Research Topic

Encoding and Navigating Linguistic Representations in Memory

About this Research Topic

Successful speaking and understanding requires mechanisms for reliably encoding structured linguistic representations in memory and for effectively accessing information in those representations later. Studying the time-course of real-time linguistic dependency formation provides a valuable tool for ...

Successful speaking and understanding requires mechanisms for reliably encoding structured linguistic representations in memory and for effectively accessing information in those representations later. Studying the time-course of real-time linguistic dependency formation provides a valuable tool for uncovering the cognitive and neural basis of these mechanisms: linguistic dependencies are subject to diverse syntactic, semantic, and discourse constraints, and the timing and accuracy of their deployment offers insights into the nature of the memory encoding and retrieval mechanisms. Research in this area has made important recent advances due to (i) the testing of explicit memory models, often aided by computational simulations, (ii) the use of diverse time course measures (such as eye-movement monitoring or event-related brain potentials) that in some cases allow investigation at the millisecond level, (iii) investigation of increasingly rich linguistic phenomena and constraints, which allow the probing of specific encoding and retrieval mechanisms, (iv) the use of evidence from languages other than English, taking better advantage of the diversity of linguistic structures in the world's languages, and (v) the extension of this work to diverse populations, such as children, bilinguals, and individuals with neurocognitive disorders.


The aim of this Research Topic is to draw together multiple perspectives on encoding and navigating structured linguistic representations, to highlight important empirical or computational insights, and to identify key priorities for new research in this area. The Research Topic stands at the intersection of psychology, linguistics, and cognitive neuroscience. This is an area where genuine interdisciplinary progress seems realistic: linguistics provides a formally well-characterized system of structural descriptions, routinely used in language comprehension, but which are considerably more complex than the typical items in memory studies. Likewise, researchers in the cognitive psychology tradition contribute explicit models of encoding, retrieval and forgetting, which exceed the sophistication of memory models typically assumed in psycholinguistics and linguistics. We welcome original research articles, reviews, hypothesis and theory articles, methodological articles, and brief commentaries/opinion pieces. Experimental, theoretical, and computational contributions are welcomed.


Some possible topics could include the following. ISSUES AND COGNITIVE PHENOMENA: time course, interference and competition, cognitive predictors of success, learner populations and language impairments, serial search vs. direct access, constraints on retrieval cues, compatibility of linguistic models, grammatical fidelity of the parser. LINGUISTIC PHENOMENA: anaphora (syntactic, semantic, and discourse level constraints), unbounded dependencies, ellipsis, agreement, case, quantification, control, polarity, scope, comparatives. TOOLS: eye-tracking, electrophysiology, self-paced reading, speed-accuracy tradeoff, cross-modal priming, corpus studies, computational modeling, cross-language comparisons.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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