The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 3/24 - Vera Hohaus (Manchester)

Speaker: Vera Hohaus (MIT)
Title: Linguistic Illusions Revisited: The Role of Maximal Informativity
Time: Friday, March 24th, 3:30pm – 5pm

Abstract: Building on joint work with Nadine Bade (Universität Potsdam) and Ryan Walter Smith (The University of Manchester), this talk revisits two prominent cases of linguistic illusions that involve comparison, so-called depth-charge sentences like (1) and under-over illusions like (2).

(1) No head injury is too insignificant to be ignored.

(2) The importance of the rainforest cannot be underestimated.

We demonstrate that both the pedantic and the intended interpretation of these sentences can be derived compositionally. The alleged illusion arises from the interaction of maximal informativity with the monotonicity of the degree predicate underlying the comparison.