Field of Science

Do you speak Japanese?

Do you speak Japanese?

If so, I've got an experiment for you. A while back I presented some results from a project comparing pronoun processing in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Russian. We're also testing Japanese. So if you speak Japanese and have a few minutes, please follow this link. Even better, if you know someone who is a fluent Japanese speaker -- or, even better, a native Japanese speaker, please send him/her the link.

If you speak English -- and you probably do if you're reading this post -- and have never participating in any of my English pronoun experiments, you can follow this link. These experiments usually take less than 5 minutes.

Huh? Pronoun processing?

For those of you wondering what I could possibly be studying, the interesting thing about pronouns is that their meaning changes wildly depending on context. Given the right context, she can refer to any female (and some things that aren't actually female, like ships). That isn't true of proper names (Jane Austen can only be used to refer to one person).

Some theories state that we learn language-specific cues that help us figure out what a given pronoun in a given context means. Other theories state we use general intelligence to pull off the feat. On the second theory, if you use the same contexts in different languages, people should interpret pronouns the same way. On the first theory, that isn't necessarily the case.

(Obviously I'm being cagey here in terms of how exactly we're manipulating context in the experiment, since I don't want to bias any potential participants.)

More posts on pronouns: here, here and here.

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