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Key Publications 2021

An overview of key publications in 2021, one per research group, is given below.

Cognitive and Developmental Aspects of Multilingualism

van Dijk, C.N., van Wonderen, E., Koutamanis, E., Kootstra, G.J., Dijkstra, T.D. & Unsworth, S. (2021). Cross-linguistic influence in simultaneous and early sequential bilingual children: a meta-analysis. Journal of Child Language. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S030500092100033

Bilingual children’s languages can influence each other. In this meta-analysis, we measured the effect size of such cross-linguistic influence and systematically assessed its predictors in 750 simultaneous and early sequential bilingual children in 17 unique language combinations across 26 experimental studies.

First Language Acquisition

Alphen, P. van,  Brouwer, S., Davids, N., Dijkstra, E., & Fikkert, P. (2021). Word recognition and word prediction in preschoolers with (a suspicion of) a Developmental Language Disorder: Evidence from eye-tracking. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2021_JSLHR-20-00227

Children with a language development disorder (TOS) and similarly aged children (3.5 years old) without a language problem did two online tasks: a word recognition task, in which they heard phrases such as 'Look!, a hat!) and a word prediction task, in which they heard phrases such as 'hey, he's just reading a book', while looking at two pictures, one of which depicted the target word. Both groups recognised the words equally fast, but the children with TOS kept looking at the target word longer. In the latter group, word recognition was related to productive language measures. In the word prediction task, the children with TOS were significantly slower in finding the target word, and scores were related to both receptive and productive language measures. For the group with TOS, word recognition and word prediction were also related: the slower they recognised words, the smaller the prediction effects were.

Grammar and Cognition

Redl, T., Frank, S.L., De Swart, P., & De Hoop, H. (2021). The male bias of a masculine generic pronoun: Evidence from eye-tracking and sentence evaluation. PLoS ONE, 16, e0249309. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249309

The Dutch possessive pronoun zijn 'his' is grammatically masculine but can be used to refer to people in general, as in Everyone was putting on his shoes. Do readers tend to interpret such a 'masculine generic' pronoun as referring only to males, even though it is not intended to? We used eye-tracking, and found that reading slows down when reference to a female entity follows the masculine generic pronoun zijn. This indicates that the pronoun was initially misinterpreted as referring more strongly to males than to females. However, this effect only occurred in male participants, which suggest that the intended reading of the pronoun is more readily available for women than for men.

Language Learning, Teaching and Testing

Yu, X., Janse, E. & Schoonen, R. (2021). The effect of learning context on L2 listening development: Knowledge and processing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 43 (2), 329–354.   doi:10.1017/S0272263120000534

Yu et al. compares L2 listening development in study abroad (SA) and at home (AH) contexts, both in vocabulary knowledge and processing efficiency. The study shows that,  provided equal starting levels, the SA learners made more progress than the AH learners in speed of processing across the language processing tasks, with less clear results for vocabulary acquisition.

Language and Speech, Learning and Therapy

Hubers, F.C.W., Cucchiarini, C., Strik, H. & Dijkstra, A.F.J. (2021). Individual word activation and word frequency effects during the processing of opaque idiomatic expressions. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. doi: 10.1177/17470218211047995\

We studied the relationship between idiomatic expressions and their constituent words by assessing both form and meaning activation of individual words during the processing of opaque idioms. The results support a hybrid model of idiom processing in which individual words and idiom interact on form and meaning levels of representation.

Language and Speech Technology

Tsoukala, C., Frank, S.L., Bosch, A.P.J. van den, Valdés-Krof, J. & Broersma, M. (2021). Modeling the auxiliary phrase asymmetry in code-switched Spanish-English. Bilingualism. Language and Cognition, 24 (2), 271-280. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728920000449

Spanish–English bilinguals rarely code-switch in the perfect structure between the Spanish auxiliary haber (“to have”) and the participle (e.g., “Ella ha voted”; “She has voted”). However, they are somewhat likely to switch in the progressive structure between the Spanish auxiliary estar (“to be”) and the participle (“Ella está voting”; “She is voting”). This phenomenon is known as the “auxiliary phrase asymmetry”. One hypothesis as to why this occurs is that estar has more semantic weight as it also functions as an independent verb, whereas haber is almost exclusively used as an auxiliary verb. To test this hypothesis, we employed a connectionist model that produces spontaneous code-switches. Through simulation experiments, we showed that i) the asymmetry emerges in the model and that ii) the asymmetry disappears when using haber also as a main verb, which adds semantic weight. Therefore, the lack of semantic weight of haber may indeed cause the asymmetry.

Language Variation in 4D

De Troij, Robbert, Stefan Grondelaers, Dirk Speelman & Antal van den Bosch (2021). Lexicon or grammar? Using memory-based learning to investigate the syntactic relationship between Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch. Natural Language Engineering 2021, 1-19.

This article builds on computational tools to investigate the syntactic relationship between Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch. It reports on a series of memory-based learning analyses of the post-verbal distribution of er ‘there’ in existential constructions like ‘Op het dak staat (er) een schoorsteen’. While the distribution of ‘er’ in both varieties can be learned to a considerable extent from unclassified lexical input, Flemish speakers need additional higher-level linguistic information to insert ‘er’.

Multimodal Language and Cognition

Trujillo, J. P., Ozyurek, A., Holler, J., & Drijvers, L. (2021). Speakers exhibit a multimodal Lombard effect in noise. Scientific Reports, 11: 16721. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-95791-0

In everyday conversation, we are often challenged with communicating in non-ideal settings, such as in noise. Increased speech intensity and larger mouth movements are known to be  used to overcome noise in constrained settings (the Lombard effect). How we adapt to noise in face-to-face interaction, the natural environment of human language use, where manual gestures are ubiquitous, was  currently unknown.  In a music festival we asked Dutch adults to wear headphones with varying levels of multi-talker babble while attempting to communicate action verbs to one another. Using quantitative motion capture (Kinect) and acoustic analyses, we found that speaking in noise not only increases speech intensity  known as the Lombard effect but  also increased  the sub movements in their gestures. This is the first demonstration that the Lombard effect is a multimodal phenomenon.

Narrative, Cognition and Communication

Eekhof, L. S., Kuijpers, M. M., Faber, M., Gao, X., Mak, M., Hoven, E. van den, & Willems, R. M. (2021). Lost in a Story, Detached from the Words. Discourse Processes, 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/0163853X.2020.1857619 [link]

This eyetracking paper explores how attention for word characteristics (e.g. lexical frequency) relates to attention for the subjective experience of a narrative (e.g. absorption). We find that readers who spend less cognitive effort on the word characteristics, are more absorbed in the story world.

Non-nativeness in Communication

Verheijen, L., & Spooren. W. (2021). The impact of WhatsApp on Dutch youths’ school writing and spelling. Journal of Writing Research, 13(1), 155-191.

This paper reports on a large-scale experiment investigating the effects of Dutch youths' social media use on their school writings. We measured if chatting via WhatsApp directly impacts their performance on a narrative writing task or their ability to detect and correct deviations from the standard language. Perhaps unexpectedly, WhatsApp turned out to positively affect participants’ spelling: adolescents who had chatted immediately before writing their story produced significantly fewer misspellings.

Persuasive Communication

Plug, I., Stommel, W.J.P., Lucassen, P.L.B.J., Olde Hartman, T.C., van Dulmen, S.A. & Das, E. (2021). Do women and men use language differently in spoken face-to-face interaction? A scoping review.  Review of Communication Research, 9, 43-79.

The aim of the current scoping review is to synthesize recent studies from various theoretical perspectives on the relationship between sex/gender and language use in spoken face-to-face dyadic interactions. A review of fifteen empirical studies which were  according to four different theoretical perspectives and associated methodologies and identified more than thirty relevant linguistic variables showed that gender identity salience, institutionalized roles, and social and contextual factors such as interactional setting or conversational goal seem to play a key role in the relationship between speaker’s sex/gender and language used in spoken interaction.

Sign Language Linguistics

Lutzenberger, H., Vos, C. de, Crasborn, O.A. & Fikkert, J.P.M. (2021). Formal Variation in the Kata Kolok Lexicon.  Glossa. A Journal of General Linguistics, 6 (1). doi: 10.16995/glossa.5880

Sign language lexicons incorporate phonological specifications. Evidence from emerging sign languages suggests that phonological structure emerges gradually in a new language. In this study, we investigate variation in the form of signs across 20 deaf adult signers of Kata Kolok, a sign language that emerged spontaneously in a Balinese village community. We argue that variation does not equal the absence of conventionalisation. Indeed, especially in micro-community sign languages, variation may be key to understanding patterns of language emergence.

Speech Production and Comprehension

Andrikopoulou, A., A. Protopapas, and A. Arvaniti (2021) Lexical Stress Representation in Spoken Word Recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 47 (6): 830–851. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000929

The hypothesis that stress information is only stored for words that diverge from the most common pattern of a language was tested by means of behavioral and eye-tracking experiments on the recognition of spoken words in Greek. The results do not support this hypothesis; rather, they are consistent with the idea that all words are represented along with their stress information. This highlights the importance of testing theoretical assumptions across perception and production and across a gamut of languages.