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LINGUIST List 16.2464

Wed Aug 24 2005

Diss: Psycholing: Tamariz: 'Exploring the Adaptive ...'

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        1.    Monca Tamariz, Exploring the Adaptive Structure of the Mental Lexicon

Message 1: Exploring the Adaptive Structure of the Mental Lexicon
Date: 24-Aug-2005
From: Monca Tamariz <monicaling.ed.ac.uk>
Subject: Exploring the Adaptive Structure of the Mental Lexicon

Institution: University of Edinburgh
Program: Theoretical and Applied Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Monca Tamariz

Dissertation Title: Exploring the Adaptive Structure of the Mental Lexicon

Dissertation URL: http://www.ling.ed.ac.uk/~monica/tamariz_thesis.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (ENG)
                            Spanish (SPN)

Dissertation Director:
Simon Kirby
Richard Shillcock

Dissertation Abstract:

The mental lexicon is a complex structure organised in terms of phonology,
semantics and syntax, among other levels. In this thesis I propose that
this structure can be explained in terms of the pressures acting on it:
every aspect of the organisation of the lexicon is an adaptation ultimately
related to the function of language as a tool for human communication, or
to the fact that language has to be learned by subsequent generations of
people. A collection of methods, most of which are applied to a Spanish
speech corpus, reveal structure at different levels of the lexicon.

The patterns of intra-word distribution of phonological information may be
a consequence of pressures for optimal representation of the lexicon in the
brain, and of the pressure to facilitate speech segmentation.

An analysis of perceived phonological similarity between words shows that
the sharing of different aspects of phonological similarity is related to
different functions. Phonological similarity perception sometimes relates
to morphology (the stressed final vowel determines verb tense and person)
and at other times shows processing biases (similarity in the word initial
and final segments is more readily perceived than in word-internal segments).

Another similarity analysis focuses on cooccurrence in speech to create a
representation of the lexicon where the position of a word is determined by
the words that tend to occur in its close vicinity. Variations of
context-based lexical space naturally categorise words syntactically and

A higher level of lexicon structure is revealed by examining the
relationships between the phonological and the cooccurrence similarity
spaces. A study in Spanish supports the universality of the small but
significant correlation between these two spaces found in English by
Shillcock, Kirby, McDonald and Brew (2001). This systematicity across
levels of representation adds an extra layer of structure that may help
lexical acquisition and recognition. I apply it to a new paradigm to
determine the function of parameters of phonological similarity based on
their relationships with the syntactic-semantic level. I find that while
some aspects of a language's phonology maintain systematicity, others work
against it, perhaps responding to the opposed pressure for word identification.

This thesis is an exploratory approach to the study of the mental lexicon
structure that uses existing and new methodology to deepen our
understanding of the relationships between language use and language structure.

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