You are here

Conversational Eliciture

Date and Time: 
Thursday, October 29, 2015. 03:30 PM - 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 460, Room 126
Meeting Description: 

Speaker:
Andrew Kehler is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California San Diego.

Meeting description:
Whereas sentence (1a) states that the employee was fired and was embezzling money, it also strongly invites the inference that the employee was fired because of the embezzling.   An analogous inference is lacking in (1b), however: one does not normally infer that the firing was caused by the employee’s hair color.   And sentence (1c) leads to a counter-to-expectation inference, leading one to wonder why an employee with so many accolades would be let go. 

 (1a) The boss fired the employee who was embezzling money.        

 (1b) The boss fired the employee who has red hair.  

 (1c) The boss fired the employee who won numerous corporate awards.

We posit that these inferences do not follow directly from the procedures that have been argued to underlie other sorts of pragmatic enrichment, such as from a violation of communicative (e.g., Gricean) norms based on principles of rationality/cooperativity (as in implicature), or the need to complete/expand a proposition so as to appropriately fix truth-conditional content (as in Bach's impliciture). We argue instead that they follow from more basic, general cognitive (not specifically linguistic) strategies for building mental models of the world that draw on types of experiential knowledge and associative principles that are known to be used to establish the coherence of passages across clauses.  

For want of a term of art, we brand the phenomenon as eliciture, selected to capture the fact that a speaker, by choosing a particular form of reference, intends to elicit such associative inferences on the part of her hearer. The importance of accounting for such inferences goes beyond the recovery of implicit communicated content; it is also crucial for the interpretation of explicit linguistic expressions. As an example, we present a case study that examines pronoun interpretation. A passage completion experiment was conducted using stimuli like (1a-b) as context sentences, presented to participants with or without an additional pronoun prompt. Whereas accounts of pronoun interpretation that appeal primarily to surface-level contextual factors find little to distinguish contexts (1a-b), a Bayesian analysis (Kehler et al. 2008; Kehler & Rohde 2013) predicts a difference, through an interconnected chain of referential and coherence-driven dependencies. The results confirm that pronoun interpretation biases, but not production biases, are sensitive to whether or not an implicit cause can be inferred from a relative clause, revealing precisely the asymmetry predicted by the Bayesian analysis.   

[Contains joint work with Jonathan Cohen and with Hannah Rohde]

Workshops Calendar

S M T W T F S
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30