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Vagueness, Gradability and Typicality

The Interpretation of Adjectives and Nouns

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Galit Weidman Sassoon

This book presents a study of the connections between vagueness and gradability, and their different manifestations in adjectives (morphological gradability effects) and nouns (typicality effects). It addresses two opposing theoretical approaches from within formal semantics and cognitive psychology. These approaches rest on different, apparently contradictory pieces of data. For example, for psychologists nouns are linked with vague and gradable concepts, while for linguists they rarely are. This difference in approach has created an unfortunate gap between the semantic and psychological studies of the concepts denoted by nouns, as well as adjectives. The volume describes a wide range of relevant facts and theories. Psychological notions such as prototypes and dimensions are addressed with formal rigor and explicitness. Existing formal semantic accounts are examined against empirically established cognitive data. The result is a comprehensive unified approach. The book will be of interest to students and researchers working on the semantics and pragmatics of natural languages and their cognitive basis, the psychology of concepts, and the philosophy of language.

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Marica De Vincenzi

Abstract

Cross-linguistic investigation is a very popular topic in sentence processing. This chapter illustrates how cross-linguistic studies can motivate the formulation of a parsing strategy, and how methodological considerations can affect the comparisons among languages. One prediction of the minimal chain principal (MCP) is that the parser prefers postulating a singleton chain to postulating multimember chains. It predicts that in Italian in cases of ambiguities of the null-subject position the parser will prefer to postulate a "pro" that is in a singleton chain, to a "pro" that is in a longer chain. The case marking feature has allowed to test the abstract linguistic property at the base of the MCP, using unambiguously case-marked structures. Therefore, the MCP is supported not only as a principle driving the parser decisions at points of ambiguity, but also as a principle accounting for processing complexity.

Michael H. Long, Gisela Granena and Yucel Yilmaz

, but Lenneberg ( 1967 ) also mentioned that “foreign languages have to be taught and learned through a conscious and labored effort” and that “foreign accents cannot be overcome easily after puberty” (p. 176). Lenneberg’s prediction was, therefore, that there would be ao effects on L2 phonetics and

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Ronald Langacker

This book reviews the basic claims and descriptive constructs of Cognitive Grammar, outlines major themes in its ongoing development, and applies these notions to central problems in grammatical analysis. The initial review covers conceptual semantics, the conceptual characterization of grammatical categories, grammatical constructions, and the architecture of a unified theory of language structure. Main themes in the framework’s development include the dynamicity of language structure, grammar as the implementation of semantic functions, systems of opposing elements to serve those functions, and organization in strata representing successive elaborations of a baseline structure. The descriptive application of these notions centers on nominal and clausal structure, with special emphasis on nominal grounding.

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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.