Psychology Department Seminar Christina Gagne

21 November 2019

Bighorns and bigrams: Productivity via obligatory attempts at (re)combination

Christina L. Gagné

Department of Psychology, University of Alberta

Friday, November 29 3:00 pm

BS P 226

Cognitive productivity, the ability to combine known concepts and words into new meanings and linguistic constructions, is one of the most important human abilities. Productivity is vital to human cognition because many tasks that people perform on a daily basis (such as classification, prediction, reasoning, and communication) require the application of existing knowledge to new situations. Compositionality (the ability to generate meaning of something from its pieces) is one means of achieving productivity within the language system. In this talk, I discuss how compositionality is reflected within the language system and, in particular, I will focus on compound words (e.g., blueberry, sunflower, and buttercup) and words that look like compounds (e.g., hippie, hemlock, and carpet). These small linguistic constructions provide an ideal testing ground for examining how the various components of the language system allow for compositionality. I will provide evidence showing that pieces of compound words and pseudocompound words influence processing across a variety of tasks including lexical decision, spelling and typing.