Experimental Pragmatics

Gregory Ward – Northwestern University
William S. Horton – Northwestern University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2306 Mason Hall

See Course Description

The emerging field of experimental pragmatics combines an interest in the theoretical complexities of language use with the experimental methodologies of psycholinguistics. This course will present a broad survey of recent work in this area that has attempted to apply the methods of experimental psychology to classic issues in theoretical pragmatics. Each class session will include both theoretical and experimental readings on topics such as reference, information structure, implicature, and speech acts. These topics wrestle with the relationship between the sentence, as an abstract object with phonological, syntactic, and semantic properties assigned by the grammar of the language, and the utterance, as the concrete realization of that sentence with properties inherited from consideration of the discourse situation. The class will also focus on a number of experimental and analytical methodologies that have been used to investigate these topics, including reaction time studies, eyetracking, and corpus analysis.  In general, the course will be organized primarily around discussion of the assigned readings, and students will have the opportunity to develop a research proposal relevant to issues in language use.  No specific background in or familiarity with particular experimental methods or approaches is required.

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