Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics

ESP is a working research group of faculty, postdocs, and students, from Linguistics and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, that meets every two weeks to discuss research questions about the relationship between pragmatics and semantics, and the experimental investigation of this relationship.

The primary faculty participants are Scott Grimm and Greg Carlson of Linguistics, and Mike Tanenhaus of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Often a reading is discussed, but ESP is also a forum for presentation of practice talks, research updates, and just plain brainstorming.

Membership in the group is open to anyone interested in the topics, regardless of departmental affiliation, and is established by showing up fairly regularly, and feeling a need to offer a credible explanation when you don't.

Current and Recent Lab Members

Recent Topics

  • The relationship between the meanings of know and believe.
    • If knowledge is justified true belief, how is it you can know something (e.g. that the semester is about to start), but profess not to believe it?
  • Experimental work on how only is processed in real time tasks.
  • What IS a context, anyway?
  • A discussion of data originally sent out by Christian Kim, and discussed over a series of emails, which were collated and discussed. The core data is this:
    • A: Don't you have a blue Toyota Camry? / You have a blue Toyota Camry, right?
    • B1: (fine) No, it's {green, a Corolla, a red Saturn}.
    • B2: (also fine) Yeah, but it's green.
    • B3: (weirder) Yeah, but it's a Corolla.
    • B4: (even weirder) Yeah, but it's a Corolla. And it's green.
    • B5: (worst ever) Yeah, but it's a green Saturn.
  • Practice talks for AMLAP, CUNY, the LSA, Sinn und Bedeutung, Experimental Pragmatics and other conferences.

Recent Readings

Below is a sampling of recent readings the group has discussed, to give some idea of the scope of the ESP research.

  • Beaver, D. and B. Clark (2008). Sense and Sensitivity: How Focus Determines Meaning, Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Benz, A., Gerhard Joger and Robert van Rooij (2006) "An Introduction to Game Theory for Linguists" In Anton Benz, Gerhard Jager and Robert van Rooij (eds). Game Theory and Pragamtics. Praeger MacMillan. 1-83
  • Brown-Schmidt S., Gunlogson, C. & Tanenhaus, M.K. (2008). Addressees distinguish shared from private information when interpreting questions during interactive conversation. Cognition, 1122-1134.
  • Chambers , C. and V. San Juan (2008) Perception and presupposition in real-time language comprehension: Insights from anticipatory processing. Cognition
  • Frazier L., C. Clifton Jr. , and B. Stolterfoht (2007) Scale structure: Processing minimum standard and maximum standard scalar adjectives. Cognition.
  • Gauker, C. (1998). What Is a Context of Utterance?? Philosophical Studies.
  • Heritage, J. (1990-1) Intention, meaning, and Strategy: Observations on Constraints on Interaction Analysis. Research on Language and Social Interaction 24, 311-332.
  • Holtgraves, T. (2005). Diverging interpretations associated with the perspectives of the speaker and recipient in conversations. Journal of Memory and Language 53 (2005) 551-566
  • Huang, Y.T., and J. Snedeker (ms). From Meaning to Inference: Evidence for the distinction between lexical semantics and scalar implicature in online processing and development
  • Ippolito M. (2008). On the meaning of only. Journal of Semantics, 25(1): 45-91.
  • Jackendoff, R. (1983). Semantics and Cognition. (Chapter 9). MIT Press.
  • Kaplan, D. The meaning of Oops and Ouch. Video lecture, available
  • Lasersohn, P. (2005). Context Dependence, Disagreement, and Predicates of Personal Taste. Linguistics and Philosophy,
  • McElree, B., M. Traxler, M. Pickering, R. Seely, R. Jackendoff. (2001) Reading time evidence for enriched composition. Cognition 78, B17-B25.
  • Schwarz, F. (2007) Processing Presupposed Content. Journal of Semantics 24: 373-416
  • Shintel, H. and B. Keysar (2007. You Said It Before and You'll Say It Again: Expectations of Consistency in Communication. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,Vol. 33, No. 2, 357-369
  • Stephenson, T. (2007) Judge dependence, epistemic modals, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy.
  • Wu, S. & Keysar B. (2007). The effect of culture on perspective taking. Psychological Science, 18, 600-606.

Other Readings

  • Ralph Hertwig, Bjorn Benz, Stefan Krauss, The conjunction fallacy and the many meanings of and
  • Michael Franke, On Game Theoretic Pragmatics
  • Robert van Rooy and Marie Safarova, On Polar Questions