Sophia Paulitz

Sophia Paulitz

Adjusting to Sentences: A Brain Wave Study


Sophia Paulitz, Yucheng Liu, Edith Kaan


Dr. Edith Kaan


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Often, people are not aware of how complex language processing is. When we listen, we adapt quickly to speech that is highly time-compressed, of poor quality, or spoken with a foreign accent. In other words, we tailor how we process language that varies. This is known as linguistic adaptation. This project investigates linguistic adaptation on the syntactic level in native monolingual English speakers through EEG analysis, which allows us to observe real-time sentence processing at the neural level. EEG signals have different underlying frequency bands that are each associated with different cognitive processes. For my analysis, I used time frequency representation which breaks EEG signals into phase and magnitude information for each frequency and characterizes these changes over time with respect to events within the study, such as the onset of the anomalous word. In our study we have sentences with words that are anomalous compared to words that are not. For example, in the sentence, “The customer drank a soda and a hamburger,” the word “hamburger” is perceived as semantically anomalous, whereas if the sentence was, “The customer drank a soda and a hamburger was placed in front of him,” the word “hamburger” is not perceived as anomalous. Our goal is to manipulate the syntax of sentences, such that initially anomalous sequences will no longer be perceived as anomalous as the reader adapts to a particular syntactic structure. This research has the potential to broaden our understanding of the role of adaptation in language learning and language acquisition.


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Research Pitch

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