Manual Ambiguity Resolution in Language Learning: Computational and Cognitive Models

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They should discover that this tense is used to talk about activities that lasted for some time in the past, The learners must have previously seen and known the simple past tense perfectly well. For them, the association of the past simple and the past progressive should be clearly perceptible for smooth transition. The rigidity of grammar and the obligation that rules have to be respected for authenticity tire them out, anger, threaten and shake their enthusiasm towards learning.

So, the past progressive tense is taught in a sort of enigmatic problem, where the rules are understood without even being emphasised just like in games, hence the importance of relying on a little ambiguity of language to fulfil the task. This is a bit delicate as the aim of the lesson is to make the students involved in the lesson. If concentrating on the ambiguity will pull the lesson out of its predefined trajectory, it would be better to delay focusing on it until a later stage.

The students should do the task in a way that they learn the past progressive in context, hence the integration of some moderate ambiguity in the text so as not to fret the learners. By moderate, I mean the sort of ambiguity that the students could disambiguate without too much effort from the first shot. Every EFL teacher knows that the level of comprehension achieved by the learner depends greatly on various factors, among which there are language competency, bias, level of ambiguity tolerance, schemata, and motivation. The aim of the lesson is inciting the learners to discover the use and usage of the past progressive tense while solving problems through tolerating ambiguity.

The task will soon after go beyond the grammar lesson to focus on the language free from the grammar constraints. There are many ways to do it, but one way of processing the lesson might roughly look like the following, B. The opening move This important opening move consists of reviewing the simple past tense through a chat with different students about where they were the night before and what they did. After that, before handing out the short text below , the teacher asks the students to read silently and try to determine the time and the place of the text. The Reading Stage a.

Salma recounts: The other day, I was in the kitchen having an interesting conversation with my mother while she was preparing the lunch meal. She was telling me the story of her life while her eyes were pouring out with warm tears, and so were mine.

Her story was not actually sad, but the onion she was slicing was fresh. What is the type of the text? What is the tense used in the text? Underline the verbs which describe the actions 2. How long does each action last?

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Speech Rhythm Facilitates Syntactic Ambiguity Resolution: ERP Evidence

For what reason is this tense used in this text? What linking word is used in the text? The other day, I was in the kitchen having an interesting conversation with my mother while she was preparing the lunch meal. To indicate a casual, less deliberate, routine action 2.

Tasks and timing in the perception of linguistic anomaly

To show the prolongation of the actions 2. To mark the simultaneity of actions 3. To indicate the gradual development of actions 4.

Ambiguity (ENG)

The tense describes action in the middle of their happening 4. Where was Salma the other day?

What was Salma doing there? Who was Salma with?

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What was the mother doing? Who started the conversation? What was the mother talking about? Where was Salma yesterday? She was in the kitchen already spotted 2. She was having a conversation with her mother 3. She was with her mother 4. She was preparing the lunch meal 5. It is not clear who did. She was telling the story of her life 7. Show the parallel actions in the text Mother: having a conversation with her daughter and preparing the lunch meal simultaneously.


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It is the challenging implied meaning. The text says that both the writer Salma and her mother were in tears. And the text does not clearly reveal the secret plainly.

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It leaves room for thinking. Intentionally, the text wants the learners to make an effort to find out. This bit of information is part of their prior knowledge, and without which the secret is never revealed, and the ambiguity is not resolved. Prior knowledge helps the readers understand the text better.

Here, the logical thinking skills can resolve the problem. As the story is not sad enough to cause tears to run down, what else in the text can be the cause?! It is exactly for this reason that teaching critical reading is compulsory nowadays. In brief, the more structural reading abilities they develop, the easier they will unveil fallacies and disambiguate ambiguities. Structural ambiguity in a well-written text has a positive influence on learners. It incites them to think more deeply.

There are of course as many fallacies of ambiguity that have to be unveiled. The confusion generally comes from the readers both ways. Ambiguity, however, is positive for readers with strong schemata, good thinking skills and robust structural reading abilities. It allows them to understand the text in a variety of possible ways, and it may even give them ideas to exploit somehow in their writings.

In case, the teacher deemed that it would be indigestible for them, it is advisable to tune it to their level of performance. They could be encouraged to get into it by simplifying the formula. All that they need is a little more time to get acquainted with the procedure. This is not an obstruction as long as the learners are motivated, and they are keen on learning how to learn. Still in the dominion of the past progressive expressing simultaneous actions tutorial, here is an evaluative exercise checking if the learners have assimilated the tense well, and it can be turned to test their ambiguity tolerance at the same time, 1.

After they have completed this grammatical side of the task, they should be directed to discern the ambiguity in the statement by amplifying it with the following extra task: 2. What does the underlined word refer to? Yesterday, while Tom was sleeping, Jerry was drinking its milk. The reference here engenders ambiguity. Some students may understand that Tom was sleeping; which allowed enough time for Jerry to drink its own milk tranquilly.

Some students might not get to the point, so another identical task is necessary, 3. Ben was taking a nap while Ted was playing games on his mobile phone. However, both answers are correct, but with a little thinking endeavour, the students will be able to justify the least ambiguous answer as explained in the above situation with Tom and Jerry. Ambiguity tolerant learners would venture to take side with the explanation based on logical thinking and common sense.

To shift to more situations beyond the lesson understudy, the teacher can choose other ambiguous sentences provided that they are not very confusing. What does the underlined word in the sentence refer to? The mother offers her daughter gifts because she is nice. It could be any one of the two, the mother and the daughter. The missing situational medium creates ambiguity in poorly structured sentences. Who asked who?


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Mean reaction times for subject-first and object-first sentences are presented in Figure 4. Contrary to what we initially expected, no significant effect of rhythm and no interaction between the two experimental factors were found. No further significant interactions or main effects for the critical factors were found. Figure 5 depicts ERP responses for experimental conditions in the time window of interest.