Language Experience Drives Language Understanding
The language environment is critical for language learning and vocabulary growth in children and in predicting the difficulty of processing words and sentences in adults. However, psycholinguists have traditionally measured language experience by aggregating over populations. In this talk, I will share experimental evidence suggesting that an individual’s specific experience with language is linked to their specific preferences for different constructions. By using NLP tools to analyze the linguistic properties of participants’ favorite websites, we compare effects of internet reading habits to effects of cognitive factors such as working memory and inhibitory control on reading difficulty. Consistent with constraint-based and Bayesian models of language comprehension, we find that prior experience with language is an important predictor of language comprehension.