Contextualising generic and universal generalisations: Quantifier domain restriction and the generic overgeneralisation effect
Journal of Semantics
Oxford University Press
MetadataShow full item record
Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, D., Stockall, L., & Katsos, N. (2019). Contextualising generic and universal generalisations: Quantifier domain restriction and the generic overgeneralisation effect. Journal of Semantics, 36 (4), 617-664. https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/ffz009
Generic generalisations (e.g. ‘tigers have stripes’, ‘ducks lay eggs’) refer to a characteristic property of a kind. Recently, the generics-as-default view has posited that we have a bias towards interpreting universally quantified statements as generic. Evidence offered for this view is the Generic Overgeneralisation (GOG) effect, which refers to the documented tendency of participants to misinterpret a quantificational statement like ‘all ducks lay eggs’ as if it were a generic and thus accept it as true, even though they know it is false. Across two experiments in English and Greek we systematically addressed the relevance of context and quantifier domain restriction for this kind of behaviour. Participants judged generic majority characteristic statements like ‘tigers have stripes’ or statements with universal quantifiers with different sensitivity to quantifier domain restriction preceded by one of three levels of context (neutral, contradictory and supportive). We found that context significantly affected the rates at which participants accepted universally quantified statements. Our results demonstrate that quantifier domain restriction is a viable alternative explanation for a significant proportion of the judgements of universally quantified statements that have been called GOG errors.
This work was partly supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant (SG-132271) awarded to the authors and by AL 554/8-1 (DFG Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Preis 2014 to Artemis Alexiadou). We are grateful to Faidra Faitaki and Valentina Hu for their help with the experimental materials, norming, and data entry. Thanks to Anne Beshears, Patrick Elliott, Shivonne Gates, David Hall, Jessica Soltys, Tom Stanton, Nikola Vukovic and Elspeth Wilson for their help with norming and with the experimental software, and to Stephen Politzer-Ahles for advice on the statistics. The ideas presented here have benefited from discussions with colleagues in our respective institutions. The first author would also like to thank everyone in the Department of Linguistics at Queen Mary, who provided a stimulating environment to work in. We also acknowledge the helpful feedback from audiences and reviewers, where parts of this research project were presented: the Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics Workshop at the University of Cambridge, the Generic Workshop at Harvard University, CLT Seminari at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Trends in Experimental Pragmatics and Cross-linguistic pragmatics at ZAS, the RUESHeL group at Humboldt University of Berlin, New Perspectives on the Form and Meaning of (Bare) Nominals at University of São Paulo, and the 39th Cognitive Science Conference in London. Last but not least we would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that contributed to shape the final version of this manuscript and Rick Nouwen for useful comments and excellent editorial work.
British Academy (SG132271)
Embargo Lift Date
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/ffz009
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/293932
All rights reserved