Category Archives: News

Cohen Priva and Sanker paper at LabPhon

Uriel Cohen Priva and Chelsea Sanker have just had their paper published in LabPhon. They show that the using difference-in-difference to measure convergence, though convenient and frequently used, should ultimately be avoided in most situations: Speakers whose performance is close to the mean of the distribution or to their interlocutors are likely to be seen as divergent, and speakers whose performance is far from the mean are likely to appear as convergent. Both effects can lead to finding false evidence for individual differences in convergence.


NSF grant to AnderBois

It was formally announced that Scott AnderBois and past LingLangLunch presenter Wilson Silva (University of Arizona) have received an NSF Documenting Endangered Languages grant for their research project Perspective taking and reported speech in an evidentially-rich language (official announcement here). The project continues the work of AnderBois and Silva’s team documenting A’ingae, an understudied linguistic isolate spoken in the Ecuadorian Amazon, collaborating with native speakers to collect and annotate audio/video materials. The grant aims specifically to investigate the grammar of reported speech in the language, including the language’s unique use of falsetto realized on a single syllable to signal perspective shifts in narrative.

AnderBois and Jacobson at SALT 29

SALT (Semantics and Linguistic Theory) 29 ( took place at UCLA May 17-19. Brown was amply represented with Polly Jacobson delivering the closing keynote of the conference, “Why we still don’t need/want variables: Two SALTy case studies”, and Scott AnderBois presenting a poster titled “At-issueness in direct quotation: the case of Mayan quotatives”. In addition to current faculty, Brown alum Simon Charlow (’07 Linguistics AB) delivered one of the three other keynotes, “GIVENness and local contexts”.

Collaborative JIPA paper appears!

In a paper originating in CLPS 1390 in Spring 2017, Scott AnderBois and Chelsea Sanker together with then-students Hugo Lucitante ’19, Chiara Repetti-Ludlow ’18, and Haoru Zhang MA ’18 published the first instrumental phonetic description of A’ingae (Cofán), an indigenous language of Amazonia, as part of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association‘s “Illustrations of the IPA”:

New Paper in Cognition from Feiman and colleagues

Read all about it!

Do children understand how different numbers are related before they associate them with specific cardinalities? We explored how children rely on two abstract relations – contrast and entailment – to reason about the meanings of ‘unknown’ number words. Previous studies argue that, because children give variable amounts when asked to give an unknown number, all unknown numbers begin with an existential meaning akin to some. In Experiment 1, we tested an alternative hypothesis, that because numbers belong to a scale of contrasting alternatives, children assign them a meaning distinct from some. In the “Don’t Give-a-Number task”, children were shown three kinds of fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries), and asked to not give either some or a number of one kind (e.g. Give everything, but not [some/five] bananas). While children tended to give zero bananas when asked to not give some, they gave positive amounts when asked to not give numbers. This suggests that contrast – plus knowledge of a number’s membership in a count list – enables children to differentiate the meanings of unknown number words from the meaning of some. Experiment 2 tested whether children’s interpretation of unknown numbers is further constrained by understanding numerical entailment relations – that if someone, e.g. has three, they thereby also have two, but if they do not have three, they also do not have four. On critical trials, children saw two characters with different quantities of fish, two apart (e.g. 2 vs. 4), and were asked about the number in-between – who either has or doesn’t have, e.g. three. Children picked the larger quantity for the affirmative, and the smaller for the negative prompts even when all the numbers were unknown, suggesting that they understood that, whatever three means, a larger quantity is more likely to contain that many, and a smaller quantity is more likely not to. We conclude by discussing how contrast and entailment could help children scaffold the exact meanings of unknown number words.

Sanker publishes in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

Chelsea Sanker has just published in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

This paper presents a set of auditory perception experiments testing the effects of lexical ambiguity, lemma frequency, and acoustic details. In an AX discrimination task with stimuli produced in isolation, lexically ambiguous phonologically matching forms (e.g., sun-sun, sun-son) were evaluated more slowly and identified as ‘different’ more often than lexically unambiguous forms (e.g., cat-cat). For stimuli extracted from meaningful sentences, pairs of homophone mates (sun-son) were evaluated more slowly than same pairs of such words (sun-sun), following from the greater acoustic distance between homophone mates in several measures. The individual lexical frequency of homophone mates was a significant factor in both identification tasks, though frequency effects in the AX tasks were weaker and driven by the lexically unambiguous items. In both studies, greater acoustic distance between items was a predictor of longer response times, though the significance of particular acoustic measures varied. Identification of homophone mates also depended on context of production; listeners were above chance accuracy for choosing between homophone mates extracted from sentences, but not for homophone mates produced in isolation. While results for stimuli produced in sentential contexts indicate that listeners are sensitive to acoustic details and can weakly associate production patterns with lexical items, the absence of such differences for homophone mates produced in isolation suggests that these details are not an inherent part of the representation.

Welcome Roman Feiman!!!!!!

The Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences (CLPS) is delighted to welcome our new psycholinguist Roman Feiman who joins us as of September, 2018 as an Assistant Professor.  Roman received his PhD in Psychology from Harvard University in 2015. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard for a year, and at UC San Diego for another two. His work draws on a variety of approaches and methods from cognitive developmental psychology, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and formal semantics. Now at Brown, he directs the brand new Brown Language and Thought lab. You can find the lab here:

Over the next few years Roman will be teaching – among other things – courses on language processing (CLPS 1800), on child language acquisition of syntax, semantics and pragmatics (CLPS 1660), a seminar on Logic in Language and Thought, and co-teaching with Ellie Pavlich a course on Machine and Human Learning. Stay tuned for other courses.  Welcome Roman!