Definitely, maybe: New paper in Journal of Pragmatics

Judith Degen, Andreas Trotzke, Gregory Scontras, Eva Wittenberg, Noah D. Goodman (2019): Definitely, maybe: A new experimental paradigm for investigating the pragmatics of evidential devices across languages. Journal of Pragmatics 140, pp. 33-48.

Abstract: We present a new experimental paradigm for investigating lexical expressions that convey different strengths of speaker commitment. Specifically, we compare different evidential contexts for using modal devices, epistemic discourse particles, and statements with no evidential markers at all, examining the extent to which listeners’ interpretations of certain types of evidential words and their judgments about speaker commitment differ in strength. We also probe speakers’ production preferences for these different devices under varying evidential circumstances. The results of our experiments shed new light on distinctions and controversies that play a key role in the current theoretical literature on the semantics and pragmatics of modals and discourse particles. Our paradigm thus contributes to a domain of experimental research on evidential expressions that is only just taking shape at the crossroads of theoretical semantics/pragmatics and psycholinguistics; we provide a potential starting point for approaching theoretical debates on the nature of modal evidential expressions from an experimental and context-oriented perspective.

 

New Review Paper: Argument Structure Alternations and Event Construal

Hot off the presses! Eva has a new paper in Psychology of Learning and Motivation about the relationship between grammar and event construal.

Abstract:
The most fundamental function of language is to enable people to share mental models of their worlds. For a comprehender, the given mental model she is building will be shaped by the lexical items, and also by the syntactic structures, that a speaker is using. In this chapter, I review literature that unearths the mental models formed by comprehenders, based on the grammatical structure they encounter, as mutually informative for both linguistic theory and event and object cognition. This chapter uses the well-studied case of light verb constructions and reviews data from a range of experimental studies that investigated how linguistic structure shapes core aspects of mental models: the conceptualization of event participants, and temporal structure in events.

New paper in “Cognitive Science”!

Ziegler, J. , Snedeker, J. and Wittenberg, E. (2018), Event Structures Drive Semantic Structural Priming, Not Thematic Roles: Evidence From Idioms and Light Verbs. Cognitive Science. doi:10.1111/cogs.12687
Abstract:
What are the semantic representations that underlie language production? We use structural priming to distinguish between two competing theories. Thematic roles define semantic structure in terms of atomic units that specify event participants and are ordered with respect to each other through a hierarchy of roles. Event structures instead instantiate semantic structure as embedded sub‐predicates that impose an order on verbal arguments based on their relative positioning in these embeddings. Across two experiments, we found that priming for datives depended on the degree of overlap in event structures. Specifically, while all dative structures showed priming, due to common syntax, there was a boost for compositional datives priming other compositional datives. Here, the two syntactic forms have distinct event structures. In contrast, there was no boost in priming for dative light verbs, where the two forms map onto a single event representation. On the thematic roles hypothesis, we would have expected a similar degree of priming for the two cases. Thus, our results support event structural approaches to semantic representation and not thematic roles.

LCL at CGG 28

The UCSD Language Comprehension Lab will be represented at the 28th Colloquium on Generative Grammar 2018 in Tarragona, Spain, together with a long list of lovely co-authors, talking about priming argument structure at the Workshop “Ars-Ling: Argument Structure and Linguistic Processing”:

Bjorn Lundquist, Martin Corley, Antonella Sorace, Mai Tungseth, Eva Wittenberg and Gillian Ramchand: Adventures in Structural Priming: The Search for Effects of Argument Structure.

Eva at NerdNite San Diego

On Tuesday, March 6th, Eva gave a San Diego Nerd Nite talk on The World of Words at 32 North Brewing Co. What can we say — tip-of-the-tongue states are simply better with beer. Here is what Eva talked about:

Words are curious creatures. Ever looked for one and couldn’t find it? Where exactly did you look? Did you look for its sound or its meaning? Or did you accidentally create a Frankenword by misunderestimating how hard it is to put the parts of the words together? These are signs that you are utterly normal … but maybe it’d be good to learn a thing or two about words. We’re going to do just that.