LOT School 2015 – Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics


Rick Nouwen (r dot w dot f dot nouwen at uu dot nl)

Yaron McNabb (y not mcnabb at uu dot nl)

Days and Times

Monday through Friday, 19-23 January, 2015, 11:15-13:15.


University of Amsterdam, P.C. Hoofthuis, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam.

Course description

This seminar provides an introduction to experimental semantics and pragmatics, and surveys the recent surge in experimental studies to test theoretical predictions in studies of meaning. We examine the motivations for doing experiments and discuss the importance of psychological validity to contemporary theoretical approaches. We will discuss a series of case studies which illustrate how experimental techniques have provided insights into widely-discussed issues in theoretical semantics and pragmatics, focussing on quantifiers, vagueness, gradability, intensification, scalar implicature and modified numerals.

Day-to-day program

Monday, 19 Jan. 2015: General introduction: empirical methods in semantics and pragmatics (Krifka 2011, Bott et al. 2011, Schwarz 2014, Noveck & Reboul 2008LOT 2015 Lecture 1 notes

Tuesday, 20 Jan. 2015: The semantics of quantifiers (Glanzberg 2008, Koster-Moeller et al. 2008, McMillan et al. 2005, Szymanik 2007LOT 2015 Lecture 2 notes

Wednesday, 21 Jan. 2015: Vagueness in gradable predicates and degree modifiers (Kennedy & McNally 2005, Kennedy 2007, Syrett et al. 2009, McNabb 2011LOT 2015 Lecture 3 notes

Thursday, 22 Jan. 2015: Scalar implicature (Grice 1975Katsos 2008, Doran et. al 2009, 2012, van Tiel et al, in prep.LOT 2015 Lecture 4 notes

Friday, 23 Jan. 2015: Modified numerals (Geurts & Nouwen 2007, Cummins & Katsos 2010, Geurts et al. 2010, Coppock & Brochhagen 2013, McNabb & Penka 2014, Marty et al. 2014LOT 2015 Lecture 5 notes


Bott, Oliver, Sam Featherston, Janina Radó & Britta Stolterfoht. 2011. The application of experimental methods in semantics. In Claudia Maienborn, Klaus von Heusinger & Paul Portner (eds.), An International Handbook of Natural Language and Meaning, 303–319. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Link to preprint.

Bott, Lewis & Ira A Noveck. 2004. Some utterances are underinformative: The onset and time course of scalar inferences. Journal of memory and language 51(3). 437–457. Link to preprint.

Coppock, Elizabeth, & Brochhagen, Thomas. 2013. Diagnosing truth, interactive sincerity, and depictive sincerity. In Proceedings of SALT 23, pp. 358-375. Link to paper.

Cummins, C. and N. Katsos. 2010. Comparative and superlative quantifiers: Pragmatic effects of comparison type. Journal of Semantics 27(3), 271–305. Link to preprint.

Doran, Ryan, Rachel M. Baker, Yaron McNabb, Meredith Larson & Gregory Ward. 2009. On the non-unified nature of scalar implicature: An empirical investigation. International Review of Pragmatics 1(2). 211–248. Link to paper.

Doran, Ryan , Gregory Ward, Meredith Larson, and Rachel E. Baker. 2012. “A novel experimental paradigm for distinguishing between `what is said’ and `what is implicated’,” Language 88(1):124-154. Link to preprint.

Geurts, Bart & Rick Nouwen. 2007. ‘At least’ et al.: The semantics of scalar modifiers. Lan- guage 83(3), 533–559. Link to paper.

Geurts, Bart, Katsos, Napoleon, Cummins, Chris, Moons, J. & Noordman, L. 2010. Scalar Quantifiers: Logic, Acquisition, and Processing. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(1): 130-48. Link to paper.

Glanzberg, M. 2008. Quantifiers. In: Lepore, E. and Smith, B. C. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press. Link to preprint.

Grice, H. P. 1991. Logic and conversation. Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard University Press. Link to chapter.

Katsos, Napoleon. 2008. The semantics/pragmatics interface from an experimental perspective: the case of scalar implicature. Synthese 165:385-401. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-007-9187-4. Link to paper.

Kennedy, Christopher. 2007. Vagueness and grammar: The semantics of relative and absolute gradable predicates. Linguistics and Philosophy 1–45. Link to paper

Kennedy, Christopher & Louise McNally. 2005. Scale structure, degree modifica-tion, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language 81(2). 345–381. Link to paper

Koster-Moeller, Varvoutis and Hackl, 2008. Verification Procedures for Modified Numeral Quantifiers. WCCFL 27. Link to paper.

Krifka, Manfred. 2011. Varieties of semantic evidence. In Claudia Maienborn, Klaus von Heusinger & Paul Portner (eds.), An International Handbook of Natural Language and Meaning, 242–268. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Link to preprint.

Marty, Paul, Chemla, Emmanuel & Spector, Benjamin. In press“Phantom readings: the case of modified numerals”Language, Cognition and NeuroscienceLink to preprint.

McMillan, C.T. et al. 2005. Neural basis for generalized quantifier comprehension. Neuropsychologia 43: 1729-1737. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2005.02.012. Link to paper.

McNabb, Yaron. 2011. “Standard Fixing and Context Manipulation: An Experimental Investigation of Degree Modification,” in Aguilar-Guevara, Ana, Anna Chernilovskaya & Rick Nouwen, Proceeding of Sinn und Bedeutung 16. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. Link to paper.

McNabb, Yaron & Doris Penka. 2014. The interpretation of superlative modifiers and deontic modals: An experimental investigation, In U. Etxeberria, A. Fălăuș, A. Irurtzun and B. Leferman (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 18. Link to paper.

Noveck, Ira. A., & Reboul, Anne. 2008. Experimental pragmatics: A Gricean turn in the study of language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12(11): 425-431. Link to preprint.

Schwarz, Florian. 2014. Introduction: Aspects of Meaning in Context – Theoretical Issues and Experimental Perspectives. In Florian Schwarz (ed.), Experimental Perspectives on Presuppositions, Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics. Berlin: Springer. Link to draft.

Syrett, Kristen, Christopher Kennedy & Jeff Lidz. 2009. Meaning and context in children’s understanding of gradable adjectives. Journal of Semantics 27. 1–35. Link to paper.

van Tiel, Bob, Emiel van Miltenburg, Natalia Zevakhina &Bart Geurts. Scalar diversity. Link to manuscript

Szymanik, J. 2007. A comment on a neuroimaging study of natural language quantifier comprehension. Neuropsychologia 45: 2158-2160. Link to preprint.