June 22 Open Office Hour: Computational Linguistics in the Industrial Setting

Who: Dr. Fermín Moscoso del Prado
What: Computational Linguistics in the Industrial Setting
When: June 22, 2021 at 12pm EDT (GMT -4)
Where: Zoom

We are now happy to announce the third talk in our series, “Computational Linguistics in the Industrial Setting,” which will be delivered by Fermín Moscoso del Prado on Tuesday, June 22 at 12pm (EST, GMT -4).

Students coming out of graduate programmes in Cognitive Psychology or Linguistics often have very valuable skills to work in industry in the field of data science. There are now abundant and well-paid jobs in this sector across the world. Among the skills that are crucial for success in this field, it is important to have a good knowledge of statistical analyses and machine learning techniques plus some computer programming skills, typically with Python or R. This talk will include discussion of what additional skills and areas of knowledge can help students wishing to go into the data science industry, including a brief overview of types of jobs, career structure, and nomenclature.

Fermín Moscoso del Prado is the Lead Scientist at Lingvist Technologies OÜ, in charge of developing algorithms for improving human vocabulary learning, automatic construction of language course materials, and general data analysis. He holds an M.Eng. in Computer Science specializing in Artificial Intelligence, a Ph.D. in Linguistics (with focus on computational psycholinguistics), and had post-doctoral training in Cognitive Neuroscience.

The meeting will be held using Zoom. Please note that the meeting is password protected and will require a simple pre-registration. If you know somebody who may wish to join, they may contact us or use the Words in the World website in order to be added to the mailing list at https://wordsintheworld.ca/home/open-office-hours/sign-up-for-open-office-hours/.

May 25 Open Office Hour: Language Issues in the Canadian Forces

What: Language Issues in the Canadian Forces
When: May 25, 2021 at 12pm EDT (GMT -4)
Where: Zoom

We are now delighted to announce the second talk in our Open Office Hours: Building Bridges series, “Education & Language Applications in the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre,” which will be presented by Sandra Plante on Tuesday, May 18 at 12pm (EST, GMT -4).

The Canadian Armed Forces recruits its members from the ethnically and linguistically diverse Canadian population.  In the Health Services branch, this inevitably creates challenges for francophone and allophone health care professionals in transitioning their skills to the unique military environment. This presentation will discuss some of the language-based challenges and successes we have experienced, and where we still need to improve.

Sandra Plante is the Program Evaluator for the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre, evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of training programs for Health Care professionals within the Defence Team. She has over 30 years of experience in National Defence and holds a Bachelor of Education in Adult Education with a specialization in Psychology, and a Master of Education specializing in Education and Digital Technologies.

The meeting will be held using Zoom. Please note that the meeting is password protected and will require a simple pre-registration so that only persons who have received this link may join. If you know somebody who may wish to join, they may contact us or use the Words in the World website in order to be added to the mailing list at https://wordsintheworld.ca/home/open-office-hours/sign-up-for-open-office-hours/.

April 27 Open Office Hour: Intellectual Property and Commercialization

What: Words in the World Open Office Hour — Bradley McLean — Intellectual Property and Commercialization
When: April  27, 12:00 – 1:00 pm Eastern Time (GMT -4)

We are delighted to introduce Season 2 of our Words in the World Open Office Hours: Building Bridges. This season will highlight the diverse range of spheres to which language researchers can bring their skills and knowledge.

Bradley McLean, Associate Director of Innovation & Commercialization at Brock University, will kick off the new season on April 27 at 12pm (EST, GMT-4). He will provide an overview of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, industrial designs) and present a model for commercialization that can be applied to your research, whether it has commercial applications or not. The presentation will include examples of resources available to assist you with intellectual property, commercialization, and bridging with industry/community for collaborations, and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Bradley McLean leads the Innovation & Commercialization team in the Office of Research Services at Brock University where he and his group support commercialization of Brock research, facilitate partnerships, and connect industry members or community groups with Brock researchers, and is an integral part of the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Niagara. Brad completed a PhD in Biotechnology at the Michael Smith Laboratory at UBC and worked for a decade in the biotechnology industry before being recruited to join Brock University’s commercialization team.

The meeting will be held using Zoom. Please note that the meeting is password protected and will require a simple pre-registration to receive the login information. To be added to the mailing list and receive this information, sign up at https://wordsintheworld.ca/home/open-office-hours/sign-up-for-open-office-hours/.

Cognitive Science of Language lecture series: Dr. Marco Marelli (Jan. 25, 2021)

Who: Marco Marelli (University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy) www.marcomarelli.net

What: Compositional effects in the processing of compound words: A computational perspective grounded in linguistic and visual experience

When: Monday January 25, 2021; 2:30-4:20 pm EST

Where: Zoom

Registration: https://mcmaster.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAlduyqrzMqG9HnqMOA1s0NZLhGj-bf2xtU 

McMaster’s Department of Linguistics and Languages invites you to the next talk in the Cognitive Science of Language lecture series. The lecture will be delivered online by Dr. Marco Marelli. Dr. Marelli is an associate professor of General Psychology at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy. His work focuses on the psychology of language, and in particular on the impact of semantics on word processing and the interface between language and the conceptual system. His more recent research projects combine methods from experimental psychology and computational modelling and are dedicated to compositionality (at the level of both phrases and morphologically complex words) and the interplay between linguistic, emotional and perceptual experience in conceptual processes. He is an associate editor of Behavior Research Methods and a consulting editor of Morphology. 

The talk is free but participants must register. Registration link can be found here:  https://mcmaster.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAlduyqrzMqG9HnqMOA1s0NZLhGj-bf2xtU

Please make sure to register in advance. For logistic reasons the registration for this event will only be reviewed until 2pm on the event date.  


Since the seminal LSA proposal (Landauer & Dumais, 1997) distributional semantics has provided efficient data-driven models of the human semantic system, representing word meaning through vectors recording lexical co-occurrences in large text corpora. However, these approaches generate static descriptions of the semantic system, falling short of capturing the highly dynamical interactions occurring at the meaning level during language processing. 

In the present work, I discuss the CAOSS model (Compounding as Abstract Operations in Semantic Space), a first step in this direction that moves from distributional semantics to capture the meaning of compound words (Marelli et al., 2017). 

In CAOSS, word meanings are represented as vectors encoding lexical co-occurrences in a reference corpus (e.g., the meaning of “snow” will be based on how often “snow” appears with the other words), according to the tenets of distributional semantics. A compositional procedure is induced as a weighted sum: given two vectors (constituent words) u and v, their composed representation (the compound) can be computed as c=M*u+H*v, where M and H are weight matrices estimated from corpus examples. The matrices are trained using least squares regression, having the vectors of the constituents as independent words (“car” and “wash”,  “rail” and ”way”) as inputs and the vectors of example compounds (“carwash”, “railway”) as outputs, so that the similarity between M*u+H*v and c is maximized. In other words, the matrices are defined in order to recreate the compound examples as accurately as possible. Once the two weight matrices are estimated, they can be applied to any word pair in order to obtain meaning representations for untrained word combinations (e.g., “snow building”). 

In a series of behavioral experiments, model predictions were tested against psycholinguistic data. CAOSS is shown to mirror evidence related to the processing of novel compounds (Marelli et al., 2017; Günther & Marelli, 2020), and in particular the impact of relational information (Gagné, 2001; Gagné & Shoben, 2007) as well as the “morpheme interference effect” (Crepaldi et al., 2010). Moreover, CAOSS also provides a central contribution to the understanding of semantic transparency in familiar compounds: CAOSS estimates are shown to best characterize the transparency impact in word processing (Günther & Marelli, 2019). Finally, I discuss how CAOSS is not to be considered a “disembodied model”, since one can easily ground it in perception by feeding it images together with text data (Günther et al., 2020). 

The model simulations indicate that compositionality-related phenomena are reflected in language statistics. Human speakers are able to learn these aspects from language experience and automatically apply them to the processing of any word combination. The present model is flexible enough to emulate this procedure, predicting sensible relational similarities for novel compounds and correctly capturing the contribution to semantic transparency provided by compositional operations. The model is also shown to generalize to other kind of data, being able to capture the contribution of perceptual experience in the internal dynamics of compound-word processing. Such evidence directly links linguistic composition to conceptual combination, speaking for the possible role of general-level learning procedures at the foundations of both phenomena. 

CCPTalks: Individual differences in the production and perception of prosodic boundaries in American English

CCPTalks is a new series presented by the Centre for Comparative Psycholinguistics at the University of Alberta. Join us for their first presentation, featuring Dr. Jiseung Kim (Alberta), on January 22, 2021!

Title: Individual differences in the production and perception of prosodic boundaries in American English

Date: Friday, January 22, 2021

Time: 9:00am MST (GMT-7)

Location: Zoom (contact ccpling@ualberta.ca for link)

I present the findings of my dissertation which investigated the hypothesis that individuals vary in their production and perception of prosodic boundaries, and that the properties they use to signal prosodic contrasts are closely related to the properties used to perceive those contrasts. A group of native speakers of American English participated in an acoustic study and subsequently an eye-tracking study that examined production and perception of three acoustic properties related to Intonational Phrase (IP) boundary: pause, pitch reset, and phrase-final lengthening. The results showed individual differences to a substantial degree, and offered limited evidence of a production-perception relation: a trend was observed in which individuals with longer pause durations.

WoW Holiday Newsletter 2020

Greetings from the Canadian Leadership Team

Dear Friends,

We wish you and yours very happy holidays!

It has been a year filled with the unexpected.  In this context, we have worked, as a community, to advance knowledge, to support the development of new researchers, and to engage in important dialogue.  As we move to 2021, we are looking to build upon the success of the Words in the World Open Office Hours series and upon the success of the first Words in the World International Conference that took place just a couple of months ago. This conference featured 115 oral presentations and over 300 registrants from 17 countries. 

In the coming year we will also be working hard to build upon our public engagement in order to support our communities. This year, we have certainly seen how language can shape our sense of the present and the future. As language researchers, we have an important role to play building the knowledge that is crucial to the success and safety of societies and communities.

In this context, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and a fantastic 2021 filled with funhappiness, and enjoyment.

Gary Libben, Lori Buchanan, Gonia Jarema, Juhani Järvikivi, Eva Kehayia, Victor Kuperman, and Sid Segalowitz

P.S.  Italicized words in the last sentence comprise the six most highly rated English words reported by Warriner, Kuperman & Brysbaert (2014).

Words in the World Conversations

We are delighted to announce a new video series called Words in the World Conversations. This series of video interviews begins with Psycholinguists across the Words in the World network. The first interviews are with Prof. Wolfgang Dressler (Professor Emeritus, University of Vienna), Dr. Loraine Obler (Distinguished Professor, City University of New York) (planned release date: January 15, 2021), and Dr. Mark Aronoff (Distinguished Professor, Stonybrook University). These video interviews can be found on the Words in the World website at https://wordsintheworld.ca/research/videos/.

WoW in the News

In our summer newsletter, we announced the launch of the WritLarge app (https://akkyro.shinyapps.io/writlarge/) by Dr. Aki-Juhani Kyröläinen and Dr. Victor Kuperman (McMaster University). WritLarge is a web-based application designed to facilitate social mobility and relieve social isolation of older individuals through story-telling, writing, and sharing.

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has recently published an article on the WritLarge app that discusses loneliness among seniors during Southern Ontario’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. You can read the article at this link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/senior-loneliness-study-covid-19-mcmaster-1.5821971.

Call for Participation

We are excited to announce an opportunity for collaboration in a project called ENRO (English Reading Online). This project is led by Dr. Victor Kuperman (Words in the World Co-Principal Investigator, McMaster University) and Dr. Noam Siegelman (Words in the World Collaborator, Haskins Laboratories). “The idea is to conduct online tests of English reading comprehension and its component skills in university student pools across multiple English and non-English speaking countries. A detailed questionnaire will also collect demographic and detailed language background information about participants. The end result will be a publicly available and continuously updated resource with data on English reading behavior and component skills (spelling, vocabulary, listening comprehension, decoding, and others), and a detailed record of individual language proficiency and background.”

You can read more about this opportunity at this link: https://wordsintheworld.ca/2020/12/10/call-for-participation-english-reading-online-enro/.

Upcoming Initiatives

Season 2 of Words in the World Open Office Hours

We are very pleased with the interest and participation generated in the 2020 season of Words in the World Open Office Hours. We’re looking forward to a second season of events, beginning in the new year! Details will be sent out via the Open Office Hours mailing list. If you’re not on the mailing list and would like to be, please let us know at this link: https://wordsintheworld.ca/home/open-office-hours/sign-up-for-open-office-hours/.  If there are topics or hosts that you would like to see on the 2021 Open Office Hours schedule, drop a note in our suggestion box at this link: https://wordsintheworld.ca/home/open-office-hours/suggestion-box/.

Handbook of Training and Mentorship – Call for Contributions

At our recent Words in the World International Conference 2020, Dr. Lori Buchanan hosted a discussion on a new opportunity for Words in the World Trainees and Collaborators. As a follow-up to that discussion, we are asking for expressions of interest (EOI) regarding chapters for a book/on-line resource that will focus on networked training.  If you are interested in contributing to this project, please send your EOI or questions to Dr. Lori Buchanan (buchanan@uwindsor.ca), Dr. Juhani Järvikivi (jarvikiv@ualberta.ca), or the grant at wordsintheworldgrant@gmail.com.


Spring Training in Experimental Psycholinguistics (STEP) returns in 2021. A series of babySTEP tutorials, starting in January 2021, will lead the way to the main event organized in May (dates TBA). All STEP2021 events will take place online. For further information and developments, see http://ccp.artsrn.ualberta.ca

Call for participation: ENglish Reading Online (ENRO)

Victor Kuperman (Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University, Canada) and Noam Siegelman (Haskins Laboratories, USA) invite interested colleagues to participate in a large-scale international project, titled ENRO (ENglish Reading Online).

“The idea is to conduct online tests of English reading comprehension and its component skills in university student pools across multiple English and non-English speaking-countries. A detailed questionnaire will also collect demographic and detailed language background information about participants. The end-result will be a publicly available and continuously updated resource with data on English reading behavior and component skills (spelling, vocabulary, listening comprehension, decoding, and others), and a detailed record of individual language proficiency and background. Because all stimuli will be identical across testing sites, the data will enable cross-sample comparisons and detailed studies of individual differences in reading ability. The data will contribute to the evaluation of how different L1s affect learning of the same L2. It will also shed light on what component skills of reading in English contribute the most to L2 English reading proficiency in speakers of different L1s.”

The online experiment ENRO is fully implemented: you can see a test version at https://reading.mcmaster.ca/exp/ENRO?source=readlabtest. The entire study takes 60-80 minutes.

  • We have received an ethics clearance from McMaster University, where online data are being collected and stored. The timeline of the project is defined as the end of the academic year in most countries (June-July 2020), though extensions for data collection are possible.
  • Close to 20 partner labs have agreed to join the project so far, with a diverse selection of L1s including, among others, Mongolian, Serbian, Turkish, Korean, Greek, Thai, and others. Multiple samples of the same language (from the same or different countries) are encouraged!

How to participate?
Identify whether you have access to a sample of participants. An optimal sample size for each test site is between 100-200 participants speaking the official language(s) of the country of testing. Non-native speakers of the official language are welcome too, but in addition to the core sample. This project would probably be the easiest to implement in departments/labs that have established pools of student participants who gain credits for participation.

Contact us (info below) for the full protocol of the study and further clarification.

What’s in it for you?
We expect to report the project data in one or two papers, to be submitted to Behavior Research Methods and other data-oriented journals. Team members from all sites will become co-authors on these papers. Students are welcome as co-authors. It is also okay to base student thesis work on (partial or full) ENRO data even before it is published. Data will be made available to co-authors as soon as it is fully cleaned and processed. Upon publication, data will be made openly available to the research community.

If you would like to know more about ENRO, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for the full protocol of the study.

Contact Information
Victor Kuperman (Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada) vickup @ mcmaster.ca

Noam Siegelman (Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, USA) noam.siegelman @ gmail.com

Announcement: MSc & PhD positions at McMaster University

The Cognitive Science of Language program at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) is now welcoming applications at the MSc and PhD levels for the academic year 2021–2022. All applications received before or on January 31st, 2021, will be considered.

Based in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, the graduate program is interdisciplinary, including faculty from Humanities, Science, and Health Sciences. The program has a strong research orientation with expertise in cognitive science, corpus linguistics, neurolinguistics, phonetics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and theoretical linguistics.  The program introduces students to the issues in those fields that form the nexus of, linguistics, cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience, and trains them in the research methods employed to study them. More information about the program can be found at https://academiccalendars.romcmaster.ca/preview_entity.php?catoid=42&ent_oid=5791&returnto=8769, about the department at https://linguistics.humanities.mcmaster.ca and about the application procedure at https://gs.mcmaster.ca/academic-services/how-apply.

It is a good idea to get in touch with a potential thesis supervisor in advance. Supervisors can be found at https://linguistics.humanities.mcmaster.ca/people/faculty/. Many of them are affiliated with the Centre for Advanced Research in Experimental and Applied Linguistics (ARiEAL) that lists their most recent research interests at https://arieal.mcmaster.ca/discover-arieal/arieal-team

Announcement: Doctoral Candidate position – English Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Language Processing

Full time doctoral position at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, 3 year term, to start as soon as possible. The deadline for application is August 31, 2020. The official job announcement can be found here: https://uol.de/stellen/?stelle=67489.

The cluster of excellence Hearing4all and Prof. Dr. Marcel Schlechtweg at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg invite applications for a 3-year doctoral position. Candidates with an interest in contributing to the cluster’s first research thread, auditory processing deficits throughout the lifespan, and who are interested in extending that research to include connections with phonetics, phonology, and/or morphology, are particularly welcome.


  • Degree in psycholinguistics, linguistics, or a related discipline
  • Ability to perform excellent scientific work
  • Expertise in psycholinguistics and the following core areas of linguistics: Phonetics, phonology, and/or morphology
  • High working knowledge of English

Desirable competencies:

  • Experience in experimental linguistics and/or psycholinguistics and experimental software (e.g., reaction-time (Eprime), production (Praat), eye-tracking, ERP studies)
  • Experience in statistical analysis
  • Expertise in further core areas of linguistics (e.g., syntax, semantics, pragmatics)

The complete job announcement and application guidelines can be found here: https://uol.de/stellen/?stelle=67489

July 28 Open Office Hour: Incorporating Neuropsychological Tests into Experimental Research

Next week, join us as we welcome Dr. Simritpal Malhi (Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital) for a discussion about neuropsychological tests and their relationship with experimental research. Topics will include when it is appropriate to include tests, and what kinds can be used, the ethics of including neuropsychological tests, and future research involving the management of big data (i.e., neuropsychological norms).

For more information, view the complete event listing on our Events page: https://wordsintheworld.ca/calendar-events/incorporating-neuropsychological-tests-into-experimental-research/

Presentation slides will be made available after the event.