March 23, 2017 at 530p: Penny Pexman, Ph.D.

I am such a big fan of Professor Pexman's work across so many different domains of semantics and language (e.g., abstract words, sound symbolism).  Professor Pexman's talk is titled:

Lexical-Semantic Processing: New Insights from Scrabble Experts and Megastudies

It is now well established that the process of generating meaning from print varies as a function of both item-level (e.g., word concreteness) and task-level influences (e.g., the particular decision category chosen in a semantic decision task). Yet the mixed findings observed across studies for effects of dimensions like word valence and ambiguity suggest additional unexplained variability in semantic processing. I will explore the possibility that some of that variability might be explained by individual differences in semantic processing, even among skilled readers. This will include studies with participants who have extraordinary lexical knowledge (competitive Scrabble players) and analyses of the Calgary Semantic Decision Project dataset that examine whether semantic processing varies as a function of individual differences even among the standard undergraduate population. Results provide new insights about semantic representation for concrete and abstract words, about the effects of emotion and ambiguity, and are consistent with a dynamic and experience-driven account of semantic processing.


November 14, 2016 at 530p: Chris Westbury, Ph.D.

Chris Westbury is our next speaker.  Chris and I go way back and have published a number of papers together. 

On Quining Semantics: Why we must, and how we might

In his 1988 paper, 'Quining Qualia', the philosopher Dan Dennett coined the term ‘to quine’ (after his mentor Willard Quine) to mean ‘to resolutely deny the existence or importance of something real or significant’. The idea that quining semantics might be either desirable or possible will sound strange to many, but has historical roots going back to Wittgenstein’s (1953) ‘Philosophical Investigations’, which demonstrated how slippery the idea of word meaning is. In this talk I will briefly lay out the argument that lexical semantics cannot be one single thing, and focus on two recent empirical studies looking at two disparate aspects of semantic-like processing: a large-scale study on sound symbolism, and a principal components analysis of Google’s skip-gram matrix that highlights the affective aspect of semantic experience.

April 23, 2015 at 5:30pm: Barbara Malt, PhD

I am delighted to announce that one of my very favorite semantics researchers, Professor Barbara Malt, will be giving our next talk, titled:

Naming and Knowing: Representing the world in language and thought

We're on for 5:30pm on 4/23 (Thursday). If you are interested in attending, please email Jamie Reilly --

April 2014 PSN: Ken McRae, PhD

Ken McRae is our next speaker. Ken will be presenting the following talk:

A computational account of the N400 based on prediction error in an attractor network model of semantic memory

Date:  Thursday April 24, 2014, Time: 530p

Place: My house in Mt Airy -- email for directions.