Semantic Glimmers: CSDL9

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Slides from a talk I gave in 2009 at Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language. Research presented was on contributions of semantic and phonological similarity to sentence comprehension. Also see …

Slides from a talk I gave in 2009 at Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language. Research presented was on contributions of semantic and phonological similarity to sentence comprehension. Also see related paper (Otis & Sagi, 2009).

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  • 1. SEMANTIC GLIMMERS: PHONAESTHEMES FACILITATE ACCESS TO SENTENCE MEANING Eyal Sagi & Katya Otis, Northwestern University
  • 2.
    • Phonaesthemes: phonetic clusters that occur in words that have noticeably similar meanings (Firth, 1930)
    • Example: gl- associated with “words relating to light, vision” (glimmer, glisten, glow, glare, glance)
      • Violates Saussurean notion of “arbitrariness of the sign”
        • Not sound symbolism
      • Non-compositional: not properly morphemes
    Form and Meaning
  • 3. Form and Meaning: Evidence
    • Subtle regularities in word form can cue syntactic category assignment
    • These regularities facilitate sentence comprehension
      • Ambiguous sentences can be resolved faster when “nouns sound like nouns; verbs sound like verbs”
        • Farmer, Christiansen, & Monaghan, 2006
        • Monaghan, Chater, & Christiansen, 2005
  • 4. Phonaesthemes: Previous Research
    • Hutchins (1998)
      • Speakers reliably matched phonaestheme-bearing words to glosses of the phonaestheme and vice versa.
      • Speakers ranked phonaestheme-bearing words’ coherence with a definition higher when the definition was a gloss of that phonaestheme.
      • Found variability in strength of association between 46 phonaesthemes and their glosses.
        • Probed speakers’ declarative knowledge about language, not their processing or implicit knowledge
        • Words in isolation
        • Rely on linguists’ intuitions
  • 5. Phonaesthemes: Previous Research
    • Bergen (2004)
      • Morphological Priming paradigm
      • Sharing a phonaestheme provided better priming than either semantic or phonological similarity alone
        • Rely on linguists’ intuitions to decide what counts as a phonaestheme
        • Words in isolation
  • 6. Hypotheses
    • Corpus analyses can help reveal regular relationships between form and meaning
    • Speakers use these regular relationships in language processing
      • Words
      • Sentences
  • 7. Current Studies
    • Corpus analysis of phonetic clusters used by Hutchins (1998)
    • Experiment 1: Sentence completion task
    • Experiment 2: Paraphrase task
  • 8. Corpus Analysis: Method
    • Latent Semantic Analysis
      • Words as vectors in a semantic space
    • Similar meaning  Similar vector direction
      • Standard measure:
        • Cosine of angle = Correlation between the vectors
      • Semantic vectors can be combined
    gl- (combined vector) ray  glance glisten glare vision light  ’
  • 9. Corpus Analysis: Method
    • If a cluster of words is semantically related, the respective word vectors will be more correlated than expected by chance.
    • Monte-Carlo analysis
      • Compare combined vectors of word pairs within a phonaestheme cluster with combined vectors of randomly-chosen word pairs.
    • Quantitative criterion for phonaestheme strength
      • Measure: # of significant t-tests ( p < .05 )
        • If 15 of 100 t -tests conducted are significant, then the phonaestheme is statistically supported (overall p < .05)
  • 10. Corpus Analysis: Input
    • Public domain literary works from Project Gutenberg
      • 4034 documents
      • Over 290 million words
    • 50 candidate phonaesthemes
      • 46 used by Hutchins (1998)
      • 4 new clusters: br-, -ign, kn-, z-
  • 11. Corpus Analysis: Results
    • 27 of 50 phonaesthemes met our criterion for significance
    • Replicated Hutchins’ survey results
      • # of significant t-tests correlates with Hutchins’ word-gloss relatedness ratings ( r = 0.53)
      • # of stems correlates highly with Hutchins’ # of types
      • ( r = 0.93)
  • 12. Experiment 1
      • Hutchins’ gloss-matching experiment tested psychological reality of explicit semantic knowledge about phonaesthemes
      • What about implicit, contextual knowledge about phonaesthemes?
      • Do phonaesthemes influence our word choice when composing sentences?
  • 13. Experiment 1: Method
    • 36 phonaestheme-bearing from 6 phonaestheme clusters
      • kn-, gl-, sn-, -oop, -ump, -ign
    • 36 accompanying sentence contexts
      • Highly congruent with one target word, incongruent with another
    • Transformed targets into nonsense words
      • Normed for opaqueness: nonsense words whose target was too easily guessed were not used
  • 14. Experiment 1: Method
      • The stone's _______ flashed from under the leaves.
        • lague
        • glandor
        • thoop
  • 15. Experiment 1: Results
    • Phonaestheme vector similarity to sentence vector predicted word choice
    • ( r = .4, p < .05)
  • 16. Experiment 1: Results
    • Speakers can use phonaesthemes to guess a word’s meaning in sentence contexts
    • Phonaestheme’s meaning must cohere with the sentence
  • 17. Experiment 2: Method
    • Participants asked to read and paraphrase sentences
    • Same materials as in experiment 1:
      • Congruent: The stone's glandor flashed from under the leaves.
      • Incongruent: The stone's thoop flashed from under the leaves.
      • Neutral: The stone's lague flashed from under the leaves.
    • 3 measures:
      • Comprehension latency
      • Typing latency
      • Ratings of paraphrases
  • 18. Experiment 2: Method
  • 19. Experiment 2: Results
  • 20. Experiment 2: Results
  • 21. Experiment 2: Results
  • 22. Experiment 2: Results
  • 23. Conclusions
    • Form-meaning relationships can benefit from computational methods
      • Detecting semantic clusters
      • Criterion for evaluating form-meaning links
    • Speakers use phonaesthemes to disambiguate unfamiliar words in sentence contexts
    • Disambiguation is easier when the context coheres with the phonaestheme’s semantic contribution
  • 24. Future Directions
    • Spoken language more appropriate for sound similarity studies?
      • BNC Spoken corpus analysis
      • Experiments using audible stimuli