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Colloquium Talk – Alexis Wellwood: Temporal constitution in language and mind

Dec 8, 2023 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Location – Dodd 146

Temporal constitution in language and mind

Semanticists posit at least two categories of dynamic entity—event and process—in their explanations of the semantic properties of different classes of verbs and verb phrases. I consider the event-process distinction as a case study in the interface between linguistic and extralinguistic cognition. In a series of experiments, we tested whether different sorts of subtle differences in “temporal shaping” across different types of dynamic displays would be sufficient to predict preference for resolving a novel verb as event-y or process-y. For example, a circle moves continuously back-and-forth across the screen, with movement broken up into equi-sized temporal portions separated by brief pauses (event-y) or not (process-y). In forced choice tasks, we asked whether people would differentially choose deverbal count syntax (The circle did some gleebs) versus mass (The circle did some gleebing) to describe such scenes. In quantity estimation tasks, we tested whether they would differentially track natural number versus some continuous dimension for verbal comparatives (The circle gleebed more than the square did). Indeed, we found preference for count syntax and number-based quantification with event-y scenes, but no categorical preference for process-y scenes. In the talk, I suggest how to make sense of such findings on the linguistic and nonlinguistic sides. Specifically, I suggest that semantic description combines (linguistic-)syntactic and conceptual(-syntactic) information, with functional meanings directing binding relations across distinct core knowledge domains.


Dec 8, 2023
11:00 am - 1:00 pm
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