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Lecture Series of the Project Group "Language Dynamics Across the Life Span"

Contextually-constrained speech processing: Predictability effects in younger and older adults
When Jan 09, 2017
from 02:15 PM to 03:45 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, Seminar Room
Attendees öffentlich / open to the public
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Contextually-constrained speech processing: Predictability effects in younger and older adults

Esther Janse (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Language processing often entails making predictions about words that are likely to occur. Making such predictions facilitates language use and probabilistic effects can be found in speech comprehension and production. Predictable words are easier for listeners to recognise, and speakers may spend less articulatory effort on words that are more likely to follow, given preceding context, than on words that are less likely to follow. Predictability effects may undergo age-related changes as they depend on language experience and on rapid processing of context information to generate predictions. In this talk I will summarise several studies addressing whether adult age groups differ in how ‘predictability’ affects their speech comprehension and production. Working memory ability has been shown to be an important variable in the rapid use of semantic context information to facilitate the recognition of upcoming words (Janse & Jesse, 2014). Once age and individual differences in working memory ability are taken into account, older listeners are as good, or even marginally better, in using contextual information for ongoing speech processing than younger listeners (Huettig & Janse, 2016). More recently, we have investigated probabilistic effects on speech production in younger and older adults (Moers et al., in prep), in which predictability was quantified as either ‘global’ (i.e., contextual) or ‘local’ (i.e., transitional) probability. One study focused on transitional probability effects in younger and older adults’ oral sentence reading, and one investigated contextual and transitional probability effects in picture naming. Both studies showed robust effects of predictability for both younger and older adults, either on word durations (in the oral reading study) or on naming latency (in the picture naming study). However, unlike often reported decline in predictive processing with aging, probabilistic effects remain stable across adulthood. These findings will be discussed in the light of the concepts of statistical learning, language experience, and predictive processing.