Tag Archives: Semantics/Pragmatics
Experimental Pragmatics

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

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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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Semantic Fieldwork Methods

Judith Tonhauser – Ohio State University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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This course introduces participants to the methodology of collecting semantic/pragmatic data in collaboration with linguistically untrained native speaker consultants.

Data that may inform semantic/pragmatic theorizing are typically quite complex, consisting of 1) one or more grammatical sentences that are 2) uttered in an appropriately designed context, and 3) a native speaker’s judgment about the acceptability or the truth of the sentence(s) uttered in that context.

The goal of the course is to familiarize students with the empirical, theoretical and methodological considerations relevant to obtaining such data. In particular, topics to be discussed include the kinds of judgments obtainable from native speakers, distinguishing syntactically ill-formed from semantically/pragmatically anomalous sentences/utterances, the importance of context and how to appropriately control for it, reporting semantic/pragmatic data, and the generalizability of results.

The course also examines the benefits of and difficulties with exploring semantic/pragmatic research questions through texts. The relative merits of one-on-one elicitation and controlled experiments with linguistically untrained native speakers are also considered.

Although much of the data provided for in-class discussion comes from Paraguayan Guaraní (Tupí-Guaraní), in particular studies of temporal and nominal reference, and of presuppositions and other projective contents, the course aims to prepare participants to conduct semantic/pragmatic fieldwork on any topic in any language. Note that this course does not have a regular practical component during which course participants work with a native speaker consultant; Professor Keren Rice’s field methods course (http://lsa2013.lsa.umich.edu/2012/05/field-methods/) is highly recommended for this purpose.

This course is targeted at students already familiar with formal syntax, semantics and pragmatics who wish to collect data with native speakers, as well as students who already have experience in conducting research with native speakers and want to extend their research to semantic/pragmatic topics. Interested course participants should contact the instructor (judith@ling.osu.edu) with questions about the course content and suitability.

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