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The Mechanisms of Sentence Production – Based on Evidence from Chinese Native Speakers

PhD student: Qi Zhang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller (LUCL) & Prof. Dr. Christian Dobel (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

This project focuses on the mechanisms of sentence production. The present study investigates the influence of lexico-syntactic features on the flexibility of sentence planning scope. Adopting a picture description task, naming latencies and ERPs will be recorded to explore if the flexibility of planning scope is related to whether or not the nouns use the same classifiers.

Language production

atheme1PhD student: Yufang Wang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller (LUCL) & Dr. Jurriaan Witteman (LUCL)

Referring to a name of an object in an appropriate form is the basis of a successful expression. My work is mainly to address two different models: the feedforward spreading activation and competition model (LRM) and the Independent Network model (INm). My research goal is to narrow the gap between the LRM and INm in perspective of differences in languages.

Morphological Encoding in Mandarin Chinese: evidence form Chinese disyllabic compound words

PhD student: Jiaqi Wang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller (LUCL) & Dr. Rinus Verdonschot (MPI Nijmegen)

This project will investigate how Chinese disyllabic (bi-morphemic) compound words are stored in the mental lexicon, that is, whether compounds are stored in a decomposed or in a full-listing way. Experiments employ the long-lag priming paradigm and manipulate word and morpheme frequency. 

Cross-linguistic interference and transfer in the processing of grammatical gender and classifier

atheme1PhD student: Jin Wang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller (LUCL) & Dr. Jurriaan Witteman (LUCL)

I'm working on the project “Cross-linguistic interference and transfer in the processing of grammatical gender and classifier” which investigates the factors that influence Chinese-German/German-Chinese second language learners when processing lexical-syntactic features. This study aims to explore (1) the differences between native speakers and second-language learners; (2) the acquisition of lexical-syntactic features in the second language when the language type differs significantly; and (3) the effect of language proficiency level on acquisition. The project uses research paradigms from psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics. Behavioural and EEG data will be analysed to explore these questions.

Picture reference: Kutas M, Hillyard SA. Reading senseless sentences: brain potentials reflect semantic incongruity. Science. 1980 Jan 11;207(4427):203-5. doi: 10.1126/science.7350657. PMID: 7350657.

A Comparative Study on the Serial and Parallel Mode in Comprehending Chinese and English Sentences by Using ERP Technology

atheme1PhD student: Xuan Tang
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Niels O. Schiller (LUCL)

My project is to investigate the comprehension mechanism of Chinese and English phrases by L1 users through ERP technology and to find out the differences and similarities of the two languages’ comprehension processes.

The Representation and Processing of Chinese Verbal Classifiers

atheme1PhD student: Yanan Wang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels O. Schiller (LUCL) & Prof. Dr. Christian Dobel (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

The production of spoken words can be seen as a three-stage process, among which lexical selection receives the most attention. There are still some controversies about the realization of lemma retrieval in this process, and grammatical gender can be used to explore lemma retrieval since it is a lexico-syntactic feature that is stored in the lemma level. Different from Indo-European languages, Mandarin Chinese does not have the grammatical gender but adopts a classifier system that is equivalent to the grammatical gender mechanism. In my study, Chinese verbal classifiers will be used to explore whether the selection of lexico-syntactic features is a competitive or automatic process in speech production.

A Psycholinguistic Investigation of Lexico-syntactic Systems in Bilingual Speech Production

atheme1PhD student: Shaoyu Wang
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller (LUCL) & Prof. Dr. Theres Grüter (University of Hawai’i)

This project focuses on the processing of lexical-syntactic features during non-native language production. Specifically speaking, this project investigates the effects of classifiers and grammatical gender in L2 production by testing whether speakers of an L1 with a grammatical gender system are sensitive to the classifier system of the L2 and whether speakers of an L1 with a classifier system are sensitive to the grammatical gender system of the L2.

The graph shows mean voltage amplitudes by classifier congruency for centro-posterior channels (CP1, CP2, CP5, CP6, P3, P4, P7, P8, PO3 and PO4) for a Chinese (L2) picture naming task. The time window of interest from 350 ms to 550 ms is highlighted in grey. Negativity is plotted up.

SpeechView ("SpraakZien")

spraakzienBesides fundamental research, I am also involved in some applied research, such as SpeechView. SpeechView consists of a pair of video glasses connected to a microphone that records the speech output of an interlocutor and transmits it wireless to a computing unit running speech-to-text software.

The converted text is presented in the video glasses where the person wearing the glasses can read what the interlocutor has said. For sudden-deaf or bad-of-hearing people this system improves the intelligibility of speech significantly and can potentially increase their quality of life. 

AThEME Project: Understanding the cognitive consequences of multilingual language comprehension and production

atheme1Postdoc: Bastien Boutonnet
Supervisors: Niels Schiller and Lisa Cheng

Here in Leiden, I am part of the AThEME project studying various facets of being multilingual –a great endeavour! Currently, we are planning to study multilingual interaction with a focus on foreign accent processing. We ask questions such as: Is information delivered in a non-native accent processed differently than when it is delivered in a native accent? Do people behave differently on a series of non-linguistic tasks depending on which of their several languages they use to perform the tasks? Many more will come I’m sure! I would also like to bring my interests in language-perception interactions in multilingual speakers.

Primarily, I am hoping to develop a side of my research (language processing) which has been more of a secondary goal in my previous research. I think being able to see both sides of the coin (how do we “do” language and what language does to us) is essential in order to have a more fine grained understanding of what being multilingual really entails. I am also hoping to develop some of my technical skills by implementing brain imaging techniques such as MRI and structural connectivity. I therefore strongly value collaborations between members of the various institutes and will be more than happy to share what I know and learn from others.


meertaligEstimates state that bi- or multilingualism is presumably the rule rather than the exception. We carried out studies about the activation and representation of sounds from one vs. more language inventories.

For instance, when we read texts in our second language, do we activate sounds and phonological representations of our first language as well? We have been able to show that L2 phonology is active during L1 processing and vice versa. This argues for one large phonological inventory that is non-selectively activated.