Psycholinguistics Working Group

WhenOctober 12, 2018 03:30 PM - 05:00 PM
WhereBeecher Hall, Room 101
Contact InformationLinguistics Department
DescriptionJeff Geiger will present his work on a Bayesian model of verb phrase ellipsis interpretation.

Title: Rational VPE interpretation: The interaction between identity and Discourse

There has been some debate whether verb phrase ellipsis (VPE) is interpreted under linguistic identity with an antecedent sentence or by selecting the interpretation that is most salient in the general (linguistic and nonlinguistic) discourse. In a previous study, we tested both models by eliciting ratings for VPE when both nonlinguistic and linguistic information are sufficiently salient to be considered during interpretation. The results indicated that neither the identity nor the discourse account on its own is sufficient to explain the facts of VPE interpretation. Linguistic and nonlinguistic information are both considered during interpretation, but there is a general bias toward the interpretation that matches the linguistic antecedent.

In the current study, we seek to formalize this intuition by building a Rational Speech Act (RSA) model of VPE interpretation. RSA is a framework for understanding utterance interpretation as a recursive process of Bayesian inference on the part of a listener who is aware that speakers are rational agents who wish to communicate cooperatively with them. We replicated our findings from the previous study, and also collected ratings of the competing VPE interpretations at various points in the discourse (before the antecedent; after the antecedent but before the VPE utterance). This allowed us to build a model of the antecedent utterance's interpretation, demonstrating the validity of the RSA model for our experimental task, and then three models of interpretation of the VPE utterance - one each for the identity and discourse interpretation strategies, and one for a hybrid strategy. The hybrid model does the best job of predicting our replicated experimental results, suggesting that VPE interpretation is more sophisticated than imagined under the strict identity and discourse accounts.
CategoriesConferences/Lectures, Meetings, Workshops
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