Two languages and two worlds in America: Psycholinguistics and Donald Trump’s resonance with “common people”

You may have heard that the United States had a presidential election last year. You may have also heard that the winner of that election was an outsider, a “straight-talker,” and an anti-establishment candidate. Enough material to fill the Library of Congress has been written on the content of what (first candidate, and now) President […]

Continue Reading

From “Rush Hour” to a tidy room: effective conversations find common ground

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, maybe with your spouse, your co-worker, or a student, and based on their response (or lack thereof) you ask yourself, “Did they even hear a word I said?” In the famous American movie, Rush Hour, the actor Chris Tucker posed the question a different way: In these […]

Continue Reading

Eating dinner or grandma? Patterns of intonation are crucial to comprehension

Your tone of voice can tell others a lot about what you mean. Which intonation you use in a sentence matters and your intonation can help listeners figure out the critical difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!” This is only one of a number of examples showing just how the same words […]

Continue Reading

You heard that right: accent judgment but not accent perception is influenced by expectations

Everyone “has an accent”—even if you think you don’t. Most likely, your accent is influenced by both your cultural identity, socioeconomic status, and other social processes, as well as more cognitive processes like emulating another person’s style in a conversation. Accents are such a strong indicator of social factors that they get associated to stereotypes, […]

Continue Reading

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it: sound cues help listeners parse words differently across languages

Hearing other people speak a foreign language can be dizzying. How can they speak so fast? Why don’t they pause between words, like we do? Actually, foreign-language speakers do pause: but despite how it sounds to us in our native tongue, spoken language is not neatly broken up by silence between words. Not convinced? Take […]

Continue Reading

Sleeping on banara and the fate of banana: consolidation of new words in the lexicon

How do we recognize the written word? While this seems trivially easy to us, we need to remember that words that are quite close perceptually can be drastically different in meaning. Fin and fine, crew and crow, and deck and desk may look nearly the same but their meanings differ considerably. In the sentence “I […]

Continue Reading

Metaphors of policing: Doraville’s warriors and London’s Pride guardians

What is a tax? Is it a “burden”? Or a “civilization surcharge”? And which would you rather pay? Would you prefer to vote for someone who has a “heart of gold” or a “heart of blackness”? Is crime a “beast” that is “ravaging” cities or a “virus” that needs to be controlled? Metaphors allow us […]

Continue Reading

She’ll eat the red … ladybug: Exploiting constraints during language processing

For a long period of time in language research, people made the assumption that language processing and other aspects of cognition were distinct from each other. For example, most people have the impression that talking while driving is easy, even though talking on the phone can make driving more dangerous. In addition to the idea […]

Continue Reading

Turning Dr. Strangelove into George W. Bush: Determinants of accentedness

There are some 40,000,000 foreign-born people living in the United States today. Most of those people hail from Asia or Latin America and the Caribbean, and their native language is therefore most likely not English. And indeed, it is not uncommon for people in the U.S.—and also the U.K., Canada, and Australia—to speak English with a […]

Continue Reading