Research Topic

Perceptual Linguistic Salience: Modeling Causes and Consequences

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Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in the notion of salience in linguistics and related disciplines. Salience has been frequently investigated as a semantic-pragmatic phenomenon that accounts for systematic preferences in linguistic interpretation. In contrast, the perceptual salience of linguistic ...

Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in the notion of salience in linguistics and related disciplines. Salience has been frequently investigated as a semantic-pragmatic phenomenon that accounts for systematic preferences in linguistic interpretation. In contrast, the perceptual salience of linguistic stimuli (e.g., sociolinguistic salience) has only recently begun to attract scholarly attention. Two broad types of perceptual salience that have been traditionally distinguished in the attention literature are of particular interest from a linguistic and psycholinguistic perspective. First, a stimulus can be salient – i.e., foremost in one’s mind – because it is cognitively preactivated. This type of salience, often referred to as top-down salience, occurs, for instance, if a stimulus is expected because it is part of an entrenched cognitive routine, if it has recently been mentioned, or due to current intentions of the perceiver. While in top-down salience, perceivers endogenously direct their attention to a certain stimulus, in the second type of salience, bottom-up salience, it is the stimulus itself which attracts attention. In prototypical cases of bottom-up salience, the stimulus stands out because it is incongruous with a given ground by virtue of its intrinsic characteristics. But a stimulus may also cause surprise by virtue of deviating from a cognitive ground, e.g. when it violates social or linguistic expectations. Although by their very definition, salient percepts are immediately apparent to the perceiver, bottom-up salient stimuli are often claimed to require additional processing effort and to trigger increased neural activity. By contrast, top-down salient stimuli usually yield facilitation and lower neural activity.

This Research Topic encourages theoretical and empirical submissions dealing with the following questions:
1) What types of cognitive processes underlie the differential treatment of salient linguistic percepts, and how can these be modeled in terms of psycholinguistic models?
2) How can the perceptual salience of linguistic forms and variants be operationalized?
3) To what extent is salience an intrinsic feature of linguistic forms (e.g. dialectal variants)?
4) To what extent should salience be construed as a product of independent contextual factors or prior experience with language?
5) How do different forms of perceptual salience interact?
6) To what extent does salience have an effect on representation that is independent of frequency or is salience merely an epiphenomenon of frequency?, and
7) To what extent does perceptual salience shape language structure?

We welcome submissions from the field of psychology that may draw upon the fields of linguistics and cognitive neuroscience and explore causes and cognitive consequences of perceptual linguistic salience. Please note that only submissions that are in line with the mission statement of the journal Frontiers in Psychology - Language Sciences can be considered for publication.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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