Over 30 years ago, one of my graduate school mentors, Phil Gough, made the following observation about language comprehension:
The problem of when and how a sentence is understood, is in my view, the central problem of experimental psycholinguistics. Its solution, in the form of a machine that could understand sentences, would, at the least, earn its inventor an invaluable patent. But while a machine which could understand sentences, would be something to marvel at, a person who could do only that would not even make good company.
Over three decades later, I continue to share Gough’s appreciation, amazement, and curiosity. How do we comprehend language? Like Phil Gough, I’ve approached this question as an experimental psycholinguist, but I’ve approached this question in a somewhat different way than most psycholinguists. What I’ve tried to do is to identify some general cognitive processes and mechanisms that underlie language comprehension and comprehension in general. I’ve identified a few of those processes and mechanisms in a framework I call the Structure Building Framework.
You can read more about the Structure Building Framework in the “Papers” section of this site, and more specifically, in the “Books” section (where you’ll find a synopsis of my first monograph, Language Comprehension as Structure Building). The reports of other empirical investigations into language comprehension can also be found in the “Papers” section. Finally, many of the laboratory stimuli that were used in our language comprehension research can be found in the “Experimental Stimuli” section.
So, I welcome you to explore around.
– Morton Ann Gernsbacher