Workshop in experimental linguistics: from field to lab



Spatial demonstratives – terms including this and that – are among the most common words across all languages. Yet, there are considerable differences between languages in how demonstratives carve up space and the object characteristics they can refer to, challenging the idea that the mapping between spatial demonstratives and the vision and action systems is universal. Overviewing findings from multiple experiments, I show direct parallels between spatial demonstrative usage in English and (non-linguistic) memory for object location, indicating close connections between the language of space and non-linguistic spatial representation. Spatial demonstrative choice in English and immediate memory for object location are affected by a range of parameters – distance, ownership, visibility and familiarity – that are lexicalized in the demonstrative systems of some other languages. The results support a common set of constraints on language used to talk about space and on (non-linguistic) spatial representation itself. While demonstrative systems are not diagnostic of the parameters that affect demonstrative use in a language, demonstrative systems across languages may emerge from basic distinctions in the representation and memory for object location. In turn, these distinctions offer a building block from which non-spatial uses of demonstratives can develop.

In this hands-on seminar we will consider the relative merits of different ways of collecting spatial language data. This will include corpora, comprehension and production experiments, observational studies, and combinations of these. By the end of the seminar, students will be armed with the machinery to make informed decisions about the most appropriate methods to adopt to understanding spatial language semantics.


“You talk like a teacher” – this kind of verdict can be heard when someone formulates their opinions in a somewhat pedagogical manner; hearers assume that the speaker thinks they know better than others. In my talk, I will look more closely at what is revealed about our thinking through the way we speak, through the kinds of words we use, in a specific context. Language reflects thoughts and thought patterns in multiple ways, and certain patterns in language use reflect certain ways of thinking about the world. For instance, why do sailors rarely talk about ‘moving forwards’ the way you would do with a car? And why do musicians frequently use metaphors such as “a wall of sound” or “a forceful entrance” when communicating specific effects? Also, why can we often tell whether a speaker is an expert in the area they talk about? Everyday language is full of features that reveal a lot about who we are – if we pay close attention. Cognitive Discourse Analysis (Tenbrink, 2015; in press) was designed to address these effects systematically. In my talk, I will outline the motivation for this approach through a range of examples like the above, and provide a short introduction to the methodology.

CODA (Tenbrink, 2015; in press) is used to identify linguistic features in discourse that reflect the speaker’s thoughts and concepts. Some aspects of the speaker’s mind, such as the underlying perspective or level of granularity, are typically not expressed directly but can be identified by a closer analysis of how language is used. This become specifically revealing when considering what else could have been said, in terms of a network of options available to the speaker. In this seminar, we will discuss the basic elements and procedures of the method, covering motivation and scope, data collection and content analysis, systematic annotation, and extensions. The seminar will be interactive and invite discussion of the participants’ own projects and ideas.


This lecture provides an introduction on how to conceptualize, design and implement psycholinguistics experiments. The lecture will cover topics including how to select an appropriate method (including associated hardware and software), considerations to keep in mind when designing and creating experimental stimuli, and questions related to item presentation and randomization. We will also talk about things to watch out for as well as common mistakes. The lecture will discuss some of the widely-used experimental methods, including visual world eye-tracking.

In the seminar component, students will have an opportunity to see a demonstration of visual-world eye-tracking.