LING-538 Experimental Research in Semantics and Pragmatics
Spring for 2017-2018
In the last decade, there has been a tremendous and welcome expansion of research in the psycholinguistics, acquisition, and neurolinguistics of semantics and pragmatics. In this course, we will learn about four very active such topics:

1. Processing Presuppositions

2. Acquiring Adjectives

3. Learning the Lexicon

4. Interpreting Implicatures

In each section, we will first review the basic background on each range of phenomena, and then delve into the experimental literature with the goal of both understanding the methodologies being used and evaluating the importance of the findings for semantics/pragmatics, on the one hand, and for the theory of language processing or acquisition, on the other. Interested students will have an opportunity to design and run their own studies as part of the course, but students may also complete the course with only written assignments.

Students should have taken at least one Semantics/Pragmatics course (such as LING/SPAN 531). We welcome participation from students in any relevant area, including the following: cognitive science, formal semantics, pragmatics, computational linguistics, applied linguistics, and psychology.

1.Regular reading and active participation

2.Presentations of target articles

3.Short papers (approx. 5 page) at several points during the semester

4.Term paper

a.Students signing up for 538: 10-15 page paper.

b.Students signing up for 738: either a longer paper or an experimental project

Possible Readings

Processing Presuppositions

Chemla, Emmanuel. 2009. Presuppositions of quantified sentences: experimental data. Natural Language Semantics 17(4):299–340. doi:\bibinfo{doi}{10.1007/s11050-009-9043-9}. URL http://www.

Chemla, Emmanuel and Lewis Bott. 2013. Processing presuppositions: Dynamic semantics vs pragmatic enrichment. Language and Cognitive Processes 38(3):241–260.

Chemla, Emmanuel and Philippe Schlenker. 2012. Incremental vs. symmetric accounts of presupposition projection: an experimental approach. Natural Language Semantics 20(2):177–226. doi:\bibinfo{doi} {10.1007/s11050-012-9080-7}. URL abstract/.

Romoli, J., Sudo, Y. and Snedeker, J. (2012). An Experimental Investigation of Presupposition Projection in Conditional Sentences. In Neil Ashton, Anca Chereches, and David Lutz (eds.) Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 21.

Romoli, J., Khan, M., Sudo, Y., & Snedeker, J. (2015). Solving temporary referential ambiguity using presupposed content. In Schwarz, F. (Ed.),Experimental Perspectives on Presuppositions (pp. 67-87). Springer International Publishing.

Schwarz, F. 2007. Processing presupposed content. Journal of Semantics 24(4):373–416.

Acquiring Adjectives

Barner, D. & Snedeker, J. (2008). Compositionality and statistics in adjective acquisition: 4-year olds interpret tall and short based on the size distributions of novel noun referents. Child Development, 79(3), 594-608.

Syrett, K., Kennedy, C., & Lidz, J. (2010). Meaning and context in children’s understanding of gradable adjectives. Journal of Semantics, 27(1), 1-35.

Syrett, K., Bradley, E., Kennedy, C., & Lidz, J. (2006). Shifting standards: Children’s understanding of gradable adjectives. In K. Ud Deen, J. Nomura, B. Schulz, & B. D. Schwartz (Eds.), Proceedings of the Inaugural Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition - North America (GALANA), Honolulu, HI (pp. 353-364). Cambridge, Mass: UConn Occasional Papers in Linguistics 4.

Learning the Lexicon

Barner, D., Wagner, L. & Snedeker, J. (2008). Events and the ontology of individuals: Verbs as a source of individuating nouns. Cognition, 106(2), 1-6.

Hartshorne, J. K., Pogue, A., & Snedeker, J. (2015). Love is hard to underst and: The relationship between transitivity and caused events in the acquisition of emotion verbs. To appear in Journal of Child Language.

Hartshorne, J. K., & Snedeker, J. (2012) Verb argument structure predicts implicit causality: The advantages of finer-grained semantics. Language and Cognitive Processes, 1-35.

Papafragou, A., Fairchild, S., Cohen, M., & Friedberg, C. (in press). Learning words from speakers with false beliefs. Journal of Child Language.

Landau, B., Johannes, K., Skordos, D., & Papafragou, A. (2016). Containment and support: Core and complexity in spatial language learning. Cognitive Science. (e-pub before printed version)

Bunger, A., Skordos, D., Trueswell, J., & Papafragou, A. (2016). How adults and children encode causative events cross-linguistically: Implications for language production and attention. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. (e-pub before printed version)

Interpreting Implicatures

Barner, D., Chow, K., & Yang, S. J. (2009). Finding one’s meaning: A test of the relation between quantifiers and integers in language development. Cognitive Psychology, 58, 195–219.

Hartshorne, J. K., Snedeker, J., Liem Azar, S. Y. M., & Kim, A. E. (2015). The neural computation of scalar implicature, Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 30(5), 620-634. DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2014.981195

Huang, Y. & Snedeker, J. (2011). Logic and conversation revisited: Evidence for a division between semantic and pragmatic content in real-time language comprehension. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26(8), 1161-1172.

Noveck, I. A., & Sperber, D. (2007). The why and how of experimental pragmatics: The case of ‘scalar inferences’. In N. Burton-Roberts (Ed.), Advances in pragmatics. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

Papafragou, A., & Musolino, J. (2003). Scalar implicatures: Experiments at the semantics pragmatics interface. Cognition, 86, 253–282.

Schulze, C., Grassmann, S., & Tomasello, M. (2013). 3-year-old children make relevance inferences in indirect verbal communication. Child development, 84 (6), 2079–2093.

Skordos, D., & Papafragou, A. (2016). Children’s derivation of scalar implicatures: alternatives and relevance. Cognition. 153: 6-18.

Verbuk, A., & Shultz, T. (2010). Acquisition of relevance implicatures: A case against a rationality-based account of conversational implicatures. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 2297–2313.

de Villiers, P. A., de Villiers, J., Coles-White, D. J., & Carpenter, L. (2009). Acquisition of relevance implicatures in typically-developing children and children with autism. In J. Chandlee, M. Franchini, S. Lord, & G. M. Rheiner (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33th annual boston university conference on language development (pp. 121–132). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Students should have taken at least one Semantics/Pragmatics course (such as LING/SPAN 531)
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