It has historically been assumed that comparative and superlative quantifiers can be semantically analysed in accordance with their core logical–mathematical properties. However, recent theoretical and experimental work has cast doubt on the validity of this assumption. Geurts & Nouwen have claimed that superlative quantifiers possess an additional modal component in their semantics that is absent from comparative quantifiers and that this accounts for the previously neglected differences in usage and interpretation between the two types of quantifier that they identify. Their (...) semantically modal hypothesis has received additional support from empirical investigations. In this article, we further corroborate that superlative quantifiers have additional modal interpretations. However, we propose an alternative analysis, whereby these quantifiers possess the semantics postulated by the classical model and the additional aspects of meaning arise as a consequence of psychological complexity and pragmatic implicature. We explain how this model is consistent with the existing empirical findings. Additionally, we present the findings of four novel experiments that support our model above the semantically modal account. (shrink)
It has been generally assumed that certain categories of numerical expressions, such as ‘more than n’, ‘at least n’, and ‘fewer than n’, systematically fail to give rise to scalar implicatures in unembedded declarative contexts. Various proposals have been developed to explain this perceived absence. In this paper, we consider the relevance of scale granularity to scalar implicature, and make two novel predictions: first, that scalar implicatures are in fact available from these numerical expressions at the appropriate granularity level, and (...) second, that these implicatures are attenuated if the numeral has been previously mentioned or is otherwise salient in the context. We present novel experimental data in support of both of these predictions, and discuss the implications of this for recent accounts of numerical quantifier usage. (shrink)
Several evolutionary accounts of human social cognition posit that language has co-evolved with the sophisticated mindreading abilities of modern humans. It has also been argued that these mindreading abilities are the product of cultural, rather than biological, evolution. Taken together, these claims suggest that the evolution of language has played an important role in the cultural evolution of human social cognition. Here we present a new computational model which formalises the assumptions that underlie this hypothesis, in order to explore how (...) language and mindreading interact through cultural evolution. This model treats communicative behaviour as an interplay between the context in which communication occurs, an agent’s individual perspective on the world, and the agent’s lexicon. However, each agent’s perspective and lexicon are private mental representations, not directly observable to other agents. Learners are therefore confronted with the task of jointly inferring the lexicon and perspective of their cultural parent, based on their utterances in context. Simulation results show that given these assumptions, an informative lexicon evolves not just under a pressure to be successful at communicating, but also under a pressure for accurate perspective-inference. When such a lexicon evolves, agents become better at inferring others’ perspectives; not because their innate ability to learn about perspectives changes, but because sharing a language with others helps them to do so. (shrink)
The behaviour of presupposition triggers in human language has been extensively studied and given rise to many distinct theoretical proposals. One intuitively appealing way of characterising presupposition is to argue that it constitutes backgrounded meaning, which does not contribute to updating the conversational record, and consequently may not be challenged or refuted by discourse participants. However, there are a wide range of presupposition triggers, some of which can systematically be used to introduce new information. Is there, then, a clear psychological (...) distinction between presupposition and assertion? Do certain expressions vacillate between presupposing and asserting information? And is information backgrounding a categorical or a gradient phenomenon? In this paper we argue for the value of experimental methods in addressing these questions, and present a pilot study demonstrating backgrounding effects of presupposition triggers, and suggesting their gradience in nature. We discuss the implications of these findings for theoretical categorisations of presupposition triggers. (shrink)
This handbook is the first to explore the growing field of experimental semantics and pragmatics. Following an introduction from the editors, the chapters in this volume offer an up-to-date account of research in the field spanning 31 different topics, as well as identifying questions and methods for future research.
Presuppositions are capable of projecting from under the scope of operators such as negation, but do not obligatorily do so. This creates a potential difficulty for the hearer of presupposition-bearing utterances, especially given the fact that speaker can use presupposition to convey entirely new information. In this paper, I discuss the potential role of context in resolving this tension, and in particular, I argue that the inferences that are drawn about the current discourse purpose may be materially relevant to the (...) interpretation of potential presuppositions. I also consider some of the implications of this for recent experimental work on presupposition and projection. (shrink)
The present volume contains a collection of papers presented at the 21st annual meeting “Sinn und Bedeutung” of the Gesellschaft fur Semantik, which was held at the University of Edinburgh on September 4th–6th, 2016. The Sinn und Bedeutung conferences are one of the leading international venues for research in formal semantics.
Categorisation models of metaphor interpretation are based on the premiss that categorisation statements and comparison statements are fundamentally different types of assertion. Against this assumption, we argue that the difference is merely a quantitative one: ‘x is a y’ unilaterally entails ‘x is like a y’, and therefore the latter is merely weaker than the former. Moreover, if ‘x is like a y’ licenses the inference that x is not a y, then that inference is a scalar implicature. We defend (...) these claims partly on theoretical grounds and partly on the basis of experimental evidence. A suite of experiments indicates both that ‘x is a y’ unilaterally entails that x is like a y, and that in several respects the non-y inference behaves exactly as one should expect from a scalar implicature. We discuss the implications of our view of categorisation and comparison statements for categorisation models of metaphor interpretation. (shrink)