Linguistics and English Language

Language evolution seminar

Speaker: Hannah Rohde (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Why are you telling me this? Information content and form

Abstract: Models of discourse prescribe that communication is guided by estimates of message relevance and informativity. This talk considers production and comprehension together. I present a set of psycholinguistic studies that test how speakers make decisions about what content to convey and what forms to use and how listeners reverse engineer the speaker's intention. One of my primary questions is about coreference and the selection of possible meanings and forms. I use Bayes Rule to characterise this interplay between, on the one hand, speakers' choices of who to mention and what referential form to use and, on the other hand, listeners' recovery of the intended referent given a potentially ambiguous referring expression. Choice of mention can be shown to reflect how the discourse is expected to cohere; choice of referring expression depends on the determination of what information is useful to include. The latter choice can be shown to vary with the complexity of the context in which the referring expression will be interpreted. Beyond reference, interlocutors likewise have biases about what messages are probable and what surface forms are typically used to realize such messages. I present work testing possible repercussions of the inclusion of information that is wholly or partly predictable from the discourse context. The results highlight how listeners capitalize on speakers' (appropriate) redundancy in communication.


Seminars are organised by the Centre for Language Evolution

Andres Karjus

Centre for Language Evolution

Nov 27 2018 -

Language evolution seminar

2018-11-27: Why are you telling me this? Information content and form

Room G32, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ