Institut Jean Nicod

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Présentation


LANGUAGE Seminar

 

Closed 'lab meeting' around the LINGUAE group : Visit Website

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 11th October  - 11.30am-1pm [followed by a social hour, 1pm-2pm]
Rachel Dudley - "Discovering the factivity of "know"

IJN/LSCP seminar room, ground floor, Pavillon, 29 rue d'Ulm

ABSTRACT

"Know" and "think" both express beliefs but differ in their 'factivity'. "Think" can report false beliefs, while the complement of "know" is presupposed to be true. How do children figure out that "know" is factive but "think" isn't.  In this talk, I'll report on a series of studies (involving behavioral and corpus methods) designed to pursue this question. Using behavioral tasks, we find that children begin to understand the difference around 3, but that there is a lot of individual variation in when this understanding is demonstrated. One source of this individual variation might be differences in the linguistic experience that children have with "know" and "think". To pursue this hypothesis, we used corpus methods to examine aspects of the input that children receive. We find that direct cues to factivity are sparse: (i) "think" is rarely used in contexts where the complement is false; (ii) "know" is rarely used in contexts where its complement is presupposed. However, we find that "think" and "know" differ greatly in how speakers use them in conversation: (iii) "know" is used to ask or answer questions, whereas "think" is used to make weak assertions. This suggests that noticing the goals of speakers who use the verbs might provide a less noisy signal than observing what speakers presuppose in using the verbs. Finally, I'll introduce a new study in this series (currently in progress) which will directly measure the relationship between input and understanding of the verbs.

 


Wednesday, 18th October  - 11.30am-1pm [followed by a social hour, 1pm-2pm]
Paolo Santorio - "Conditional Excluded Middle in Informational Semantics"

IJN/LSCP seminar room, ground floor, Pavillon, 29 rue d'Ulm


ABSTRACT:


An empirically adequate semantics for conditionals should vindicate both a principle of Conditional Excluded Middle and the incompatibility of "If p, not q" and "If p, might q". Unfortunately, no existing semantics succeeds in the task. I go on to suggest that the puzzle posed by these two logical requirement is a generalization of Yalcin's well-known puzzle about epistemic contradictions and brings out a basic tension for truth-conditional frameworks. I show that a generalization of Veltman's update semantics, which I call "path semantics", can be used to capture both principles. I conclude by suggesting that path semantics also promises to help with traditional difficulties related to the relation between conditionals and probability.

 

Wednesday, 4th October - 11.30am-1pm [followed by a social hour, 1pm-2pm]
Chris Barker - "Negative Polarity as Scope Marking"

IJN/LSCP seminar room, ground floor, Pavillon, 29 rue d'Ulm

ABSTRACT:

What is the communicative value of negative polarity? That is, why do so many languages maintain a stock of special indefinites (weak Negative Polarity Items) that occur only in a proper subset of the contexts in which ordinary indefinites can appear? Previous answers include: marking the validity of downward inferences; marking the invalidity of veridical inferences; or triggering strengthening implications. My starting point for exploring a new answer is the fact that an NPI must always take narrow scope with respect to its licensing context. In contrast, ordinary indefinites are notorious for taking wide scope. So whatever else NPIs may do, they at least serve as an utterly reliable signal that an indefinite is taking narrow scope. As also proposed in recent work of Kusumoto and Tancredi, I will show that NPIs are only licensed in contexts in which the wide scope construal of an indefinite fails to entail the narrow scope. In other words, weak NPIs occur only in contexts in which taking narrow scope matters for interpretation. Thus one part of the explanation for the ubiquity and robust stability of negative polarity is that it signals scope relations.

 

Wednesday, 27th September  - 2pm-3.30pm
Brian Buccola - "Obligatory irrelevance and the computation of ignorance inferences"

IJN/LSCP seminar room, ground floor, Pavillon, 29 rue d'Ulm

ABSTRACT:

The standard grammatical theory of scalar implicature, as envisioned by Chierchia (2004), Fox (2007), and Chierchia, Fox, and Spector (2012), posits that scalar implicatures are derived in grammar, as a matter semantics, rather than pragmatically, as an implicature rooted in Grice's maxim of quantity. Ignorance inferences, by contrast, e.g. those associated with plain disjunctive sentences, are derived pragmatically, as quantity implicatures. More generally, the standard theory predicts that for any utterance S and any relevant proposition φ which isn't entailed, and whose negation isn't entailed, by S, S gives rise to an inference of speaker ignorance about φ. We argue that this prediction is wrong: it fails to explain the contrast in ignorance inferences associated with "at least" (which obligatorily implies ignorance) vs. more than (which doesn't) (Geurts and Nouwen 2007; Nouwen 2010, 2015). The problem is that, without stipulating restrictions on which propositions are relevant, the theory overgenerates ignorance inferences across the board. We argue that the solution is to close relevance under belief (if φ is relevant, then it's also relevant whether the speaker believes φ). This move has the effect that ignorance inferences, like scalar implicatures, can only be derived in grammar, via a covert belief operator of the sort proposed by Meyer (2013) and discussed further by Fox (2016). The maxim of quantity, we show, then no longer enriches the meaning of an utterance, per se, but rather acts as a filter on what can be relevant in an utterance context. In particular, certain alternatives (of certain utterances) are shown to be incapable of being relevant in any context where the maxim of quantity is active -- a property we dub *obligatory irrelevance*. We argue that obligatory irrelevance provides the key to understanding the contrast in ignorance inferences exhibited by "at least" vs. "more than". We also argue that translating our proposal into neo-Gricean terms, if at all possible, would yield a conceptually less appealing and empirically less adequate theory.

 


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