta; Schüppenhauer, Gediminas; Sell, Bianca Maria; Solt, Stephanie; Terada, Megumi; Tsiapou, Dimitra; Verhoeven, Elisabeth; Weirich, Melanie; Wiese, Heike; Zaruba, Kathy; Zeige, Lars Erik; Lüdeling, Anke; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Situating language register across the ages, languages, modalities, and cultural aspects: Evidence from complementary methods In: Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    In the present review paper by members of the collaborative research center ‘Register: Language Users’ Knowledge of SituationalFunctional Variation’ (CRC 1412), we assess the pervasiveness of register phenomena across different time periods, languages, modalities, and cultures. We define ‘register’ as recurring variation in language use depending on the function of language and on the social situation. Informed by rich data, we aim to better understand and model the knowledge involved in situation- and function-based use of language register. In order to achieve this goal, we are using complementary methods and measures. In the review, we start by clarifying the concept of ‘register’, by reviewing the state of the art, and by setting out our methods and modeling goals. Against this background, we discuss three key challenges, two at the methodological level and one at the theoretical level: 1. To better uncover registers in text and spoken corpora, we propose changes to established analytical approaches. 2. To tease apart between-subject variability from the linguistic variability at issue (intra-individual situation based register variability), we use within-subject designs and the modeling of individuals’ social, language, and educational background. 3. We highlight a gap in cognitive modeling, viz. modeling the mental representations of register (processing), and present our first attempts at filling this gap. We argue that the targeted use of multiple complementary methods and measures supports investigating the pervasiveness of register phenomena and yields comprehensive insights into the cross-methodological robustness of register-related language variability. These comprehensive insights in turn provide a solid foundation for associated cognitive modeling.
  • Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Maquate, Katja; Ito, Aine; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Effects of situation formality on spoken language comprehension of register In: HSP 2022, UC Santa Cruz [ViVo]

    During comprehension, listeners can draw upon different sources of non-linguistic information for reference resolution and structural disambiguation (e.g., Tanenhaus et al., 1995). While non-linguistic information plays an active role in extant accounts of sentence processing, social-context effects (e.g., formality of a situation and register) have received little attention (but see van Berkum, et al., 2008). The present eye-tracking pilot study (n=9, 34 critical items, 64 fillers) examines whether (i) formality conveyed by a linguistic context can rapidly affect the visual interrogation of object photographs and associated comprehension processes; (ii) congruence of verb-argument meaning rapidly affects comprehension; and (iii) congruence in context formality and register interacts with semantic verb-argument congruence (testing to what extent we can assume a single conceptual store and closely-linked mental representation that encompasses register information).

    Method and Design: Using the Visual World Paradigm (Figure 1), we examine native German speakers' comprehension of register variants (Latschencolloquial vs. Schuhestandard transl:.‘shoes’) in a formality (mis)matching context sentence, given the object argument either matches or mismatches verb meaning constraints (e.g. Ich binde schnell meine Schuhe/Latschen/*Kleidung/*Klamotten, transt.: ‘I’m about to tie my shoesstandard/ shoescoll/ *clothesstandard/ *clothescoll’). (Mis)matches are assessed two-fold: context formality-target register (Table 1) and semantic verb-argument congruence (1a,1b vs. 2a,2b).

    Hypotheses: At the verb region, if participants are sensitive to formality-register and verb- argument congruence we expect more looks to the formality-register and verb-argument matching object when it matches the formality-register and verb-meaning constraints than when it mismatches either or both. If they are sensitive to verb-argument congruence irrespective of formality-register congruence, we predict greater fixations to the object referent in the verb-argument congruent condition irrespective of whether it matches or mismatches the formality of the context sentence. In the post-verbal object noun region, if formality-register congruence rapidly modulates visual attention to the objects and associated comprehension, we expect more looks to the object referent in the formality- register matching (Full match; Verb-Argument mismatch) than mismatching conditions. If fixations to the object referent are modulated by verb-argument congruence (main effects of verb-argument congruence) independent of formality-register congruence, we should likewise see more looks to the object referent in the verb-argument matching than mismatching conditions (Full match; Register mismatch). Moreover, if formality-register and verb-argument congruence interact during the post-verbal object noun region, how verb- argument congruence is processed may depend on formality-register congruence. The latter might indicate that standard language processing mechanisms are in close interaction with register representations, supporting the interpretation of a single conceptual store and set of mechanisms.

    Preliminary Analyses and Results: Linear mixed-effects models were fitted to the empirical-logit transformed fixation proportions to the verb-argument (mis)matching and formality-register (mis)matching objects at the verb region, and to the object noun referent for each condition at the post-verbal object noun region. Preliminary results of the pilot study show a main effect of verb-argument congruency, indicating that verb-argument relations are computed and used immediately in on-line language comprehension, yet no main effects of formality-register congruency were found in the verb and post-verbal object noun region. Our analysis also revealed an interaction of formality-register and verb-argument congruency in the verb-region and post-verbal object noun region (Figure 2). These findings taken together imply that situation-formality might indeed modulate the processing of verb-argument congruence, possibly indicating that standard language processing mechanisms are in close interaction with register representations. Given the low power of our pilot, these results need to be interpreted with caution. The main experiment with 32 participants is underway.

  • Plesca, Ana-Maria; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) The interplay of situation-formality register congruence and verb-argument relations In: HSP 2022, UC Santa Cruz [ViVo]

    The semantic relation between a verb and its argument rapidly impacts language comprehension (Altmann & Kamide, 1999; McRae et al., 1998) and so does world knowledge and linguistic context (e.g., Altmann & Steedmann, 1988; Kutas & Hillyard, 1984). Situation formality represents another facet of world knowledge that could incrementally modulate comprehension, and interact (or not) with a verb’s thematic requirements. In two self-paced reading experiments with cumulative, phrase-by-phrase presentation, we examined the interplay of register-context (mis)matches, with (mis)matches in verb-argument relations. Additionally, a secondary picture-selection task was used in order to explore to which extent comprehenders may be able to differentiate between depicted register variants. We further assessed whether register effects emerge when situation formality varied from one trial to the next or only when it was blocked.

    Design: Both experiments employed a 2x2 design (register-context congruence x verb- argument relation congruence). The register-context factor was realized via a sentence introducing a situation-formality context that (mis)matched the register of the target sentence. The verb-argument relation manipulation was embedded in the target sentence (match: tie shoes vs. mismatch: tie clothes, Table 1). While in Exp. 1 the items were blocked by formality level, in Exp. 2 they were fully pseudo-randomized. We expected a main effect of verb-argument (in)congruence, with increased reading times for incongruent(vs. congruent) verb-argument relations in the critical or spillover regions, or for the entire sentence, longer reaction times and decreased accuracy. Additionally, a main effect of register-context (in)congruence was expected (increased reading and reaction times, as well as decreased picture selection accuracy for register-context mismatches than matches). An interaction of the two factors was also expected, whereby (in)congruent verb-argument relations could impact the comprehension patterns of (mis)matching register-context relations.

    Analysis: Log transformed reading times for the spillover and critical regions, total sentence reading times and reaction times were analyzed using linear mixed models. Accuracy resulting from picture selections was analyzed with binomial generalized mixed-effects models.

    Results: Verb-argument relation (in)congruency significantly impacted sentence reading in Exp.1 ( = -0.018, SE = 0.007, df = 7655.236, t = -2.502, p < 0.05) and Exp 2. (= −0.029, SE = 0.011, df = 39.176, t = −2.591, p < 0.05). The same pattern was observed for the spillover region (Exp. 1: = -0.130, SE = 0.030, df = 552.306, t = -4.311, p < 0.001, Exp. 2: = -0.144, SE = 0.021, df = 44.477, t = -6.845, p < 0.0001). Moreover, the verb-argument effect was significant for picture selection latencies and accuracy. No significant main effect of register emerged, but participants were less accurate (n.s.) in choosing correct target pictures for register-context mismatches vs. matches (Exp. 1 mean: 42 % vs. 64%, Exp. 2 mean: 38% vs. 62%). Analyses further revealed a significant interaction of register-context congruence with verb-argument relation congruence: Verb-argument mismatches elicited longer reading times than matches in register-context matches, but not mismatches (in the blocked version only).

    Discussion: These analyses revealed effects of verb-argument relation congruence. While register-context congruence effects were absent in reading times, the accuracy results (n.s.) point towards the fact that the processing of social-contextual information might impact late sentence processing. The interaction of the two factors in reading times suggested that the match of a context and target sentence in formality may have served as a “filter” for further grammatical processing of verb-argument relation congruence, i.e., when participants were habituated to the formality of a context (blocked presentation), they were more sensitive to verb-argument relation mismatches.

  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Shared or distinct mechanisms: (How) Do register and subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence effects interact during sentence reading? In: HSP 2022, UC Santa Cruz [ViVo]

    World knowledge can rapidly inform language comprehension (Ferretti et al., 2001; Pearlmutter et al., 1999) and so can social-context information (Nieuwland & Van Berkum, 2006). Other context-related aspects, like formality, may also matter for language variability (e.g., Adger, 2006). We hypothesize that formality can guide the processing time of ‘variants’ of words and grammar (increased for mismatches over matches). For instance, depart might be expected to reference the act of leaving in formal contexts; in less formal exchanges, we might expect to read scoot or scarper (BE). We investigate whether: (i) context formality- register congruence elicits rapid effects; (ii) variability in formality ratings modulates such effects; and (iii) sensitivity to formality-register congruence and to grammar knowledge interact during comprehension. Point (iii) explores additivity versus interactivity of the implicated mechanism and/or representations.

    Methods: In two eye-tracking pilot studies, monolingual German adults read target sentences preceded by two context sentences. 40 critical items were interleaved with 56 filler items (of which 75% were followed by binary comprehension questions). In a register-only pilot (N=8) we manipulated register congruence of context and target sentence (match vs. mismatch, Table 1). In a register-by-morphosyntax pilot (N=8), we additionally manipulated subject- verb morphosyntactic congruence (match vs. mismatch). Linear mixed-effects models were fitted to the log-transformed (exponentially back-transformed for visualization) first-pass duration, regression path duration, and total time at the verb and object (NP2) regions in the target sentence (Table 1). Context and target sentence formality was normed via independent Web-based ratings.

    Results: In the register-only pilot, at the verb region, longer total times (Figure 1) emerged for register mismatches (vs. matches, t=-2.05, p=.040, d=-.25), and for higher target sentence formality ratings (t=3.22, p=.001, d=.37; post-verbal effects n.s.). In the register-by- morphosyntax pilot, we expected that the effect of subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence effect might modulate that of register congruence or that the effects might be additive, reflecting, respectively, shared versus two distinct mechanisms. At the verb region, as expected, total times (Figure 2) were longer for morphosyntactically incongruent (vs. congruent) verbs (t=-1.98, p=.048, d=-.24). For register congruence, contrary to predictions, verb total times were longer for matches (vs. mismatches, t=3.24, p=.001, d=.39; effects of formality ratings n.s.). At the NP2 (spillover) region (Figure 3), the analyses revealed effects of subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence (t=2.07, p=.038, d=.25), register congruence (t=- 2.50, p=.012, d=-.31), as well as of their interaction (t=2.00, p=.045, d=.25). Nouns following a morphosyntactically congruent verb yielded longer first-pass durations in the register match condition, whereas in the register mismatch condition no difference was observed between morphosyntactic matches and mismatches. Finally, longer NP2 regression path durations (Figure 4) were observed following morphosyntactically incongruent verbs (t=-2.83, p=.005, d=-.35), register-congruent verbs (t=2.55, p=.011, d=.31), and as a function of higher average context formality ratings (t=2.45, p=.014, d=.29).

    Preliminary results of both studies suggest that social-context information (register congruence and perceived formality) and grammar knowledge are incrementally integrated during sentence processing. Interestingly, both effects appeared to emerge at a later processing stage in the verb, but at earlier stages in the spillover region (register-by- morphosyntax pilot only). When both factors were manipulated, the direction of the register congruence effect was opposite to that predicted, even when an interaction was not present. Pending replication with a larger N, these findings suggest some degree of interference between the effects of register and morphosyntactic congruence, potentially relying on not entirely distinct cognitive mechanisms.

  • Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Maquate, Katja; Ito, Aine; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Investigating the effect of situation-formality on spoken language comprehension of register In: IMPRS CONFERENCE 2022 [ViVo]

    During comprehension, listeners can draw upon different sources of non-linguistic information for reference resolution and structural disambiguation. While non-linguistic information plays an active role in extant accounts of sentence processing, social-context effects (e.g., of situation-formality on register processing) have received little attention. This eye-tracking pilot study (n=9, 34 critical items) examines whether (i) formality conveyed by a linguistic context can rapidly affect the visual interrogation of objects and associated comprehension processes; (ii) congruence of verb-argument meaning rapidly affects comprehension; and (iii) congruence in context formality and register interacts with semantic verb-argument congruence (testing to what extent we can assume a single conceptual store and closely-linked mental representation that encompasses register information).

    Hypotheses: If participants are sensitive to formality-register and verb-argument congruence we expect this to manifest in eye gaze (more looks to formality-register and verb-argument matching than mismatching objects in a Visual-World paradigm, closely time-locked to an object argument conveying semantic information about register and permitting the computation of verb-argument congruence). The inclusion of these two factors permits us to assess not only questions (i) and (ii) but also (iii), via the presence or absence of a factorial interaction.

    Results: Lmer results (n=9) show a main effect of verb-argument congruence but no main effect of formality-register congruence at the region between the verb onset and object -argument offset, indicating that verb-argument relations are computed and used rapidly in on-line language comprehension. Our analysis also revealed an interaction of formality-register and verb-argument congruence. These findings suggest that situation-formality might modulate the processing of verb-argument congruence, indicating that standard language processing mechanisms are in close interaction with register representations. The main experiment is underway (n=32). 

  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) (How) Does Processing of Register and Morphosyntactic Congruence Affect Sentence Comprehension? Two Eye-Tracking Pilot Studies In: IMPRS CONFERENCE 2022 [ViVo]

    In two eye-tracking pilot studies during reading in German, we investigated real-time processing of context formality-register congruence and subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence. While it is known that grammatical violations are rapidly processed, context-related aspects have received less attention. Social-context information, such as formality-register congruence, may indeed matter for the understanding of variability in language processing. We intended to address whether formality information is integrated in real-time sentence comprehension, and to explore whether formality-register congruence processing and morphosyntactic congruence processing rely on shared or distinct mechanisms and representations.
    In both pilots, eight adult participants read pairs of context sentences conveying a formal or informal situation, followed by a target sentence containing a high- or low-register verb (e.g., Engl. transl. “The drunkard defamed the cab driver” vs. “The drunkard blew the whistle on the cab driver”) matching or mismatching context formality. The second pilot additionally manipulated morphosyntactic congruence within the target sentence, with a subject-verb match (as in the examples above) or mismatch (e.g., Engl. transl. “The drunkard *defame the cab driver”; “The drunkard *blow the whistle on the cab driver”). Linear mixed models revealed main effects of formality-register congruence in both pilots. In the register-only pilot, longer verb total times were observed for mismatches (vs. matches, as expected), and for higher average target sentence formality ratings (independently obtained). A less straightforward pattern emerged in the register-by-morphosyntax pilot, with longer total times for matches (vs. mismatches), as opposed to an effect of subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence in the predicted direction (longer times for mismatches vs. matches), suggesting some interference between the two processes. Effects of register and morphosyntactic congruence also emerged at the post-verbal object region. While further investigation with a larger sample size is ongoing, these pilot data suggest that register and morphosyntactic congruence processing may rely on partially shared cognitive mechanisms.

  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) An investigation of formality-register congruence and its interplay with morphosyntactic congruence during sentence reading: Two eye-tracking pilot studies In: XPRAG 2022 [ViVo]

    Introduction

    Successful language processing requires integration of different information sources. While this is well-known for syntactic constraints (e.g., Hagoort et al., 1999; Pearlmutter et al., 1999), world knowledge (e.g., Ferretti et al., 2001; Troyer & Kutas, 2020) and social context (e.g., Münster & Knoeferle. 2018; Nieuwland & Van Berkum, 2006) are also rapidly integrated to resolve ambiguity. Uncovering how context-related information, like formality, affects sentence comprehension can help better understand variability in language processing (e.g., Adger, 2006).

    Research questions and hypotheses

    Adopting a broad definition of register as “[...] any language variety defined by its situational characteristics [...]” (Biber, 2009, p. 823), we tracked eye-movements during sentence reading to investigate: (i) whether context formality-register congruence is rapidly processed; (ii) whether and how sensitivity to formality-register congruence and to morphosyntactic congruence interact during sentence comprehension. In line with accounts of context and world knowledge effects (e.g., Hagoort et al., 2004; Van Berkum et al., 2008), we expected rapid and incremental integration costs for formality-register mismatches and morphosyntactic mismatches (vs. matches). Additivity or interactivity of these effects might reflect distinct versus shared underlying mechanisms and representations (see Hagoort, 2003). We also explored whether variability in the degree of perceived formality modulates such incremental effects.

    Methods

    In two eye-tracking pilot studies, we investigated real-time processing of formality-register congruence during sentence reading. Monolingual German adults (aged 18-31) read 40 critical items interleaved with 56 filler items (of which 75% were followed by binary comprehension questions), each comprising two context sentences and a target sentence. Target sentences featured an animate subject (NP1; e.g., Der Polizist, ‘The policeman’), a verb in the past simple (e.g., inhaftierte, ‘detained’, high-register; schnappte, ‘grabbed’, low-register), and a direct object (NP2; e.g., die Aktivistin, ‘the activist’). A pair of context sentences, conveying a formal or informal situation (see examples below), preceded each target sentence, permitting the manipulation of formality-register congruence (match vs. mismatch). Experimental lists were pseudo-randomized according to a Latin square, and blocked by context formality (counterbalanced). In a register-only pilot (N=8), we manipulated formality-register congruence (match vs. mismatch). In a register-by-morphosyntax pilot (N=8), we additionally manipulated subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence (match vs. mismatch), with a target verb in the infinitive (e.g., inhaftieren, schnappen). The first pilot featured two conditions: full match and register mismatch; the second pilot additionally featured morphosyntactic mismatch and full mismatch.

    Example critical item:

    Formal context:Während der gestrigen Ausschreitungen waren die Einsatzkräfte gnadenlos. Die Polizeidirektorin referierte die Rivalität: (‘During yesterday’s riots, the emergency forces were merciless. The police director lectured the rivalry:’).

    Informal context:Bei der Demo gestern war die Stimmung richtig heftig. Die Olle hetzte die Protestler: (‘The atmosphere at the demo yesterday was really intense. The old lady stirred up the protesters:’).

    Target sentence:

    1. High-register verb, subject-verb morphosyntactic match: Der Polizist inhaftierte die Aktivistin. (‘The policeman detained the activist’).
    2. High-register verb, subject-verb morphosyntactic mismatch: Der Polizist inhaftieren die Aktivistin. (‘The policeman *detain the activist’).
    3. Low-register verb, subject-verb morphosyntactic match: Der Polizist schnappte die Aktivistin. (‘The policeman grabbed the activist’).
    4. Low-register verb, subject-verb morphosyntactic mismatch: Der Polizist schnappen die Aktivistin. (‘The policeman *grab the activist’).

    Formality ratings: Through offline Web-based tasks (PCIbex; Zehr & Schwarz, 2018), we assessed the perceived formality of context and target sentences. Monolingual German adults rated stimuli on a scale from 0 (very informal) to 50 (very formal). In the context pretest (N=28), informal sentence pairs received lower ratings (mean=12.4; sd=9.8; median=10) than formal ones (mean=35.5; sd=9; median=36), with an average difference of 23.5 points between conditions. In the target sentence pretest (N=30), low-register target sentences received lower ratings (mean=19.4; sd=11.8; median=18.5) than high-register ones (mean=30.9; sd=10.5; median=32), with an average difference of 11.5 points between conditions. Eye-tracking analysis: Interest regions were defined for NP1, verb, and NP2 in target sentences. Linear mixed-effects models were fitted, using the R package lme4 (Bates et al., 2014), to log-transformed first-pass duration, regression path duration, and total time, in the verb and in the object (NP2) region, where spillover effects might emerge. The predictor was register congruence (sum-coded) in the register-only pilot, and an interaction of register congruence*morphosyntactic congruence (sum-coded) in the register-by-morphosyntax pilot. Average target and context sentence formality ratings served as covariates, and random intercepts were fitted for items and participants.

    Results

    In the register-only pilot, the analyses corroborated the predicted longer total reading times in the verb region (Figure 1) for register mismatches (vs. matches, t=-2.05, p=.040, d=-.25), and for higher target sentence formality ratings (t=3.22, p=.001, d=.37; post-verbal effects n.s.). In the register-by-morphosyntax pilot, we expected that morphosyntactic congruence effects might modulate those of register congruence, or that the effects might be additive. In the verb region, as predicted, total times (Figure 2) were longer for morphosyntactically mismatching (vs. matching) verbs (t=-1.98, p=.048, d=-.24). Contrary to predictions, total times were longer for register-matching verbs (vs. mismatching, t=3.24, p=.001, d=.39; effects of formality ratings n.s.). In the NP2 region, we observed first-pass effects of subject-verb morphosyntactic congruence (t=2.07, p=.038, d=.25), register congruence (t=-2.50, p=.012, d=-.31), and of their interaction (t=2.00, p=.045, d=.25): nouns following a morphosyntactically matching verb received longer first passes in register-match conditions, whereas in register-mismatch conditions no difference emerged between morphosyntactic matches and mismatches. Finally, longer regression path durations in NP2 regions were observed following morphosyntactically mismatching verbs (t=-2.83, p=.005, d=-.35), register-matching verbs (t=2.55, p=.011, d=.31), and as a function of higher context formality ratings (t=2.45, p=.014, d=.29).

    Conclusions: In both pilots, effects of formality-register congruence (and of morphosyntactic congruence, in the second pilot) emerged at a late processing stage in the verb region, and at earlier stages in the object/spillover region (second pilot only). Our current findings, from small samples, do not fully support rapid integration of context effects. Interestingly, when both factors were manipulated, the direction of the register congruence effect was opposite to that predicted. This pattern suggests some interference between social-context and morphosyntactic processing during sentence reading, and their reliance on potentially shared mechanisms. Ongoing replication studies with a larger N (=40) will help further address these questions.

  • Ronderos, Camilo R.; Ito, Aine; Maquate, Katja; Knoeferle, Pia  (2021) The interaction between subject-verb agreement and register-situation formality congruence in German sentence processing: an eye-tracking-reading pilot study In: 34th CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing [ViVo]
    The present research assesses the (representational and procedural) similarities between comprehenders’ processing of standard-language grammar and their processing of register (situation-dependent language variation). Can we parsimoniously assume a single mechanism and closely-linked mental representations or must we model standard-language and register processing via distinct mental representations and / or mechanisms? Incongruence between language input and our knowledge of morphosyntax elicits rapid brain and eye-gaze responses during sentence comprehension (Pearlmutter et al., 1999; Tannen et al., 2013). Likewise, we know that incongruence in social aspects of meaning elicits rapid effects on language processing (e.g., van Berkum et al., 2009). Investigating these two kinds of incongruence can help refine extant models of sentence processing (e.g., Altmann & Kamide, 2009; Münster & Knoeferle, 2018; Venhuizen et al., 2018) also considering research on modelling social meaning (e.g. Burnett, 2019).

    The present eye-tracking reading pilot study compares the processing cost of encountering morpho-syntactic (in)congruence and situation-(in)appropriate register. Participants (N=16, 40 critical items, 56 fillers) read two-sentence stories in German (context and target sentence, see example 1). They read each sentence one by one and answered comprehension questions on 1/3 of trials (fillers only). We crossed two independent factors: register-situation formality congruence (congruous vs. incongruous) with subject-verb agreement congruence (congruous vs. incongruous with linguistic knowledge). To establish register-situation-formality congruence, we paired verbs with a formal (bereden) and an informal (belabern) variant of the verb ‘talk’ either with a register- / formality-matching or mismatching context sentence (see 1). The register congruence factor was counterbalanced for formality. The subject-verb agreement congruence factor was established by varying grammaticality of subject-verb agreement (grammatical: 3rd person singular: … beredet 1.a. vs. ungrammatical: the infinitive: …*bereden, 1.b). We expected to replicate longer reading times during the verb or subsequent noun region (spillover) for morpho-syntactic incongruence (vs. congruence, Pearlmutter et al., 1999). Observing rapid interaction of morphosyntactic congruence with register-congruence would support accounts of one conceptual store and set of mechanisms. Delayed or no interaction of these two stimuli aspects would by contrast suggest the implicated mechanisms are distinct (eliciting delays and / or more subtle processing effects). We fitted linear mixed-effects models (sum contrast coded) to the log-transformed first-pass, regression path, and total reading times of the verb and spill-over regions, as well as to the total target sentence reading times. The results replicated longer reading times for sentences with subject-verb agreement mismatches than matches (all measures on verb region, regression path duration of the spill-over region: t=2.7, p < .01; total sentence reading times: t=2.5, p < .05; Bonferroni-corrected, von der Malsburg & Angele, 2017). No significant main effect or interaction involving register congruence emerged (see Figures 1, 2 and 3). 

    The results show clear subject-verb agreement effects, an absence of any register congruence effects and no interaction of these two factors. It is possible that overt subject-verb agreement incongruence overshadowed any subtle situation-dependent register incongruence effects that might have otherwise been observed. It is also possible that the implementation of the register incongruence was not strong enough. Follow-up research will omit incongruence in subject-verb agreement and strengthen the implementation of register-context congruence, giving us a more sensitive paradigm for investigating the processing of social meaning. 
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