Xiao Yang

📧 xiaoyang@ku.edu

Department of Linguistics University of Kansas



Research

Work Experience

Code Snippets

CV

I am a PhD student in Department of Linguistics at the University of Kansas. My research focuses on syntax and semantic processing, studying how our mind rapidly and incrementally uses subtle information to construct complex meanings. I use psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic methods to examine the mechanisms for sentences to be comprehended in real time. My research also explores the variability among native speakers, examining the role of a range of individual abilities (such as working memory) in how they impact sentence comprehension. I am experienced in experiment design, data collection, and data analysis, in collaboration with the Neurolinguistics and Language Processing Lab and the Developmental Psycholinguistics Lab at KU.



Funding



Research Projects

Predictive processing of Mandarin relative clauses (NSF-funded dissertation project)

    Mandarin relative clauses present a challenge for processing because they are structurally ambiguous with main clauses, leading to garden-path at the relative clause marker which only appears at the end of this structure. My dissertation thus examines whether providing some linguistic cue would facilitate the parser to predict relative clauses before encountering the marker, using behavioral methods and EEG to study whether the parser utilizes the cue for anticipating the relative clause as reflected in brain activities, and whether predicting this complex structure is modulated by individual differences in linguistic and cognitive abilities.

EEG experiment in the Neurolinguistics lab

    Select publications and presentations:

  • Yang, X., Politzer-Ahles, S., Minai, U., Gabriele, A., & Fiorentino, R. (In prep). Temporal mismatches guide the prediction of Mandarin relative clauses: Evidence from ERPs.

  • Yang, X., Politzer-Ahles, S., Minai, U., Gabriele, A., & Fiorentino, R. (Upcoming, 2020, March). Temporal mismatch guides the prediction of Mandarin relative clauses: Evidence from ERP. Poster Presentation at 33rd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. Virtual Conference. [poster pdf]

  • Yang, X., Politzer-Ahles, S., Minai, U., Gabriele, A., & Fiorentino, R. (2019, October). Temporal mismatches guide the prediction of Mandarin relative clauses: An ERP study. Poster presentation at International Brain and Syntax Think Tank. Evanston, IL. [pdf]

Individual differences in deriving scalar implicature in context

    Pragmatic theories have argued that how likely scalar implicature derived (e.g., interpreting 'some' as implying 'not all') depends on their relevance in broader discourse, but most experimental studies on scalar implicature have ignored discourse context. This study thus examines the role of context by manipulating Question Under Discussion in conversational discourse contexts, and whether deriving context-based interpretations is subject to individual differences in cognitive resources, socio-pragmatic abilities, and language skills.

Did you cut 'some' steaks if you cut 4 out of 4 steaks?

    Select publications and presentations:

  • Yang, X., Minai, U., & Fiorentino, R. (2018). Context-sensitivity and Individual Differences in the Derivation of Scalar Implicature. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:1720. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01720.

  • Yang, X. (2018, January). The Role of Question Under Discussion and Individual Differences in Scalar Implicature (Yujing he geti chayi zai dengji hanyi zhong de zuoyong). Talk at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Fudan University. Shanghai, China.

  • Yang, X., Fiorentino, R., & Minai, U. (2017, March). The role of individual differences in the context-dependent interpretation of 'some'. Poster presented at the 30th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing. Cambridge, MA. [pdf]

Processing tonal alternations in Mandarin Chinese

    Mandarin demonstrates tone sandhi where lexical tones alternate surface phonetic forms depending on their phonological context. This study focuses on the processing of tone 3 sandhi words, where a tone 3 syllable becomes tone 2 when followed by another tone 3 syllable in disyllabic words. The study examines whether the first tone 3 is processed as its underlying form or its surface form, using EEG to examine brain activities for recognizing lexical tones in the presence of alternations.

    Select publications and presentations:

  • Chien, Y.-F., Yang, X., Fiorentino, R., & Sereno, J. (accetped). The Role of Surface and Underlying Forms when Processing Tonal Alternations in Mandarin Chinese: A Mismatch Negativity Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 11:646. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00646

  • Chien, Y.-F., Fiorentino, R., Yang, X., & Sereno, J. (2016). Surface phonetic or underlying phonological representations: A mismatch negativity study of Mandarin tone assimilation. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140(4), pp. 3224-3225.

  • Chien, Y-F., Fiorentino, R., Yang, X., & Sereno, J. (2016, December). Surface phonetic or underlying phonological representations: A mismatch negativity study of Mandarin tone assimilation. Poster presentation at the 5th Joint Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and Acoustical Society of Japan. Honolulu, HI.

Prediction and individual differences in semantic priming

    Word-pair semantic priming typically elicits reduced N400 for semantically related pairs (e.g. shoe-sock compared to wall-sock), but the extent to which it reflects the processor actively predicting an upcoming word remains a matter of debate. This study examines whether this effect is at least in part due to active prediction, by presenting a relatedness cue (20% or 80% related) before each word pair and testing whether N400 reduction is modulated by the cue, while also investigating the role of individual differences in engaging in the prediction.

    Select publications and presentations:

  • Covey, L., Coughlin, C. E., Yang, X., Johnson, A., Siew, C. S. Q., Martinez-Garcia, M. T., & Fiorentino, R. (under revision). An ERP investigation of the role of prediction and individual differences in semantic priming.

  • Covey, L., Coughlin, C., Martinez-Garcia, M., Johnson, A., Yang, X., Siew, C., Major, T., & , Fiorentino, R. (2015, October). An ERP investigation of the role of prediction and individual differences in semantic priming. Poster presented at 7th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language. Chicago, IL.



Work Experience

2019 - 20 Research Assistant, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas
Built behavioral and EEG experiments for an NSF-funded project on processing referential dependencies in native and second language; trained and managed the RA team on data collection and data analysis
2018 - 19 Curriculum Development Project, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas
Redesigned an introductory Neurolinguistics class, adding interactive components and engaging undergraduate students in hands-on lab experience
2017 Research Consultant, Center for Undergraduate Research, University of Kansas
Assisted undergraduate students conducting hands-on research for their capstone projects (for LING420) and incorporating research components into the curriculum
2017 - 18 Instructor, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas
Summer 2018: LING110 Language and Mind
Summer 2017: LING106 Introductory Linguistics
2015 - 18 Guest Lecturer, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas
LING738 / 742 Neurolinguistics I / II
LING106 Introductory Linguistics
LING420 Capstone: Research in Language Science
2014 - 18 Teaching Assistant, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas
LING106 Introductory Linguistics
2015 - 16 Chinese Drill Instructor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Kansas
CHIN204 / 206 Chinese Level II
2013 Teaching Assistant, Linguistics Program, Purdue University
LING521 English Syntax and Syntactic Theory (Grad-level)
2012 - 14 Research Assistant, Purdue Libraries, Purdue University
Information Literacy project (PI: Dr. Clarence Maybee)


Code Snippets

  • R code for batch import stimuli to a Qualtrics survey [Download code] [Link to the project on OSF]

  • Qualtrics is a convenient tool for doing simple web experiments and norming studies, but since it's geared towards business surveys Qualtrics doesn't have lots of experiment-friendly features (e.g., batch-copy stimuli list, set up conditions, etc.). This means that putting your 80+ sentences into a Qualtrics survey entails a lot of tedious copying / pasting / mouse clicking / coffee drinking... you get it. So I did this little coding project to batch upload stimuli into Qualtrics and I hope it makes your life a bit easier!

    Currently, the codes can handle multiple choice-type surveys (e.g., rating, grammaticality judgment, choose pronoun referent, etc.) and text entry surveys (e.g., sentence completion, open-ended answers, etc).

    Also see Qualtrics' guide to batch import surveys: Import and export surveys. For more fine-grained web experiments, check out PennController, an online experiment tool developed for psycholinguistic studies.



Awards and Scholarships

  • Outstanding International Woman Student (2019), KU Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity

  • Frances Ingemann Dissertation Fellowship (2018), KU Linguistics

  • Graduate Teaching Award (2018), KU Linguistics

  • Student Travel Award (2017), CUNY Conference on Sentence Processing

  • Frances Ingemann Linguistics Scholarship (2017), KU Linguistics

  • Certificate of Excellence (2013), Purdue Office of Interdisciplinary Program

  • Outstanding Undergraduate Award (2012), Shanghai Ministry of Education,

  • National Scholarship (2009), China Ministry of Education

  • CASIO Scholarship (2009), Shanghai International Studies University

  • Univerity Scholarship (2008-2011), Shanghai International Studies University