The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, August 28th, 2017

LFRG 08/30 - Marie-Christine Meyer

Speaker: Marie-Christine Meyer (ZAS Berlin)
Title: Sound Patterns of Exhaustification
Date and time: Wedensday August 30, 1:00-2:00pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I will suggest a compositional semantics for certain intonational contours, arguing that the falling (LL%) and rising (LH%) boundary tones are what I call weak and strong exhaustification morphemes. These morphemes occur together with a L+H* pitch accent in constructions that have been studied under the names of Meta-linguistic Negation (e.g. Horn 1989), Contrastive Negation (e.g. McCawley 1991), and Contrastive Focus (e.g. Bolinger 1965, Rooth 1985), whereas intonational tunes like L+H*LH% have been studied in relation to their use as indicating speaker uncertainty and/or contrastive topics (e.g. Büring 1997, 2003). I will show how the semantic/pragmatic contribution of these intonational tunes across constructions is mediated by (i) the semantics of L+H* and LL% or LH% (ii) economy principles like Efficiency (Meyer 2013, 2015), (iii) quantifier domain restriction of LL% and LH%, which allows for the possibility of anaphora between the levels of presupposed and exhaustified (i.e. asserted) content (e.g. Karttunen & Peters 1979, von Fintel 1994) as well as contextual symmetry breaking of ALT (cf. Fox & Katzir 2011), and (iv) independent constraints on structural alternatives (Katzir 2007).

ESSL/LAcqLab 08/31 - Marie-Christine Meyer

Speaker: Marie-Christine Meyer (ZAS Berlin)
Title: Priming Three Categories of Implicature (joint work with Roman Feiman, UCSD)
Date and time: Thursday August 31, 11:00 - 12:00
Location: 32-D831

Priming is a powerful and widely used method; its applications range from establishing the existence of implicit stereotyping (e.g., Banaji & Hardin 1996) to arguing for the reality of syntactic representations (e.g., Raffray & Pickering 2010). To the young field of experimental pragmatics, however, the priming paradigm has only been introduced very recently (Bott & Chemla 2016). In this talk, we report on a series of experiments in which we try to prime the computation of three categories of inferences: scalar implicature, exactly-readings of numerals, and (disjunctive) Free Choice inferences. As we will see, it is theoretically attractive to derive these inferences through the same mechanism. The existence of a priming effect between these three categories of inferences would provide strong evidence in favor of the cognitive reality of this theoretical assumption. Before we can produce and believe in such evidence, however, a few more questions need to be answered. Can the results of Chemla & Bott be replicated? What are the kinds of stimuli that work best for the paradigm and the linguistic material? Are we really priming the mechanism in question, or a confound? And finally: What are the mechanisms involved in these inferences for which we find evidence in the form of cross- and within-category priming effects? We will present our results and discuss their relevance to these questions, as well as to the theory of (recursive) scalar implicature.