Formal semantics provides rigorous, explicit models of linguistic meaning. Such models also include an account of the possible interactions between language and reasoning abilities. Over the last decade, thanks to the joint efforts of linguists and psychologists, experimental techniques have entered the field of formal semantics. With this methodological step forward, the field has become a full-fledged cognitive science, with a combination of highly predictive formal theories of the language faculty as a whole and sophisticated tools designed to test these theories. Our ambition is to take the field of psycho-semantics one step further in two directions.
- Our first goal is to increase the theoretical sophistication of psycho-semantics. Initial experimental forays into semantics showed how to test divergent predictions between broadly different theoretical models. But in many cases, the formal semantic models in competition diverge on more fine-grained properties that have been overlooked in the experimental literature. These properties are now ripe for more focused investigation, requiring both theoretical sophistication and experimental meticulousness.
- Our second goal is to widen the themes covered in psycho-semantics. Up till now, a disproportionate amount of research in psycho-semantics has focused on a very specific type of inference, so-called scalar implicatures. The present research program aims at studying a broad range of semantic phenomena, comprising entailments, implicatures and presuppositions; these are the traditional categories of inference, representing ways in which language and other abilities combine to produce meaning. We will extend the methods developed for a narrow set of phenomena to reveal new empirical facts (from naïve speaker’s judgments), processing aspects and acquisition properties for a broad range of phenomena.
Field of science
- /humanities/languages and literature/linguistics
Call for proposal
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