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Linguistics Colloquium: Ming Xiang (UChicago)

Friday, October 26, 2018
4:00pm – 5:30pm

Storrs Campus
OAK 112

Title: Bridging the gap between parsing and interpretation through Bayesian pragmatic inferences

A great amount of sentence processing work has focused on revealing how the parser incrementally integrates each incoming word into the current linguistic representation. It is often explicitly or implicitly assumed that the representation preferred by the parser would determine the ultimate interpretation of the sentence. The current study investigates whether the interpretive bias in sentence comprehension necessarily tracks the parsing bias. Our case study, the Mandarin wh-in-situ scope dependencies, suggests a misalignment between the local parsing decisions and the global interpretative decisions. In particular, for Mandarin wh-in-situ constructions that involve scope ambiguity, eye movement reading measures and acceptability judgments both showed a locality bias in parsing, such that the local scope dependency was less costly than the non-local one. However, when interpretation was probed by a truth-value judgment task, there was an anti-locality bias, such that the interpretation compatible with the non-local scope was preferred. We propose a Bayesian pragmatic inference model to account for these findings, following the Rational Speech Act framework (RSA, Goodman & Frank, 2016). Under this model, the seeming conflict between parsing and interpretation will ultimately disappear because in the proposed model parsing preferences will be naturally embedded under the pragmatic reasoning process to derive the ultimate interpretation. The currently study therefore makes novel contributions, both empirically and theoretically, to address questions about the relationship between parsing and interpretation.

This event is sponsored by the UConn Department of Linguistics and the Graduate Student Senate


Nicolaus Schrum, 9084321875, nicolaus.schrum(at)

Linguistics Department (primary), UConn Master Calendar

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