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Title: Visual Attention and Structural Choice in Sentence Production Across Languages
Author(s): Andriy Myachykov , Dominic Thompson , Christoph Scheepers Simon Garrod
Journal Title: Language and Linguistics Compass
Volume: 5
Issue: 2
Page Range: 95-107
Publication Date: Feb-2011
Abstract: To represent the complexity of a visually perceived event, viewers need to attend selectively to different aspects of the event and its associated entities. Spoken descriptions of such complex events must encode the corresponding perceptual properties. This review discusses how the speaker’s attentional focus on one of the referents in a given event influences the structural choice in languages with different degrees of word order flexibility. First, we will discuss whether English speakers prefer to map visually salient referents onto a prominent grammatical role (e.g., Subject) or to a prominent linear position in the sentence (e.g., the sentential starting point). Comparison of this evidence with research in free word-order languages (Russian and Finnish) suggests the existence of a mapping mechanism wherein perceptual salience predominantly affects grammatical-role assignment and, to a lesser extent, assignment of linear positions.

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On Visual Attention and Structural Choice   by Engin , 5-Jul-11
Myachykov et al.’s review article on visual priming and structural choice, e.g. the relationship between attention and syntax, provides very intuitive overview of the subject. The article argues that “perceptual salience predominantly affects grammatical-role assignment and, to a lesser extent, assignment of linear positions.” This article brings me a few questions that I would like to share with you: 1)Is there any relationship between auditory priming and structural choice? If so, how can this be measured experimentally? 2)How does attention-syntax work when it comes to marked constructions such as those with topicalization, e.g. That movie I like. 3)It appears that the article reviews a single event description with a single sentence in addition to others. What happens if the event is complex such as The girl run away from the boy because he kissed her or if the event is described with more than a single sentence? 4)Think about sentences with dummy subjects such as There is a boy and a girl kissing. Could this be a case of attention-syntax mismatch? Any thoughts?
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