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Nikolas Gisborne

In Ten Lectures on Event Structure in a Network Theory of Language, Nikolas Gisborne explores verb meaning. He discusses theories of events and how a network model of language-in-the-mind should be theorized; what the lexicon is; how to probe word meaning; evidence for structure in word meaning; polysemy; the lexical semantics of causation; a type hierarchy of events; and event types cross-linguistically. He also looks at the relationship between different classes of events or event types and aktionsarten; transitivity alternations and argument linking. Gisborne argues that the social and cognitive embedding of language, requires a view of linguistic structure as a network where even the analysis of verb meaning can require an understanding of the role of speaker and hearer.

Ten Lectures on Corpus Linguistics with R

Applications for Usage-Based and Psycholinguistic Research

Series:

Stefan Th. Gries

In this book, Stefan Th. Gries provides an overview on how quantitative corpus methods can provide insights to cognitive/usage-based linguistics and selected psycholinguistic questions. Topics include the corpus linguistics in general, its most important methodological tools, its statistical nature, and the relation of all these topics to past and current usage-based theorizing. Central notions discussed in detail include frequency, dispersion, context, and others in a variety of applications and case studies; four practice sessions offer short introductions of how to compute various corpus statistics with the open source programming language and environment R.

Series:

Jeffrey M. Zacks

The representation of events is a central topic for cognitive science. In this series of lectures, Jeffrey M. Zacks situates event representations and their role in language within a theory of perception and memory. Event representations have a distinctive structure and format that result from computational and neural mechanisms operating during perception and language comprehension. A crucial aspect of the mechanisms is that event representations are updated to optimize their predictive utility. This updating has consequences for action control and for long-term memory. Event cognition changes across the adult lifespan and can be impaired by conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. These mechanisms have broad impact on everyday activity, and have shaped the development of media such as cinema and narrative fiction.

Questions in Discourse

Volume 1: Semantics

Series:

Edited by Klaus von Heusinger, V.Edgar Onea Gaspar and Malte Zimmermann

The volume Questions in Discourse - Vol. 1 Semantics contains a comprehensive overview of the semantic analysis of questions and their role in structuring discourse, next to a series of in-depth contributions on individual aspects of question meanings. The expert contributions offer novel accounts of semantic phenomena such as negation and biased questions, question embedding, exhaustivity, disjunction in alternative questions, and superlative quantification particles in questions. Some accounts are modelled in the framework of inquisitive semantics, whereas others employ alternative semantics, and yet others point to the discourse-structuring potential of marked questions. All contributions are easily accessible against the background of the general introduction. Together, they give an excellent overview of current trends in question semantics.

Questions in Discourse

Volume 2: Pragmatics

Series:

Edited by Malte Zimmermann, Klaus von Heusinger and V.Edgar Onea Gaspar

The volume Questions in Discourse - Vol. 2 Pragmatics collects original research on the role of questions in understanding text structure and discourse pragmatics. The in-depth studies discuss the effects of focus, questions and givenness in unalternative semantics, as well as the role of scalar particles, question-answer pairs and prosody from the perspective of Questions under Discussion. Two contributions compare the discourse-structuring potential of Questions under Discussion and rhetorical relations, whereas another adds a perspective from inquisitive semantics. Some contributions also look at understudied languages. Together, the contributions allow for a better understanding of question-related pragmatic and discourse-semantic phenomena, and they offer new perspectives on the structure of texts and discourses.

Series:

Arndt Riester

Abstract

We discuss and combine representation formats for discourse structure, in particular ‘d-trees’ from QUD theory and SDRT graphs. QUD trees are derived from SDRT graphs, while changes must apply to QUD theory in order to allow for representations of naturalistic data. We discuss whether QUD s can replace discourse relations. We apply a new method for the identification of implicit Questions under Discussion (QUD s) to examples from an interview, and we address the status of non-at-issue content within our framework.

Series:

Lauren Winans

Abstract

Some languages have two lexical items that encode disjunction and they appear to lexicalize the difference between a polar and alternative question (Haspelmath, 2007; Alonso-Ovalle, 2006). This paper offers a more in-depth discussion one such language: Egyptian Arabic. Specifically, it discusses the behavior of these lexical items outside of the polar/alternative question distinction. The data from the expanded empirical coverage is not expected under previously proposed theories. A new analysis of the lexical items is proposed within Alternative Semantics. This analysis builds on the “association” analysis proposed by Kratzer & Shimoyama (2002) for indefinites and Alonso-Ovalle (2006) for English disjunction. Under this analysis, all disjunctions introduce alternatives, but they differ in whether the proposed alternative set bound by existential closure.

Series:

Mary Byram Washburn, Elsi Kaiser and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta

Abstract

English it-clefts are thought to be exhaustive (e.g. Chomsky 1977, Atlas & Levinson 1981, Percus 1997, É. Kiss 1998, Krifka 2008, Szabolcsi 1981, Zimmermann & Onea 2011), such that in a sentence like It was John who left, John is the only one who left. However, we report three experiments whose results indicate that it-clefts do not have to be exhaustive, but rather, the impression of exhaustivity may be a scalar conversational implicature (following Horn 1981): in a cleft such as It was John who left, listeners assume the speaker named everyone who left if they are relevant. Experiments 1a and 1b were judgment experiments, where participants rated the naturalness of nonexhaustive it-clefts as compared to fully canonical, exhaustive it-clefts (our baseline measurement for acceptable) and noncontrastive it-clefts (our baseline measurement for unacceptable). We used noncontrastive it-clefts because contrastiveness is widely agreed to involve presuppositional failure, and in case exhaustivity is a presupposition of the it-cleft as is sometimes proposed, we wanted to compare the result of violating it to the result of violating a different presupposition: contrastiveness. We found that participants rated the nonexhaustive it-clefts as more natural than the noncontrastive it-clefts, but there was no significant difference between the nonexhaustive it-clefts and the canonical, grammatical it-clefts. Participants did not reject nonexhaustive it-clefts. This is the first experimental evidence for English showing that the pre-verbal focus position is not necessarily exhaustive. In Experiment 2, we further support this result by repeating the study with insitu contrastive foci which are almost always considered to be structurally nonexhaustive (ex: Rooth 1985, Krifka 2001). We found the same pattern of results: participants did not reject the nonexhaustive foci. Exhaustivity appears to be a conversational implicature of the it-cleft.

Series:

Daniel Büring

Abstract

This paper combines a Question(-under-Discussion) account of focusing with a givenness account of prosodic demotion (‘deaccenting’). Its main tenets are, first, that all focusing is contrastive, i.e. points to a proper question – a question with contrasting answers; second, that any deviation from default stress signals focusing; there is no ‘anaphoric deaccenting’ of given elements, only contrastive focusing. Third, the question that licenses focusing need not be contextually salient, merely identifiable and relevant. Fourth and finally, where the prosodic realization of focusing requires prosodic demotion – the assignment of less-than-default stress to a constituent – that constituent must be given; a question under discussion, even if identifiable and relevant, cannot lead prosodic demotion of discourse-new elements.

The approach is couched in terms of unalternative semantics, a new method of relating stress patterns to sets of potential focal targets (‘alternatives’) which does not rely on syntactic F-marking. The overall approach is argued to successfully explain cases in which given elements fail to deaccent, in which focal backgrounds are not contextually salient, as well as, more speculatively, cases of double focus.

Series:

Marie-Catherine de Marneffe and Judith Tonhauser

Abstract

Polar questions can be given direct answers (e.g., Do you want to eat? – No) and indirect answers (e.g., Do you want to eat? – I’m not hungry). Listeners infer positive or negative responses from indirect answers to polar questions with varying degrees of confidence (e.g., Clark 1979, Hirschberg 1985, Green & Carberry 1992, 1994, de Marneffe et al. 2009). For spoken language, the prosodic realization of the indirect answer has been speculated to provide a cue to the intended meaning of the indirect answer (Green & Carberry 1999, fn. 34). This paper presents an experiment designed to identify whether and how the prosodic realization of an indirect answer to a polar question influences the response that listeners infer from the indirect answer. The experiment explored American English listeners’ interpretations of indirect answers with scalar adjectives (e.g., She’s attractive) realized with a neutral contour (H* L-L%) or the rise-fall-rise contour (L*+H L-H%) in response to polar questions with semantically stronger adjectives (e.g., Is your sister beautiful?). Listeners inferred significantly more negative responses to the polar questions when the indirect answer was realized with the rise-fall-rise contour than with the neutral contour. These findings show that the prosodic realization of an indirect answer can provide a cue to the speaker’s intended meaning. The paper also discusses implications of our findings for scalar implicature generation and the meaning of the rise-fall-rise contour.