The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Linguistics Colloquium 10/12 - Pranav Anand

Speaker: Pranav Anand (UC Santa Cruz)
Title: Assessing the pragmatics of experiments: The case of scalar implicature
Date/Time: Friday, Oct 12, 3:30-5p
Location: 32-141

There is a growing impetus to examine pragmatic phenomena experimentally. Potentially complicating these investigations is the way in which the experimental environment itself shapes participants’ models of extra‐linguistic context. A spate of recent results collectively suggest that the computation of scalar implicature may be sensitive to a host of factors: task structure, social norms, and type of response elicited. However, these results provide only a few points in a vast space of potential task parameters, thereby limiting our ability to systematically model the interaction between linguistic forms, context and pragmatic inference. This talk reports ongoing work to systematically investigate the parametric space of task design. We find that implicature calculation rates are sensitive to both the structure of the response elicited (e.g., scalar vs. unordered) as well as the task prompt (whether the participant judges “accuracy”, “informativity”, or “goodness”), and discuss the methodological lessons of this kind of work.