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The Interaction of Bayesian Pragmatics and Lexical Semantics in Linguistic Interpretation:

Hearers’ Probabilistic Predictions in Discourses

Lecture by Prof.dr. Markus Werning (Bochum), organized by the Department of Theoretical Philosophy.

The Interaction of Bayesian Pragmatics and Lexical Semantics in Linguistic Interpretation: Hearers’ Probabilistic Predictions in Discourses

We contrast two views of how contextual influence on sentence meaning composition can be explained. The Semantic Similarity View maintains that discourse context affects the comprehension of sentences mainly because of the semantic similarity between the words in the discourse context and the words in the sentence (as measured by Latent Semantic Analysis).

The Free Pragmatic View, in contrast, defends the claim that pragmatic aspects of the discourse context can affect sentence meaning composition directly. It thus challenges a rigorous notion of compositionality, according to which the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its syntactic parts and the way the parts are combined (Werning, 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2012). This effect can be quantitatively modelled by Bayesian Pragmatics. We introduce a Predictive Completion Task in which the hearer at every moment in a communicative situation has to generate a probabilistic prediction about how a discourse being uttered by the speaker is continued. We test the predictions of the two views in EEG using the well-established observation that the conditional probability of a word given a context is negatively correlated with the amplitude of its N400 component.

Markus Werning

is Chair of Philosophy of Language & Cognition at the Department of Philosophy of the Ruhr Universität Bochum. From his website: 'My agenda as a philosopher is deeply rooted in a naturalistic understanding of philosophy. The overarching goal of my research is to approach questions in the philosophy of language and mind and related areas (epistemology, descriptive metaphysics, etc.) (i) with exact theoretical methods – e.g. logic, formal semantics, and probability theory –, (ii) with advanced empirical methods such as EEG and fMRI and (iii) by computational modelling. I thus view those areas of philosophy in continuity with the cognitive sciences where, in philosophy, emphasis is put on theoretical rigor as well as meta- and cross-disciplinary aspects. My naturalistic attitude towards philosophy arises from a general skepticism with regard to apriori reasoning such as conceptual analysis, intuition and introspection as a privileged source of knowledge.'

When & where?

Wednesday, April 5, 15:15 -- 17:00
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Laatst gewijzigd:03 maart 2017 11:53