The Importance of semantics and syntax in sentence recall

Length: 14 Pages 3481 Words

Abstract This study was set to examine the importance of semantics and syntax in the brain’s ability to process and correctly recall content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) in sentences (Miller, Isard 1963). The sample involved 140 first year psychology students attending a compulsory laboratory at the Australian National University. The experiment was conducted similarly to that of the Miller and Isard study (1963), in which subjects were presented with 60 different sentences. 20 of which were normal grammatical sentences (normal); 20 were semantically anomalous sentences that were syntactically sound (sem-syn+), and 20 were syntactically invalid sentences that were also semantically incoherent (syn-sem-). In attempts to support the results concluded from the Miller and Isard (1963) study a memory task was used that required subjects to accurately recall the constitute words in a sentence a short period after they were initially exposed. This task tested participant’s memory functions and recall abilities whilst supporting the argument that claimed when sentences are both semantically and syntactically sound, the content words that make up the sentence will be recalled after a short duration of time more accur Continue...


Another problem is background interference noise from the other participants. A magazine prevented the ferocious legal earrings. In the present research experiment the objective was to support the findings of the Miller and Isard study which reported that when linguistic rules are not being violated the subjects ability to accurately recall sentences will be more likely to occur. They are supported by Susan Edward's argument that states that "structures capture the relationship between constituents of a sentence, and that these structures help understand the system and processes that control how morphology is employed...and makes some sense of how language breaks down, to see patterns and relationships as well as dissociations (Edwards, 2001, pp. It is only when studies are conducted, and results are confirmed that we begin to deductively reason the cause and effect of the human language processing. ately than when the words are strung together in an ungrammatical fashion. ungrammatical sentences would be more difficult to repeat than sentences that grammatically followed syntactic and semantic rules (Miller Isard, 1963). It was hypothesized that if subjects were exposed to sentences varying in grammatical coherency, and then asked to recall them after a short period of time, then the sentences that were grammatically sound would be recalled more accurately than the sentences that contained linguistic violations. For each condition the average dropped considerably as the sentence type lost its grammatical validity. When the listener is unable to clearly comprehend the phrase structuring of a sentence, their ability to use their knowledge of English syntax to reduce their perceptual decisions is gone (Miller Isard, 1963). Once this task had been completed participants then calculated the means, standard deviations, and percentages for the class as a whole. van Lancker poses the argument that although there is definitive role of syntactic structure in language processing, what actually gives a sentence its uniqueness and comprehensibility is due to semantics (van Lancker, 2001).