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Theses - RC English and Applied Linguistics


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  • ItemOpen Access
    The interpretation and use of numerically-quantified expressions
    (2011-11-08) Cummins, Chris; Katsos, Napoleon
    This thesis presents a novel pragmatic account of the meaning and use of numerically-quantified expressions. It can readily be seen that quantities can typically be described by many semantically truthful expressions – for instance, if "more than 12" is true of a quantity, so is "more than 11", "more than 10", and so on. It is also intuitively clear that some of these expressions are more suitable than others in a given situation, a preference which is not captured by the semantics but appears to rely upon on wider-ranging considerations of communicative effectiveness. Motivated by these observations, I lay out a set of criteria that are demonstrably relevant to the speaker's choice of utterance in such cases. Observing further that it is typically impossible to satisfy all these criteria with a single utterance, I suggest that the speaker's choice of utterance can be construed as a problem of multiple constraint satisfaction. Using the formalism of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993), I proceed to specify a model of speaker behaviour for this domain of usage. The model I propose can be used to draw predictions both about the speaker's choice of utterance and the hearer's interpretation of utterances. I discuss the relation between these two aspects of the model, showing how constraints on the speaker's choice of utterance are predicted to make pragmatic enrichments available to the hearer. I then consider applications of this idea to specific issues that have been discussed in the literature. Firstly, with respect to superlative quantifiers, I show how this model provides an alternative account to that of Geurts and Nouwen (2007), building upon that offered by Cummins and Katsos (2010), and I present empirical evidence in its favour. Secondly, I show how this model yields the novel prediction that comparative quantifiers give rise to implicatures that are conditioned both by granularity and by prior mention of the numeral, and demonstrate these implicatures empirically. Finally I discuss the predictions that the model makes about the frequency of quantifiers in corpora, and investigate their validity. I conclude that the model presented here proves its worth as a source of hypotheses about speaker and hearer behaviour in the numerical domain. In particular, it serves as a way to integrate insights from distinct domains of enquiry including psycholinguistics, theoretical semantics and numerical cognition. I discuss the claim of this model to psychological plausibility, its relation to existing approaches, and its potential utility when applied to broader domains of language use.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Implicit learning of natural language syntax
    (2009-10-13) Rebuschat, Patrick
    The present dissertation focuses on the question of how humans acquire syntactic knowledge without intending to and without awareness of what they have learned. The aim is to apply the theoretical concepts and the methodological framework provided by implicit learning research to the investigation of language acquisition. The results of six experiments are reported. In terms of design, all experiments consisted of (i) a training phase, during which subjects were trained on a miniature linguistic system by means of different exposure conditions, (ii) an unexpected testing phase, during which learning and awareness were assessed, and (iii) a debriefing session. A semi-artificial grammar, which consisted of English words and German syntax, was employed to generate the stimulus material for experiments 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6; in the case of experiment 4, nonsense syllables were used instead of English words. The linguistic focus was on verb placement rules. Native speakers of English with no background in German (or any other V2 language) were recruited to take part in the experiments.