Discourse Connectives

We are currently studying the processing of discourse connectives such as but, so, because etc. using behavioural (reaction times, truth-value judgments) and eventually electrophysiological measures (EEG). Our goal is to see how the processing of these terms differs from that of logical operators like and. In the future we are also hoping to run developmental studies on that topic.

Scalars and Numbers

Scalar implicature typically centers on a particular word in a sentence, such as some, and how it is implicitly enriched (e.g., to mean not all). A long standing question in the literature concerns the way such enrichments occur; are they in some way ready-made or does their emergence require context and effort? Studies have generalized to number as well. When someone says that “there are eight candidates running for office,” does it mean exactly eight straightaway or does one need to enrich the meaning, like with some above, in order to access “not nine”? One recent study from our group argues that it depends on the way the number is expressed. Noveck, Foegel, Van Voorhees, & Turco (2022) provide evidence showing that ideographic representations of number (symbols, such as “8”) tend to mean exactly eight whereas glottographic ones (written, language dependent expressions, such as “eight”) need to be effortfully and pragmatically enriched to derive an exactly meaning. One of the paper’s supporting arguments is that, since the two co-exist in written language, it makes sense that the two ways of communicating about number would be (subtly) different.

Idiom Processing

From what we can tell, the phenomenon of the idiom superiority effect has largely driven the conversation around idiom processing. Although idioms (e.g., kick the bucket, break the ice, lift her spirits) do appear to be unique among figurative expressions in their ability to be processed faster than their literal controls, we believe that this may have led experimentalists astray. For this reason, our goal is to define the unique characteristics that idioms tend to hold and to assess the effect this has on processing.