Detecting Abstract Linguistic Properties Through the Study of Corpus Data

Paula Rubio - Fernández - Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences - MIT
Saying too much can be efficient: Evidence from language production/comprehension studies

Paula Rubio-Fernández
Department of Brain of Cognitive Sciences
MIT


A pragmatic account of referential communication is proposed which presents an alternative to traditional accounts in the Gricean tradition by focusing on efficiency rather than informativeness. According to this new account, referential over – specification can result in efficient speaker-hearer coordination, rather than being pragmatically infelicitous. The results of a series of language-production experiments support the view that speakers are efficient when producing redundant size and colour adjectives, doing so more often when modification could facilitate the hearer’s search for the referent in the visual display. English speakers also used redundant colour adjectives more often than Spanish speakers, supporting the hypothesis that redundant adjectives are more efficient in prenominal than in postnominal position. Regarding comprehension, a series of cross-linguistic eye-tracking studies confirm that redundant modification can facilitate target identification. Finally, I will present a probabilistic model of referential communication and contrastive inferences. Overall, the results of these studies confirm that redundancy helps efficient referential communication.

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