Reading Noun-Noun Compounds

Early Influences of Compound Frequency and Semantic Transparency

My bachelor thesis in Cognitive Science. Unfortunately, I am currently not allowed to release the data nor the analysis scripts, because the dataset is still under active research.

Abstract: This thesis evaluates psycholinguistic theories about the cognitive processing of words. Consequently, the time-course of compound reading is analyzed using generalized additive models in a dataset of eye movements. The theories to be contrasted are sublexical (Taft and Forster, 1975), supralexical (Giraudo and Grainger, 2001) vs. dual route processing (Schreuder and Baayen, 1995) and form-then-meaning (e.g. Rastle and Davis, 2008) vs. form-and-meaning (e.g. Feldman et al., 2009) processing.

As the goal is to find the best model given various predictors, some general mechanisms of eye movements will be demonstrated, e.g. the position in the line has substantial effects, single fixations last longer, are on shorter words, more in the center of the word and influenced differently by frequency measures.

Inspired by Kuperman et al. (2009) it is shown that already the early eye fixations on words are guided by first constituent and compound frequency, providing evidence for parallel dual route models.

Similar to Baayen et al. (2013), Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) similarity scores (Landauer and Dumais, 1997) permit investigating the time point of semantic processing. The effect of LSA similarity not only shows up in the earliest word fixations, but the data reveals that semantics plays a role even before a word is fixated. In particular, the fixation position in the word is more to the right, when the semantic transparency, i.e. the similarity between compound and second constituent is high. This evidence of parafoveal semantic processing challenges opposing findings obtained with the eye-contingent boundary paradigm (Rayner et al., 1986). In the framework of naive discriminative learning (Baayen et al., 2011), the effect of transparency on fixation position reflects optimization of the landing position for accessing the orthographic information that is most discriminative for the compound.

Keywords: reading, eye-movements, compounds, semantic similarity, morphological processing, generalized additive model

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