Current Graduate Students Projects in Neurolinguistics & Language Development
Music perception skills and the acquisition of second language prosody
Many theoretical and empirical studies support a link between music and language in cognition, with studies showing advantages of L2 learners’ musical skills in the perception of prosodic parameters, such as pitch and duration. In this project I investigate the integration of these perceptual parameters into semantics and pragmatics, to test if music perception skill benefits L2 comprehension. Using eye-tracking and offline measures, I will examine the comprehension of speech involving prosodic cues to focus, sarcasm, and affective states. The project also examines whether better music perception is connected to a more native-like production of L2 prosody, using elicitation techniques and perceptual and acoustic measures.
The psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic aspects of focus and its semantic uses in Turkish
In the present project, we are investigating the psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic aspects of focus and focus types in Turkish. Specifically, we investigate two aspects of focus as a central concept of information structure (IS): Firstly, we want to clarify which of the proposed marking strategies of focus and focus types in Turkish predicts naturalistic linguistic forms correctly across all verb-final structures (i.e., clarify, how native speakers of Turkish mark focus across word orders and focus positions), and secondly, we want to investigate the processes and cues involved in the comprehension of focus and focus types in Turkish. To achieve these goals, we developed a fully behavioural Focus Type Task (experiment 1) that allows much greater response freedom to participants than previous studies while precisely controlling contextual information. In a second experiment, we want to transfer our findings from the first experiment to a comprehension task, where, besides the behavioural aspects, we want to investigate further the neurolinguistic processes involved in the comprehension of Turkish focus constructions.
In my PhD project we will examine the effects of foreign language learning on late-life depression. Seniors with this diagnosis often experience reduced cognitive flexibility; a skill that is trained and strengthened when learning and speaking a foreign language. In order to measure the difference between baseline and post-test (or follow-up) conditions, multiple experimental paradigms are employed. These include eye-tracking methods, tests that measure a participant's wellbeing, and behavioral paradigms that test executive functioning. In addition to the language learning condition, two other groups of neurotypical seniors will receive musical training or a course training them in creative skills. This way the effects of language can be isolated.
This project is part of Prof. dr. Keijzer's NWO Vidi project Language Learning Never Gets Old: Foreign language learning as a tool to promote healthy aging (016.Vidi.185.190).
Language Learning Never Gets Old: Foreign language learning to promote cognitive reserve in healthy and Mild Cognitive Impairment seniors
In my PhD project we assess how the acquisition of new complex skills (i.e., foreign language learning, learning to play a musical instrument, and acquiring creative skills) affects cognitive functioning in seniors. Specifically, we investigate the effects on the cognitive flexibility and well-being levels of seniors with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or subjective memory complaints vis-à-vis their neurotypical peers. This is achieved through adopting experimental approaches such as eye-tracking and neuropsychological testing. The project's goal is to identify whether the acquisition of new skills in older adulthood can promote cognitive reserve and consequently halt, prevent, or delay (further) cognitive decline. This project is part of Prof. dr. Merel Keijzer's NWO Vidi project Language Learning Never Gets Old: Foreign language learning as a tool to promote healthy aging (016.Vidi.185.190).
For more information see also the Bilingualism and Aging Lab.
Two Languages – One Mind
This PhD project investigates how language typology categorization affects bilinguals’ general cognition and subconscious concepts. By using psycholinguistic methods like self-paced reading or the event-related potential technique, this project will investigate how typological categorization influences the bilingual mind and how implicit mental processes are modulated by certain social factors.
Another goal of this project is to investigate how learning a second language that is typologically similar to the first language versus learning a typologically very distinct second language affects the cognitive abilities of theory of mind and metalinguistic awareness.
For more information see also the Bilingualism and Aging Lab.
The language of fiction and imagination
NWO Vidi project (dr. Emar Maier), for more information please visit the project website.
How do we learn the moon is female after all? The role of sequential and distributional properties in linguistic category learning
"What properties of languages facilitate the learning of categories in languages, such as for example noun gender or case? This project combines computational, psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic methods: learning simulations to understand the underlying general mechanism of category learning, artificial language learning experiments to identify structures that facilitate category learning, and corpus analyses to test whether natural languages exhibit those learner-friendly patterns. The goal of this project is to offer implications for the design of second language teaching materials as well as for a better understanding of language evolution."
Speech Deterioration in Parkinson's Disease
"Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that is characterized by a decay of motor function. Due to a loss of dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra, both motor control as well as initiation deteriorate over time, which frequently leads to difficulties in speech producation, a phenomenom that is known as hypokinetic dysarthria. Our project investigates articulation in hypokinetic dysarthria via both acoustic and kinematic (i.e. movement of the tongue, lips and jaw) measures. Specifically, we study the velocity, the amplitude and the coordination of articulators that are used for the production of speech." Project website: http://jiddejacobi.com/pd/
NWO project Acting individually or together? An investigation of children's development of distributivity
"When we talk about group actions, each member of a group can act individually or the group can act together. Consider the following sentence:
The boys are pushing a car.
Are the boys pushing one car together, the collective interpretation, or are they each pushing their own car, the distributive interpretation? Both are possible, but adults generally prefer collective interpretations, while children seem to prefer distributive interpretations. What causes children to have different preferences and what factors affect the development?
In this project we will investigate children’s transition to adult distributivity preferences. Three phases look at each major step: childhood, adulthood and the transition.
Phase 1 investigates a recent proposal that children’s non-adult preferences arise from a confusion about sets. This confusion is argued to stem from children’s limited cognitive resources. We will test this account with children and adults.
Phase 2 experimentally investigates a recent account that adult preferences are derived via implicatures, and directly compares distributivity processing with implicature processing. Finally, Phase 3 takes an interdisciplinary approach by using computational cognitive modelling to simulate the development of children’s intuitions into adult preferences. Computational modelling allows precise examination of how each part of the theoretical model influences interpretation by allowing the same experiments to be simulated and to be compared to human results. "
Aging and Language
"In my research I use event-related potentials and eye-tracking to investigate the effect of cognitive aging on language processing and comprehension. As a linguistic tool I use idiomatic expressions, such as He kicked the bucket. Idioms have a literal meaning (‘He kicked the pail’) and a figurative meaning (‘He died’). The ambiguous character of idioms could explain why idiom processing has been found to involve additional cognitive effort. By investigating how elderly adults, who experience age-related decline in cognition, process and comprehend idioms, I aim to contribute to the more general question about the effect of cognitive aging on language."
"In order to remove brain tumors in language eloquent areas, each brain region of a patient need to be mapped for function. This way the surgical team can make a decision on what to resect without risking to destroy the patient's language abilities. In our project, we are investigating how to improve the protocol for preoperative language mapping with navigated Trancranial Magnetic Stimulation, a method that allows to map the patient's cortex even before the surgery. The technique is still only experimentally used in the Netherlands. By adding the linguistically valuable action naming task to the standard object naming task, we aim at increasing the methods reliability for surgical planning."
"Developmental dyslexia is an inherited difficulty in learning to read and spell despite adequate education and in the absence of physical of intellectual disabilities in children and adults. Although the language and literacy problems in dyslexia might be caused by an underlying phonological deficit, impairments in the domains of morphology and syntax are also present. Therefore, the current project investigates the differences in the online processing of morphosyntax in Dutch adults with and without dyslexia with the use of electroencephalography (EEG). Specifically, we are focusing on how any potential impairments in morphosyntax relate to the underlying deficits in phonology and what this can tell us about the linguistic nature of dyslexia."
"Several studies have reported that sentence comprehension in agrammatic aphasia is relatively impaired. In particular, semantically reversible sentences whose arguments are in their derived, not in their base, positions are shown to be less correctly understood than their counterparts. The Derived Order Problem Hypothesis (DOP-H), confirmed by many studies, proposes that derived order sentences are more difficult for agrammatic speakers than the base order ones. However, besides word order, there may be some other factors, such as frequency, that effect sentence processing in agrammatism. Other than this, the research also focuses on how individuals with post-stroke refer to time. The PAst DIscourse LInking Hypothesis (PADILIH) suggests that it is not tense per se that is impaired in agrammatic aphasia, but time reference through verb forms. We aim to investigate this by using methods like eye-tracking and ERPs. Basing on the results and analyses of our studies, we can measure the severity of the disorder and understand more about the relationship between brain and language. The data can reflect selective breakdown of language components that are related to the brains."
Processing of Evidentiality in Turkish
"Evidentiality constitutes a grammatical category that marks information sources indicating how one has gained the knowledge regarding the event in his/her statement. That is, evidentiality signals whether a form of evidence is present for the statement uttered, through the speaker’s direct personal experience (i.e. witnessing) or through an indirect information source, such as inferring or report from a third speaker. In Turkish, evidentiality is expressed by two obligatory suffixes. These two distinct evidentiality markers are inflected at the verb (suffix) are: the direct evidential (-DI) used when the described event is speaker’s own experience, and the indirect evidential (–mIş) is used when the event is reported to the speaker or when the speaker acquire that knowledge through inference (Aikhenvald, 2004). Although several questions related to evidentiality have been answered, their precise neurolinguistic processing has been left unexplored. We aim to explore the neurolinguistic processing of evidentiality modulated in Turkish speakers’ brain activation. We use EEG (electroencephalogram) in order to investigate the moment-by-moment processing of these grammatical units and speaker’s precise reactions to the violation of these components."
"My research focuses on verb and sentence processing in language and cognition deficits, with a particular emphasis on aphasia. Currently I am working on time reference and grammatical tone processing in aphasia as well as right hemisphere damaged patients. I use both behavioral and electrophysiological (EEG) methods for my research."
Language learning never gets old - implicit and explicit language learning in seniors
"With the world’s population growing old, healthy ageing is becoming more and more important. Research suggests that language learning at an older age could be a potential tool against ageing disorders such as Alzheimer’s. However, it is not yet clear what the best approach is for seniors to learn a new language, and what the cognitive and social benefits of learning a new skill in older adulthood are. This project investigates just that by providing seniors with different language learning approaches during their English course. The first approach is explicit; a lot of grammar is provided and the second is implicit, where no grammar is taught to the seniors."
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