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At the interface between linguistics and psychology

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claudia sanchez-gutierrez

on 6 March 2014

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Transcript of At the interface between linguistics and psychology

"property of being creative"
lexical entry
At the interface between linguistics and psychology
Multidisciplinarity as a key for understanding morphemes
Claudia Sanchez Gutierrez
Laval University
(Quebec, Canada)

But we still all talk about language, right?
So... what about morphemes?
Morphemes that make sense out of words...
But what are they exactly?
Minimal meaningful units
Derivational morphemes
Result of

psychological processes
of study in itself
Morphemes for psychologists
Problems in processing?
Influence in dyslexia, for example?
What about morphemes' role in the development of language (L1 and L2)?
Morphological awareness
Morphemes for linguists
able > -able
desirable, lovable, thinkable, etc.
less > -less
useless, helpless, etc.
full > -ful
helpful, thankful, useful, etc.
How can we actually work together?
Some examples of psycho-linguistic collaboration
Comparison between languages
-miento (Spanish) vs. -ment (English)
plurals in Italian (-e, -i) vs. other romance languages (-s)
Some examples
-dor, -dero, -ero (Spanish) vs. -or (English)
Letter-transpositions at the morphemic boundary
Morphemes in normal literacy development and dyslexia
Morphemes in second language acquisition
1. transposed-letter benefit (Davis, 2010; Gomez, Ratcliff, & Perea, 2008)
2. disruptive effect of letter transpositions at the morphemic boundary (afforadble vs. affrodable from affordable)? (Duñabeitia, Perea, and Carreiras, 2007)
3. Problem: no replication of the effect.
4. General explanation: specific characteristics of the Spanish language.
Why would a cognitive psychologist need a linguist here?
Is there anything in the structure of the Spanish language that would explain why the transposition of letters at the morphemic boundary only disrupts RTs in Spanish?
Same linguistic typology, same morphological structure as in English.
Need to analyze the stimuli used in previous experiments

> Lack of precision in the choice of what is a morphological complex word or not.
> Focus on psycholinguistic characteristics (length, frequency) but not on linguistic characteristics (complexity, synchronic transparency, etymological viability of complexity, limits between inflexional and derivational suffixes).
> Stimuli were not matched for those characteristics across languages.
Design of a new set of stimuli
1. cognates Spanish (88) / English (88)
2. complex: half suffixed (accessible/accesible) / half prefixed (cooperation/cooperacion)
3. no diminutives or flexions
4. matched across languages for mean log frequency and length
Spanish version: 63 native Spanish speakers at a Spanish university
English version: 64 native English speakers at a British university

Methods: Masked priming (SOA: 57 ms. in the Spanish version / 66 ms. in the English version)

Each target had four possible primes:
TL within: accsesible (Engl.) / accseible (Sp.)
TL across: accesisble (Engl.) / acceisble (Sp.)
RL within: accarible (Engl.) / accraible (Sp.)
RL across: accesarble (Engl.) / accearble (Sp.)

4 different scripts (1 prime/target/script) + conditions randomized for each participant
But let's check directly if there is any difference in the processing of comparable complex words in English vs. Spanish.
1. Transposed-letter benefit observed in both Spanish and English.
2. No effect of the position of the transposed letters (TL across vs. within) in the primes.
3. No difference between languages.
The differences observed between Duñabeitia et al. and the other studies are not due to any linguistic specificity of Spanish
What were we able to achieve with this linguist-psychologist collaboration ?
1. more accuracy in the selection of the stimuli
2. controlled comparison across two languages
3. rejection of an hypothesis that was not validated on linguistic grounds
Unit of Attention to difficulties in literacy
1. Traditional interventions with dyslexics sometimes fail with specific sounds
2. Hypothesis: is it possible that some subjects have specific problems with sounds that correspond to morphemic units? (mouSe vs. girlS)
3. General context: some studies prove that the development of morphological awareness is strongly related to the ability of children to augment their amount of vocabulary (Bertram, Laine & Virkkala, 2000), get better spelling skills (Deacon & Bryant, 2008) or text comprehension (Schiff, Schwartz-Nahson & Nagar, 2010).
However: In order to assess subjects' morphological awareness we first need to make sure we all get the same understanding of what morphology is. Here come the big problems: standardized tests.
Question: Could a training in morphology help normally developing children and dyslexic subjects to get a better grasp on orthography?
Standardized tests in Spanish
IECME & IECMO (Gonzalez & Garcia, 2007)
1. confusion between inflexion and derivation
2. confusion between grammatical gender and sex.
3. confusion between orthography and morphology
4. lack of synchronic transparency
Need for a new test that takes into account more linguistic variables
Analysis of errors from dyslexic children
Hypothesis: possibility of a "morphological profile"
1. 83 diagnosed dyslexic children
2. All the dictations and written texts they had produced during our intervention sessions.
3. Qualitative analysis based on morphological criteria (flexional vs. derivational, gender, number, tense)
4. Question: Is it possible that some children only have problems with the letters -a, -o or -s when they are gender or number suffixes?
5. Errors taken into account: missing or substituted -s, -a, -o or flexional morphemes that express tense or mode (-aba written -ava), change of derivational morphemes (analysis instead of analyze, adorant instead of adorable, etc.)
What did we learn from each other?
1. more accuracy in the items and analyses
2. creation of a valid test of morphological awareness in Spanish that fulfills both statistical and linguistic precision requirements.
2. expansion of methodological possibilities (corpus/qualitative and quantitative, developmental studies, relation between research and clinical intervention)
Morphological priming

Developmental and instructional studies
By combining linguistic description and psychological methodologies, we can build up valid theories on what teachers need to use in the second language classroom.
We might become better teachers.
What did I learn from my experience with psychologists?
1. Clear methodologies make clear results.
2. Statistics give lots of answers. Numbers are our friends. Graphs are our best friends :)
3. Language is not only out there, but also inside me.
4. We definitely need each other in order to be more accurate and get a better insight into what language is, how it works, and how we learn and should teach it.
5. There is no need to be super(wo)man! They do the maths, I do the grammar.
Flexional morpheme
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