Exciting things are always afoot.
Danielle Dionne and Elizabeth Coppock have published a paper in Glossa Psycholinguistics entitled "Complexity vs. salience of alternatives in implicature: A cross-linguistic investigation". See it live and open access here! https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9gh7r8g7
Two of our amazing PhD students presented at the 51st Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics in Leiden:
Okrah Oppong, "Possession and inalienability In Ɔkere"
Ousmane Cisse, "Reduplicated Distributivity and its interaction with negation and aspect in Mandinka"
Ying Gong and Andre Batchelder-Schwab have received funding for a project, titled "Fieldwork on Ersu and Yi language in Southwest China" from the East and Inner Asia Council (EIAC), with the support of the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (CCKF).
This fieldwork focuses on two under-studied Tibeto-Burman languages–Ersu (a Qiangic language) and Nuosu Yi (a Lolo-Burmese language)–which are found in roughly the same area in Southwest China. Not only have both languages had just limited prior linguistic work, but also data vital for theoretical studies of these languages has not yet been collected, especially with Ersu, which is a critically endangered language. With particular interests in semantics and syntax, this project will be eliciting linguistic data on topics including comparison strategies and (in)direct evidence reference strategies.
Although "percent" got famous for its non-conservative uses as in "The committee hired 30% WOMEN", Coppock argues that we should approach the analysis of "percent" via simpler, predicative cases like "The solution is 30% acid". Building on Pasternak's analysis of how "percent" works in cases with closed-scale gradable adjectives like "30% full", Coppock proposes a type shift that applies to a predicate like "acid" and yields a gradable predicate that tracks parthood of the subject. A small tweak needs to be made to the lexical entry for "percent", too. Then there are some interesting cumulative-like uses, which Coppock analyzes in a dynamic framework that also helps to avoid the need for weird compositional mechanisms in the basic cases.
Just out in Linguistics and Philosophy: Modified numerals: Two routes to ignorance
by Alexandre Cremers, Elizabeth Coppock, Jakub Dotlacil and Floris Roelofsen
Abstract: Modified numerals, such as at least three and more than five, are known to sometimes give rise to ignorance inferences. However, there is disagreement in the literature regarding the nature of these inferences, their context dependence, and differences between at least and more than. We present a series of experiments which sheds new light on these issues. Our results show that (a) the ignorance inferences of at least are more robust than those of more than, (b) the presence and strength of the ignorance inferences triggered by both at least and more than depends on the question under discussion (QUD), and (c) whether ignorance inferences are detected in a given experimental setting depends partly on the task that participants are asked to perform (e.g., an acceptability task versus an inference task). We offer an Optimality Theoretic account of these findings. In particular, the task effect is captured by assuming that in performing an acceptability task, participants take the speaker's perspective in order to determine whether an expression is optimal given a certain epistemic state, while in performing an inference task they take the addressee's perspective in order to determine what the most likely epistemic state of the speaker is given a certain expression. To execute the latter task in a fully rational manner, participants have to perform higher-order reasoning about alternative expressions the speaker could have used. Under the assumption that participants do not always perform such higher-order reasoning but also often resort to so-called unidirectional optimization, the task effect finds a natural explanation. This also allows us to relate our finding to asymmetries between comprehension and production that have been found in language acquisition.
Danielle Dionne & Elizabeth Coppock published "Tattoos as a window onto cross-linguistic differences in scalar implicature" in the first-ever volume of Experiments in Linguistic Meaning!
Read it here:
Cite as: Dionne, Danielle and Elizabeth Coppock (2021). Tattoos as a window onto cross-linguistic differences in scalar implicature. In Andrea Beltrama, Florian Schwarz, and Anna Papafragou (eds.), Experiments in Linguistic Meaning, Vol. 1, pp. 147--158
Abstract: This paper addresses the question of how to predict which alternatives are active in scalar implicature calculation, and the nature of this activation. It has been observed that finger implicates 'not thumb', and a Manner-based explanation for this has been proposed, predicting that if English had the simplex Latin word pollex meaning 'thumb or big toe', then finger would cease to have the implicature 'not thumb' that it has. It has also been suggested that this hypothetical pollex would have to be sufficiently colloquial in order to figure in scalar implicature calculation. This paper makes this thought experiment into a real one by using a language that behaves in exactly this way: Spanish has pulgar 'thumb' (< pollex), a non-colloquial form. We first use a fill-in-the-blank production task with both English and Spanish speakers to guage the likelihood with which a speaker will produce a given form as a way of describing a given digit. Production frequency does not perfectly track complexity, so we can then ask whether comprehension follows production frequency or complexity. We do so using a forced choice comprehension task, which reveals cross-linguistic differences in comprehension tracking production probabilities. A comparison between two RSA models -- one in which the speaker perfectly replicates our production data and a standard one in which the speaker chooses based on a standard cost/accuracy trade-off -- illustrates the fact that comprehension is much more closely tied to production probability than to the mere existence of sufficiently simple alternatives.
When police officers ask drivers to open the trunk, is a "yes" answer a signal of voluntary consent? Our experiment suggests that it's not.
This is for poster presented by Marina Weinstein, Danielle Dionne, Nathaniel Graham, Dylan Pato, and Elizabeth Coppock on June 26th at LMC Workshop 'MK40: Common Knowledge, Common Ground, and Context in Communication'
Elizabeth Coppock presented a talk entitled "Challenge problems for a theory of degree multiplication (with partial answer key)" at SALT 2021.
Slides here: http://eecoppock.info/coppock-salt2021-slides.pdf
Helena Aparicio, Curtis Chen, Roger Levy, and Elizabeth Coppock presented a talk entitled "Granularity in the semantics of comparison" at SALT 2021. Abstract here: https://osf.io/9z54r/
James Cooper Roberts has been awarded a summer UROP fellowship, to work on the project of automatically generating referring expressions for objects in complex scenes. He will be developing an annotated corpus. Welcome!