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The Processing and Acquisition of Reference$
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Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015127

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015127.001.0001

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The Effect of Speaker-Specific Information on Pragmatic Inferences

The Effect of Speaker-Specific Information on Pragmatic Inferences

(p.239) 10 The Effect of Speaker-Specific Information on Pragmatic Inferences
The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

Daniel Grodner

Julie C. Sedivy

The MIT Press

Utterances can convey more information than they explicitly encode, and speakers exploit communicative conventions in order to say more with less. However, the burden this places on perceivers is not well understood. This chapter examines the effect of speaker-specific information on pragmatic inferences using data from an experiment which investigated the time course of the use of pragmatic information in language comprehension. Previous evidence suggests that comprehenders who encounter a referential form, including a modifier that commonly indicates contrastiveness, assume that the referential form is being used contrastively. Thus, they consequently look to the relevant object in the scene very early when processing the referential expression. In this case, people appear to be implicitly following H. P. Grice’s maxim of quantity. This chapter demonstrates that comprehenders stop using contrastive information early in resolving reference when speakers consistently do not use contrastive elements appropriately, consistent with a pragmatic explanation of referential contrast effects.

Keywords:   speakers, pragmatic inferences, language comprehension, contrastiveness, H. P. Grice, contrastive information, reference, contrast

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