Hey Little Sister, Who's the Only One? Modulating Informativeness in the Resolution of Privative Ambiguity

Cognitive Science 39 (7):1646-1674 (2015)
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Abstract

We present two eye-tracking experiments on the interpretation of sentences like “The tall girl is the only one that …,” which are ambiguous between the anaphoric and the exophoric interpretation. These interpretations differ in informativeness: in a positive context, the exophoric reading entails the anaphoric, while in a negative context the entailment pattern is reversed and the anaphoric reading is the strongest one. We tested whether adults rely on considerations about informativeness in solving the ambiguity. The results show that participants interpreted one exophorically in both positive and negative contexts. Given these findings, we cast doubts on the idea that Informativeness plays a role in ambiguity resolution and proposes a Principle of Maximal Exploitation: When a context is provided, adults extend their domain of evaluation to include the whole scenario, independently from truth-conditional considerations about informativity and strength

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References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Inquiries Into Truth And Interpretation.Donald Davidson - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The Oxford dictionary of philosophy.Simon Blackburn - 1996 - Oxford ;: Oxford University Press.
Any.Nirit Kadmon & Fred Landman - 1993 - Linguistics and Philosophy 16 (4):353 - 422.

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