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41.
Pragmatic skills in aging
Diana Mazzarella, Hortense De Bettignies, Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: The use of non-literal language, like verbal irony, is deeply embedded in everyday communication and the ability to comprehend it changes across life. According to the echoic mention theory (Wilson & Sperber, 2012), understanding irony amounts to recognize a dissociative attitude. In the ‘Contextual echo’ example (Figure 1), Cynthia’s utterance “Tonight we gave a superb performance” is an example of irony. Cynthia is expressing a dissociative, mocking attitude towards the blatantly false proposition “Tonight we gave a superb performance”, that echoes the unfulfilled expectation that the concert would go well. The thought that is echoed can be “uttered”, like in the ‘Explicit echo’ example where the ironic utterance echoes the content explicitly expressed by Lea’s preceding statement; but the dissociative attitude can also target some implicitly communicated meaning, like in the ‘Implicated echo’ example, where the ironic utterance echoes the implicature of Lea’s statement, that is that they will sing well. Our first aim is to assess whether the echo’s degree of explicitness influence the processing of irony. Second, since research indicates that older adults sometimes struggle in understanding non-literal statements, like presupposition (Domaneschi & Di Paola 2019) or humor (Bischetti et al. 2019), we want to address the question of whether the processing of irony is more effortful in late adulthood and, if so, which underlying cognitive capacities might be responsible. Data collection is ongoing and the study is pre-registered on OSF (https://osf.io/94mys/?view_only=51fecb7acd694eca9b6b4d08cca02a26). Methods: The experiment requires the participation of 25 young adults (18-29-year-old) and 25 older adults (65-74-year-old). Participants will be administered a series of standardized tests to assess a) ToM (Faux Pas test) b) WM (Alpha span test) c) Autistic Quotient. The experimental study is a self-paced reading task. Each participant will be presented with stories adapted from the material of Spotorno & Noveck (2014): 15 ironic stories (5 with contextual echo, 5 with implicated echo and 5 with explicit echo), 5 literal stories, 10 decoys and 20 fillers (in a randomized order). Participants answer a yes/no comprehension question at the end of each story. An example of stories is given in Figure 1. Predictions: We expect overall slower reading time for ironic statements compared to literal ones and greater difficulties in the older adults group for ironic statements. We predict that our manipulation of the echo will have an effect on the processing of irony, and that reading times will be faster when the echo is explicit compared to when the echo is implicated (a stronger effect for older adults). We also expect that performance in our ToM task will predict reading times for ironic statements, with lower performance resulting in slower reading times. The presence of an implicated echo will exacerbate the difficulties. Moreover, we expect a positive correlation between the Autistic Quotient score and the difference between the reading times in the ironic and literal conditions. Finally, we expect that WM score will predict longer reading times for ironic statements when the implicitness of the echo poses higher cognitive demands. Analysis plan: First, we plan an evaluation of the group differences for neuropsychological data using a Wilcoxon signed- rank test. Then, we will proceed with a Pearson correlation coefficient test and analysis of variance to understand the relationship between the different measures (Clark, et al. 2010). The principal component analysis will be used to further assess their relationship. To understand the effect of the predictors on the reading time we will run a (Generalized) Linear Mixed-Effects Model with reading time as response variable, (Age Group x Type x Echo) as categorical predictors, test scores of neuropsychological data as continuous (or ordinal) predictors, and subject ID and items as random effects. All relevant interactions (both fixed and random) will also be assessed. The models will be fitted in R using the ‘lme4’ package (Bates et al. 2015). The (G)LMM will be simplified by removing one non-significant interaction at a time (and then, possibly non-significant main effects) on the basis of the Analysis of Deviance (LR Tests), until the optimal model is reached.
Keywords: irony, processing, aging
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 21; Downloads: 1
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42.
A group of researchers is/are testing agreement with pseudopartitives
M. Rita Manzini, Ludovico Franco, Greta Mazzaggio, Francesca Foppolo, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Keywords: pseudopartitives, agreement attraction, agreement
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 21; Downloads: 1
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43.
Explicit gender stereotyping in bilingualism
Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: A gender stereotype is a mental representation related to gender, according to which certain characteristics are attributed without direct experience (Allport 1954). Many ordinary words present a negative connotation when applied to women compared to men (Lakoff 1973). Do linguistic stimuli influence our bias towards gender stereotypes? We want to exploit the foreign language effect (FLE) to see whether explicit linguistic gender stereotypes are reduced in a second language (L2) compared to a first language (L1). We asked Italian native speakers (213), English native speakers (105) and Italian/English bilinguals (192) to evaluate words as neuter, masculine or feminine. We presented a total of 58 words divided into four categories: 14 Power words vs. 14 Weak words and 15 Warm words vs. 15 Cold words. As expected, overall, participants judged Power words much more masculine than Weak words and Cold words much more masculine than Warm words (Rudman et al. 2001). Running a two-way MANOVA (Group*Gender), there was a statistically significant effect of group for Weak words and of Gender for both Weak words and Warm words. Post-hoc analyses revealed that L2 participants behave differently from the L1 ones, with lower masculine scores for Power words, lower feminine scores for Weak words and Warm words. We demonstrated that when presented with words in a L2 participants are less prone to judge them in a gender-biased way. Our results seem to confirm the FLE: a L2 might trigger cognitive and emotional distance, leading to a lesser gender-biased semantic behavior and language might (mildly) affect how we perceive reality. The take home message is that linguistic behavior might affect our inner beliefs and, thus, how women are represented in everyday language should reflect better equality standards. Gender- free language policies (e.g., gender-neutral language) might be useful in the long run.
Keywords: linguistic sexism, gender, stereotype, psycholinguistics, bilingualism
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 15; Downloads: 1
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44.
Does irony understanding decline with age?
Diana Mazzarella, Hortense De Bettignies, Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: The use of non-literal language is deeply embedded in everyday communication and the ability to comprehend it changes across life. Research indicates that older adults sometimes struggle in understanding pragmatic aspects of language, such as presupposition (Domaneschi & Di Paola 2019), humor (Bischetti et al. 2019) or sarcasm (Phillips et al. 2015). The present study aims at broadening our understanding of these age-related changes by focusing on irony understanding. To understand irony (e.g., ‘The weather is great!’ uttered under a pouring rain), one needs to recognize that the speaker is expressing a dissociative attitude towards a proposition that is blatantly irrelevant or false, which echoes an attributed thought or statement (e.g., the proposition ‘The weather is great’ attributed to the mistaken weather forecaster). Previous research shows that the ability to process irony is closely related to Theory-of-Mind (ToM) and working memory (WM). As there is evidence of an age-related decline in both cognitive abilities, this decline may impact irony understanding in late adulthood. In our ongoing study, we test the effect of age on irony-processing by comparing self-paced reading times of ironic and literal statements across two age groups (young adults: 19-25 yo and older adults: 65-74 yo). Crucially, we manipulate the degree of explicitness of the statement echoed by the ironic speaker. We predict that the difference between the reading times for ironic and literal statements will be modulated by age. Moreover, we predict that reading times will be faster when the echo is explicit compared to when the echo is implicated and that this effect will be stronger for older adults. Finally, we expect that ToM and WM will both be significant predictors and that WM will play a crucial role when the implicitness of the echo poses higher cognitive demands
Keywords: irony, aging, cognitive decline, experimental pragmatics, processing
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 23; Downloads: 1
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45.
What a pro-drop language can tell us about pronouns' use in high-functioning ASD children
Greta Mazzaggio, Greta Mazzaggio, 2019, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Background. Traditionally, pragmatic abilities are thought to be impaired in ASD and this is attributed to an impairment of Theory of Mind (ToM). Yet, a clear characterization of pragmatic impairments in ASD and, particularly, in High Functioning Autism (HFA) is still lacking. Recently, the traditional view has been mitigated by the finding that some pragmatic phenomena (e.g., scalar implicatures) are partly preserved in HFA. What about Indirect Speech Acts? The picture is fragmented. On the one hand, some studies suggest that HFAs perform well on conventionalised indirect requests (Paul & Cohen, 1985); on the other, some studies report HFAs’ difficulties in explaining why indirect requests are used in a given context (MacKay & Shaw, 2005). However, following the traditional view, one would expect ASD population to experience difficulties with indirect speech acts. Beyond this, it is a shared idea that typical subjects show more difficulties with indirect speech acts than conventionalized indirect requests (Clark, 1979; Clark & Lucy, 1975) Kissine et al. (2015) tested indirect speech acts comprehension in HFAs and typically developing (TD) children. In a 3-pronged semi-structured task involving Mr. Potato Head, they found that HFAs performed better than TDs and concluded that indirect requests understanding may be preserved in HFA. However, this study compared TDs and HFAs at very different age ranges (TDs: 2;7-to-3;6 years; HFAs: 7-to-12 years) and only assumed a homogeneous development of ToM, given that no measure for children’s ToM skills and general cognitive functioning was collected. As such, it is unclear whether the HFAs’ better performance reflects age group-related differences rather than genuine speech acts comprehension in autism. Here, we further explore the hypothesis that indirect requests may be preserved/compromised in autism by comparing HFA and TD participants matched for age in a semi-structured task. We also assess children’s linguistic and ToM skills, to investigate whether such cognitive functions predict indirect requests comprehension. Methods. 43 Italian children were tested: 14 HFA children [MA = 10,6; SD = 1.17; 2f] and 26 age-matched TD children [MA = 11.03; SD = 0.61; 9f]. To test indirect speech acts understanding, we designed a task in which children were first presented with the drawing of a farm showing several animals and objects; then, while still looking at the drawing, they were asked some questions about the drawing (N. 24). The goal was to answer the questions in order to help the experimenter recreating the drawing. Questions were presented in 3 conditions: Direct (DIR: Is there a bunny in the farm?), Indirect (IND: I don’t remember if there is a bunny in the farm) and Highly Indirect (HIND: It is hard to remember whether there is a bunny in the farm). This generated 3 levels of the indirectness of the request (Direct, Indirect, Highly Indirect), which involved increasing processing efforts. Children’s accuracy to target questions was collected. After the indirect speech acts task, we administered the BVL test (morphosyntactic abilities) and 2 ToM tests (1st and 2nd order ToM). Results. Data were analysed with binomial logistic regression models. We analysed (i) whether children’s speech acts understanding varies depending on the indirectness of the request (i.e., DIR, IND, HIND) and on Group (i.e., TD vs. ASD); and (ii) whether this ability is predicted by their linguistic and ToM skills. Table 1 reports the accuracy rates in the speech act task as well as the BVL and ToM tests scores. (i) Accuracy in Speech Acts. Children’s accuracy significantly differed depending on condition only (Condition: p<.0001). Importantly, children performed significantly worse with indirect and highly indirect requests than with direct requests (DIR vs. IND: p< .005; DIR vs. HIND: p< .0001; IND vs. HIND: p=n.s.). (ii) Predictors. Both children’s linguistic and ToM skills significantly predicted their accuracy, as revealed by a significant positive correlation between accuracy in speech acts task and the scores in BVL (p<.05; β=4.78) and ToM tests (1st order ToM: p<.05; β=1.59; 2nd order ToM: p<.05; β=2.71). Interestingly, a significant negative correlation also emerged between (i) children’s BVL scores and their accuracy to HIND (p<.05; β=-0.16); and (ii) children’s scores in the 2nd order ToM test and their accuracy in both Indirect and HIND (Cond Indirect X 2nd order ToM: p<.05, β = -2.55; Cond HIND X 2nd order ToM: p<.05, β = - 3.04) (see Fig 1). Conclusion. These data support three main results. First, in line with previous studies on adults (Clark & Lucy, 1975; Coulson & Lovett, 2010), both TDs and HFAs exhibit more difficulties understanding indirect - and highly indirect - than direct requests (i.e., effect of condition). Second, both ToM and morphosyntactic abilities seem to predict the ability to understand speech acts: participants with better morphosyntactic and ToM skills also exhibited a better understanding of speech acts (i.e., positive correlations with the BVL and ToM test scores), thus suggesting that the better the linguistic and ToM abilities the better children’s understanding of speech acts. However, third, this general pattern seems to be influenced by the indirectness of the request. In fact, participants with better morphosyntactic and 1st order ToM abilities still performed lower with highly indirect requests than direct and indirect ones (i.e, negative correlations). Similarly, the better 2nd order ToM the better speech acts understanding, but still this was more the case with direct requests than indirect and highly indirect requests (i.e., negative correlations). Overall, this suggests that the cognitive functions under scrutiny likely enhance children’s speech acts understanding, but the level of indirectness of the request might involve these functions to different extents, at least in the age-range targeted here. To the best of our knowledge, though still preliminary, this is first evidence of the cognitive functions involved in indirect speech acts comprehension in typical and atypical development. It might be worth exploring further the possibility that ToM is more prominently involved than linguistic abilities. Finally, differently from Kissine et al. (2015), we observed no significant accuracy differences between TDs and HFAs. This result deserves further clarifications. However, two tentative interpretations can be outlined. First, contra Kissine et al. (2015), when matched for age, HFAs are not more facilitated in understanding indirect speech acts than TDs. Second, the sample of HFA participants is still too narrow to make any appreciable difference emerge. We are collecting more data to cast light on this.We tested 26 Italian children with ASD (mean age: 87.1 mo.) and a control group of 35 typically developing (TD) children (mean age: 65.5 mo.), matched for syntactic abilities using a standard Italian assessment, the BVL 4-12 (Marini, Marotta, Bulgheroni, & Fabbro, 2015). 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person subject pronouns were elicited in focus position as well as in conjunction with a verb. Children’s theory of mind ability (Sullivan, Zaitchik, & Tager-Flusberg, 1994; Wellman & Liu, 2004), nonverbal intelligence (Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices; Belacchi, Scalisi, Cannoni, & Cornoldi, 2008), lexical knowledge (Marini et al., 2015), and comprehension of 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns were also tested. Pronoun comprehension was at ceiling in both groups (TD = 97.1%, ASD = 100%). However, the groups differed in their production of 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd person pronouns (Figure 1), with TD children producing the correct forms significantly more often than the children with ASD (1st- person: TD 92.9%; ASD 72.2%; U = 588.5; p = .006; 2nd-person: TD 97.1%; ASD 76%; U = 590.5; p = .003; 3rd-person: TD 100%; ASD 93.5%; U = 525; p = .02). When eliciting pronouns in isolation (focus position), children with ASD were more likely than TD children to produce their own name rather than a 1st-person pronoun (χ2 (1) = 5.34, p = .02). On the pronoun-verb elicitation task, children with ASD omitted optional subject pronouns significantly less often than TD children (null 1st-person: χ2 (1) = 7.58, p < .01; null 2nd-person: χ2 (1) = 8.43, p < .01). With regard to verb inflections, children with ASD produced a number of different verb forms (e.g., verbs in the infinitive, 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person singular forms). Finally, a Pearson partial correlation analysis (controlling for age) revealed that for both groups, linguistic abilities were the best predictors of pronoun mastery (ASD: 1st-person pronoun and syntactic abilities, r = .390, p = .05; 2nd-person pronoun and lexicon abilities, r = .406, p = .04. TD: 1st-person pronoun and syntactic abilities, r = .446, p = .008). In line with at least three other studies on American and British children (Jordan, 1989; Lee, Hobson, & Chiat, 1994; Shield, Meier, & Tager-Flusberg, 2015), Italian children with ASD produced their own name rather than the 1st-person subject pronoun more often than TD children. However, children with ASD were more likely than TD children to produce subject pronouns in non-obligatory contexts, such as when the subject can be inferred from the verb. This pattern suggests that Italian children with ASD are generally able to acquire and use pronominal forms, but struggle with understanding when and where to use them appropriately, pointing to underlying challenges with pragmatics.
Keywords: indirect speech acts, indirect requests, autism developmental disorders
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 18; Downloads: 1
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46.
Šuklje
2020, interview

Keywords: vinarstvo
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 17; Downloads: 0
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47.
Indirect speech acts in high functioning autism
Greta Mazzaggio, Simona Di Paola, Eleonora Marocchini, Filippo Domaneschi, 2019, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Few works have addressed the processing of indirect requests in High-Functioning Autism (HFA), and results are conflicting. Some studies report HFA individuals’ difficulties in indirect requests comprehension; others suggest that it might be preserved in HFA. Furthermore, the role of Theory of Mind in understanding indirect requests is an open issue. The goal of this work is twofold: first, assessing whether comprehension of indirect requests for information is preserved in HFA; second, explor- ing whether mind-reading skills predict this ability. We tested a group of (n = 14; 9–12 years) HFA children and two groups of younger (n = 19; 5–6 years) and older (n = 28; 9–12 years) typically developing (TD) children in a semi-structured task involving direct, indirect and highly indirect requests for information. Results suggested that HFA can understand indirect and highly indirect requests, as well as TD children. Yet, while Theory of Mind skills seem to enhance older TD children under- standing, this is not the case for HFA children. Therefore, interestingly, they could rely on different interpretative strategies
Keywords: indirect speech act, indirect requests, theory of mind, autism developmental disorders, experimental pragmatics
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 18; Downloads: 1
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48.
The production and comprehension of pronouns and verb inflections by Italian children with ASD
Aaron Shield, Greta Mazzaggio, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Pronoun difficulties have long been a key feature in defining autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Most studies to-date have been conducted in English. Italian is a language in which subject pronouns are optional but verbs obligatorily exhibit person-referencing morphology. This study is the first to investigate the pronominal abilities of Italian children with ASD. We tested 26 Italian children with ASD and 35 typically developing (TD) children, matched for syntactic abilities. Pronouns were elicited in focus position and in conjunction with a verb. Children’s theory of mind, nonverbal intelligence, lexical knowledge, and pronoun comprehension were also tested. TD children produced the correct forms of 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd person pronouns significantly more often than the children with ASD, who were more likely to produce their own name rather than a pronoun. Children with ASD omitted optional subject pronouns significantly less often than TD children. Our data suggest that Italian children with ASD are generally able to acquire and use pronominal forms, but struggle with understanding when and where to use them appropriately, pointing to underlying challenges with pragmatics.
Keywords: pronouns, pronoun reversal, autism developmental disorders
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 15; Downloads: 1
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49.
The case of scalar implicature processing
Penka Stateva, Anne Cheylus, Jean-Baptiste van der Henst, Mélody Darblade, Chiara Caretta, Anne Colette Reboul, Greta Mazzaggio, 2019, published scientific conference contribution abstract

Abstract: Implicatures like ‘Some politicians are smart’ (interpreted as ‘Some but not all politicians are smart’) are defined scalar implicatures. A heated linguistic debate has focused on how we derive those implicatures: some authors consider the computational process as linguistic in nature (Levinson, 2000), others as pragmatic in nature (Sperber & Wilson, 1995). A growing body of research, prompted by pioneering work by Bott and Noveck (2004), focused on the computational cost related with the computation of scalar implicatures. The present study addresses such topic through the use of different experimental techniques. With Experiment 1 (N = 57) we replicated the third experiment of Bott and Noveck (2004), the first study that identified a cost related to a pragmatic response. With Experiment 2 (N = 58), using a pseudo-word paradigm, we excluded the possibility that the computational cost is due to an experimental artifact, such as an increased difficulty in moving up in the conceptual hierarchy (e.g., ‘Some elephants are mammals’) than in moving down (e.g. ‘Some mammals are elephants’). In Experiment 3 (N = 54), with a Sentence Evaluation Task, we collected reading times, reaction times and eye gaze data. Results showed that the cost of the computation disappears when there is contextual support. Overall, our results seem to support the idea that scalar implicatures are not automatically computed with context playing an important role.
Keywords: scalar implicatures, eye-tracking, experimental pragmatics, reaction times
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 19; Downloads: 1
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50.
L'uso dell'inglese L2 e la correzione degli errori in due lezioni alla scuola media
Greta Mazzaggio, 2012, undergraduate thesis

Abstract: In our globalized and multi-cultural society, communicating between different nationalities becomes more and more important. Language remains a paramount aspect of cultural dialogue and English as lingua franca is the undisputed medium of communication, taught everywhere at an early age. In Italy English is taught since elementary school, sometimes even in kindergarten, when children’s linguistic abilities are stronger; however, teachers usually fail to make the most out of such abilities, as their lessons are primarily in Italian and the use of English is limited to some words or expressions targeted by exercises. With such an input, the children’s progress is likely to be limited. My experiment attempts to assess the interaction student-teacher in terms of use of L2 in class by means of a comparative analysis of two middle-school lessons taught by the same teacher to different age groups. Moreover, teacher’s correction techniques will be assessed in the light of frameworks established by scholars in this field, where the positive value of errors in the development of children interlanguage emerges with clarity. Since feedback is an essential part of education, special attention was paid to the teacher’s behavior in dealing with student’s mistakes. Two entire lessons were recorded and transcribed, counting the numbers of words and turns uttered respectively by students and the teacher. When collected and analyzed, such data exhibited both similarities and differences between classes. On the teacher’s side, both lessons revealed that she adopts a rather conservative style of teaching, with limited interaction. As a result, the lessons are to be considered teacher-oriented, for the distribution of turns and the amount of words exchanged; conducted along the textbook’s lines, they offer very limited room for creative language production. Moreover, the teacher’s tendency to steadily correct the students, with the only exception of pronunciation errors, impairs student’s communicative fluency at large. However, a certain progress may be observed between the 1st and 3rd class in both the increased command of English and the number of errors, decreased by almost 50%. In both cases, though, the production of English sentences is creative only for a minimal part, as English is often read and lessons are mostly based on the correction of homework and written exercises. In conclusion, the experiment offers data that confirm several assumptions of contemporary linguistics, particularly in the field of Second Language Acquisition and Error Analysis.
Keywords: Second Language Acquisition, Error Analysis, Italian, English as L2
Published: 22.09.2021; Views: 15; Downloads: 0
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