LiSLab Teams


Elizabeth Coppock Elizabeth Coppock (Ph.D., Stanford University)
Assistant Professor (Linguistics), Boston University
specializing in Semantics & Pragmatics

See my website for an updated list of publications.

Current Collaborative Projects

Ratio expressions

Quantities can be added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. Are there lexical items that conventionally express the concept of division? Plausible candidates include English per, and its translations into other languages. This project seeks to identify and categorize the ratio markers of the world. One major source of information is the EuroParl corpus, a parallel corpus of 20 languages that provides a great deal of detail about how ratios are expressed in these languages. In addition to studying the available data in this corpus, we are in the process of developing an elicitation method to study ratio markers in a more diverse set of languages.

Published outcomes so far:

Coppock, Elizabeth Coppock (2022). Division vs. Distributivity: Is per just like each? In John R. Starr, Juhyae Kim, and Burak Oney (eds.), Proceedings of SALT 32.

SALT 32 poster video:

Coppock, Elizabeth (2021). Challenge Problems for a Theory of Degree Multiplication (with partial answer key). In Nicole Dreier, Chloe Kwon, Thomas Darnell, and John Starr (eds.), Proceedings of SALT 31: 466–183. DOI: 10.3765/salt.v31i0.5071.

Coppock, Elizabeth (2022). Part-introducing percent in English. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 7(1): 1–38. DOI: 10.16995/glossa.5791.

Degree Abstraction: Parameter or Universal?

Depiction of "The boat is wider than Mary is tall".
An image from the storyboard elicitation materials, containing a subcomparative construction.

It has been claimed that some languages, including Mandarin, Japanese, Yoruba, Samoan, and Moore, lack so-called degree abstraction (a configuration at LF involving lambda abstraction over a degree trace). But upon closer inspection, some of these languages have turned out to have it, as recent literature has shown. Does every language have it? Is it, in other words, a universal? Or can we find solid evidence that some languages really lack it?

Starting with a closer examination of Mandarin spearheaded by BU PhD student Ying Gong, this project has developed a new set of eliciation materials for degree abstraction, including two storyboards, which we have applied to Moore (a Gur language spoken in Burkina Faso). We are currently in the process of analyzing those results.

Published outcomes so far:

Gong, Ying and Elizabeth Coppock (2021). Mandarin has degree abstraction after all. Talk presented at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. (Video, Slides)


Different lexicon, different implicatures

Plotting production vs. comprehension results for finger vs. thumb in English vs. Spanish

If scalar implicatures depend on what alternatives are in the lexicon, do differences across languages as to what’s in the lexicon drive cross-linguistic differences in scalar implicature? Short answer: Yes! We show this through comprehension and production experiments across several different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Persian, and Arabic, based on the idea that the existence of thumb in English causes a finger-to-not-thumb implicature.

Computational modelling in the Rational Speech Act framework, furthermore, shows that listeners have a good understanding of the probability with which speakers will choose alternatives from the lexicon, and use this information in the computation (or non-computation) of implicatures.

Published article:

Dionne, Danielle and Elizabeth Coppock (2022). Complexity vs. salience of alternatives in implicature: A cross-linguistic investigation. Glossa Psycholinguistics.

Experimenting with Haddock descriptions

Sample stimulus. After clicking on the audio button, participants would hear, “Click on the rabbit in the bigger ****”, where white noise masks the final word.

As Haddock noticed, the rabbit in the hat succeeds in referring even if there are multiple hats; all that matters is that there is only one hat containing a rabbit. Haddock proposed that this was a natural consequence of incremental processing. Using nested definite descriptions containing gradable modifiers like the rabbit in the big/bigger bag in a series of Visual World experiments, we give evidence for Bumford’s scope-based analysis of Haddock descriptions, as opposed to one involving incremental processing. We also give evidence for what we call referential garden path effects, where the listener is thrown off by temporarily settling on the wrong referent.

Published outcomes so far:

Aparicio, Helena, Roger Levy and Elizabeth Coppock (2019). How to find the rabbit in the big(ger) box: Reasoning about contextual parameters for relative adjectives under embedding. Poster presented at XPRAG 2019, Edinburgh, June 2019. (Poster)

Aparicio, Helena and Elizabeth Coppock (2019). Context effects in the interpretation of Haddock descriptions. Poster at the 32nd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, March 29-31, 2019, Boulder, CO.