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Did the dog bite the man or was the dog bitten by the man?

People sometimes fail to notice that the second sentence actually means the opposite of the first: our comprehension abilities may not be as good as one assumes they are. Research has shown that implausible sentences with more complex structures are sometimes misunderstood in favour of the more plausible option.

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The prediction paradox

In everyday language, you can sometimes anticipate a word so clearly that you can almost hear it before it has been said – for instance, “it’s raining cats and (…)”. In such cases, your mind seems to automatically fill in the blank. Intuitively, these mental predictions might seem important to help us understand language. But, in the language sciences, the role of prediction in language has always been controversial. To see why, we first need to understand a peculiar property of language itself.

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Are we egocentric when we speak?

In a conversation, we often take into account the knowledge of the other person. You will probably talk differently, less technically, to your family about your work or studies than to your colleagues. But do we take others into account in every situation? And do some people do this more often than others?

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Finding the positives in every negative

“To be, or not to be?” Who among us a few months ago could have dreamed the famous fictitious ruminations of that great Dane would carve themselves into our collective realities. Negativity is inescapable in the face of a global pandemic, and in these times, the famous question itself becomes inescapable. From the responsible citizen agonizing over whether or not to attend a social gathering, to the doctors and nurses deciding who gets the last ventilator, and who does not.

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Children’s language ability is derived from their parents who are good at communication

There is growing evidence to support that early childhood experience influences a child’s language comprehension and production ability by shaping how his/her brain grows and develops. It is important to understand which aspects of childhood experience are critical for a child’s language development.

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Improvising Babbler

Arguably, we are all masters of our first language(s). In many domains, improvisation is the showcase of ultimate mastery, no? Can we go the other way around and say that when using language we are constantly improvising? The author of this blog post certainly found this idea far-fetched at first. Here, we try to unpack the commonalities between musical improvisation and every-day speaking. Read along and learn what Johann Sebastian Bach, Anthony Hopkins, and Michael Jordan have in common.

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Can language make us see?

Can language make us see?

Imagine an elephant. One of those African bush elephants. Large ears covering its shoulders; a powerful trunk falling to the ground; a pair of magnificent ivory tusks.

Were you able to see it? If so, it is tempting to jump to a conclusion: Yes, language makes us see things we are not currently perceiving through our eyes. But does your mental picture of an elephant have anything to do with real vision? Here’s the answer.

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Do impossible languages exist?

At first glance, the question in the title might seem like a paradox. If the answer is ‘yes’, and impossible languages do exist, then those languages aren’t impossible at all. However, the title aims to address a different question: is there a limit to the variety of languages that there could be? In other words, can we think of a language that will never be spoken by humans? Read more

Can Language Make the Invisible Visible?

We are used to thinking that what we see accurately represents our environment, give or take an occasional lapse of attention. We talk about eyes as being windows to the outside world, allowing us to ‘see reality’. However, research has recently shown that the whole picture is not quite so simple. As it turns out, the way we see our surroundings is very much shaped by our knowledge, experience, and expectations. And one of the things that seems to have the biggest impact on our perception is actually our language.

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