Lsci 259: Language Processing—Review Papers

For graduate students enrolled in Lsci 259, you will produce two Review Papers in which you summarize, evaluate, and propose extensions to published research papers on language processing.

Format requirements

6-8 pages double-spaced, font size 11, default margins. LaTeX is strongly preferred.

Working together

You may work in groups of up to two for this requirement, turning in a jointly written writeup. If you do so, make clear what the contributions of each author are. Author contributions should be roughly equal in workload. At the end of your writeup, you should include a one-sentence-long author contribution statement in which you describe what each person contributed. For example, if Alice wrote sections 1-3 and Bob wrote sections 4-5 then the author contribution statement should say that.

In all collaborations, both collaboration members will receive the same grade.


You will write about one research paper selected from a list that I will make available. Multiple people can work on the same paper.

With the instructor's permission, you may write about a research paper other than one on the list.


The paper should consist of these five sections. I've given suggested lengths for each section, but the actual appropriate lengths will depend on what paper you are writing about. For example, if a paper has a complex methodology, then the Method section might need to be longer.

  • Introduction. (~2 pages) Summarize the research question and why it is interesting to the study of language processing. Summarize the paper's theory or model and its predictions.

    For the first Review Paper, you only need to talk about the article you are focusing on. In the second Review Paper, you should briefly describe other related work, at least two papers.

  • Methods (~1 page) Describe the experiments or studies that the researchers conducted, with a focus on what was manipulated (independent variables) and what was measured (dependent variables).
  • Results (~1 page) Describe the results of these experiments or studies and how the researchers interpreted them.
  • Discussion (~2 pages) Critically evaluate the paper: Is the theory sound? Do the methods and results provide evidence that truly raises your belief that the theory is true? What are the limitations of the researchers' theory and method? Can you think of other explanations for their results?
  • Extension (~2 pages) What further work would you propose to test the researchers' theory, or another theory that you propose? Describe some new predictions from the theory, why these predictions are worth testing, and how your proposed experiment would test those predictions.

In addition to these sections you should include an author contribution statement (if you are collaborating with another student) and a list of references in APA style to all research articles mentioned in the paper. These do not contribute to the page limit.


Below is a list of papers you may choose from, along with brief descriptions of the papers and links to the text. The papers go in an order that roughly follows the order in which the necessary background will be covered in class.

Citation Title Description
Regier & Xu (2017) The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and inference under uncertainty Can Bayesian inference explain apparent effects of language upon thought?
Feldman & Griffiths (2009) The influence of categories on perception: Explaining the perceptual magnet effect as optimal statistical inference How can we model the perceptual magnet using Bayesian inference?
Poppels & Levy (2016) Structure-sensitive noise inference: Coprehenders expect exchange errors What kinds of errors do people expect in noisy-channel sentence comprehension?
Ryskin et al. (2018) Comprehenders model the nature of noise in the environment Do people expect certain speakers to make certain errors in noisy-channel sentence comprehension?
Gibson et al. (2013) A noisy-channel account of crosslinguistic word-order variation Can communication in a noisy channel explain how people use gesture to describe events?
Gibson et al. (2015) A rational inference approach to aphasic language comprehension Can we understand language impairment in people with brain damage using noisy channel models?
Gibson, Tan et al. (2017) Don't underestimate the benefits of being misunderstood Can noisy-channel inference explain how we interpret foreign-accented speech?
Gibson, Futrell et al. (2017) Color naming across languages reflects color use What can information theory tell us about words for colors across languages?
Seyfarth (2014) Word informativity influences acoustic duration Can efficient communication explain which words are pronounced longer or shorter?
Piantadosi et al. (2012) The communicative function of ambiguity in language Is ambiguity in language a consequence of efficiency in communication?
Mahowald et al. (2018) Word forms are structured for efficient use Can efficient communication explain why some words are similar to other words?
Dye et al. (2017) Alternative solutions to a language design problem: The role of adjective and gender marking in efficient communication Can grammatical gender be explained in terms of efficient communication?
Zaslavsky et al. (2018) Efficient compression in color naming and its evolution An information-theoretic model of color categories across languages
Trueswell et al. (1994) Semantic influences on parsing: Use of thematic role information in syntactic ambiguity resolution Do people use world knowledge to immediately resolve syntactic ambiguity?
Chambers et al. (2004) Actions and affordances in syntactic ambiguity resolution Does practical knowledge guide syntactic ambiguity resolution in a real world task?
Huang & Snedeker (2009) Online interpretation of scalar implicatures: Insight into the semantics-pragmatics interface Do people immediately integrate social pragmatic information for ambiguity resolution?
Degen & Tanenhaus (2016) Availability of alternatives and the processing of scalar implicatures: A visual world eye-tracking study What determines whether people immediately integrate social pragmatic information for ambiguity resolution?
Kamide, Scheepers et al. (2003) Integration of syntactic and semantic information in predictive processing: Cross-linguistic evidence from German and English Do people predict upcoming words based on case marking in German?
Kamide, Altmann et al. (2003) The time-course of prediction in incremental sentence processing: Evidence from anticipatory eye movements Do people predict upcoming verbs based on nouns in Japanese?
Van Schijndel & Linzen (2020) Single-stage prediction models do not explain the magnitude of syntactic disambiguation difficulty Does surprisal really explain garden path effects in reading times?
Grodner & Gibson (2005) Consequences of the serial nature of linguistic input for sentential complexity Is there evidence for dependency locality effects in reading times for object-extracted relative clauses?
Vasishth et al. (2010) Short-term forgetting in sentence comprehension: Crosslinguistic evidence from verb-final structures Is there a structural forgetting effect in German like there is in English?
Frank et al. (2016) Cross-Linguistic Differences in Processing Double-Embedded Relative Clauses: Working-Memory Constraints or Language Statistics? Do Dutch speakers of English show English-like patterns in structural forgetting?
Kurumada & Jaeger (2015) Communicative efficiency in language production: Optional case-marking in Japanese Do people choose to include or omit grammatical markers in Japanese to increase efficiency?
Fedzechkina et al. (2016) Balancing effort and information transmission during language acquisition: Evidence from word order and case marking Do people have a bias to learn efficient languages?
Fedzechkina et al. (2017) Human Information Processing Shapes Language Change Do people have a bias to learn languages with short dependencies?

Author: Richard Futrell

Created: 2020-10-14 Wed 12:35