Event Abstract

Who's who? The incremental processing of presuppositions (and beyond)

  • 1 University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Psychology, Italy

By means of the Visual-World paradigm participants’ eye-movements are monitored during the processing of sentences in front of a visual scene. Several studies have shown that while the unfolding linguistic information is processed, comprehenders make use of anticipatory eye movements toward the visual targets that are good potential referents for the upcoming linguistic content. In a series of different eyetracking visual-world experiments, we aimed at evaluating listeners’ eye-movements during the processing of semantic/pragmatic triggers in order to investigate the processing of the linguistic input incrementally and to record anticipatory looks towards a specific portion of the visual stimuli triggered by the use of specific linguistic elements, in particular: Referential expressions - in a joint work with Marco Marelli (University of Milano-Bicocca), Luisa Meroni and Andrea Gualmini (University of Utrecht) we tested the incremental processing of anaphoric expressions like l’unico che,(the only one) and their interaction with a visual scene and negation. Sentences like “Il triangolo grande (non) è l’unico che gioca a tennis” (the big triangle is (not) the only one that is playing tennis) might be interpreted anaphorically (the big triangle is the only triangle that…) or exophorically (the big triangle is the only thing that…) yielding opposite patterns in the visual search for the referent of the pronoun (Figure 1A). On the basis of our results, we propose a Principle of Maximal Exploitation, according to which, when a context is provided, adults extend their domain of evaluation to include the whole scenario, independently from truthconditional considerations about informativity and strength. (Foppolo, Marelli, Meroni and Gualmini, 2015; Foppolo, Meroni, Marelli and Gualmini, 2014) - in a joint work with Margreet Vogelzang, Hedderik van Rijn and Petra Hendriks (University of Groningen) and Maria Teresa Guasti (University of Milano-Bicocca) we tested the processing of null and overt pronouns in Italian by means of pupillometry. Measures of pupillary responses showed that null pronouns are less costly to process than overt pronouns, in line with the fact that null pronouns tend to refer to the discourse topic while overt pronouns constitute a topic shift in the discourse. (Vogelzang, Foppolo, Guasti, van Rijn and Petra Hendriks, under review) Scalar Quantifiers - in a joint work with Marco Marelli (University of Milano-Bicocca) we tested the incremental processing of scalar quantifiers like some, that might trigger anticipatory eye-movements towards a “some-but-not-all” target by virtue of the incremental computation of the Scalar Implicature related to the use of the weak quantifier “some”. Sentences like “Some of the triangles are drinking beer” in a scenario like Figure 1B triggered increased looks to the pragmatic target (the quadrant with some but not all the X doing Y) immediately when the quantifier was heard, compatibly with a rapid integration of pragmatic some during incremental processing). We are currently extending our research by modulating contextual features, such as the informational status of the quantifier tested or the quantifier that precedes it, that might intervene in activating scalar alternatives. (Foppolo and Marelli, 2017) Aspect and telicity - in a joint work with Ciro Greco, Francesca Panzeri and Maria Nella Carminati we tested the incremental processing of the perfective aspectual morpheme in telic predicates like “Lyn ha colorato la stella” (Lyn has colored the star), that might trigger anticipatory eye-movements towards a completed vs. uncompleted event. By modulating the interaction of visual and linguistic stimuli across experiments, we show that the perfective aspectual morphology on telic predicates triggers the inference of completion and that this linguistic cue is used incrementally during sentence processing. (Foppolo, Greco, Panzeri and Carminati, under review) - in a joint work with Angeliek van Hout, Miguel Santin and Julia Danu (University of Groningen) we extended the research on the processing of aspectual morphemes in languages in which perfectivity is realized differently from Italian, such as Russian, Dutch and Spanish. Our aim is to test how auxiliaries (unambiguous in Spanish; ambiguous in Italian and Dutch; absent in Russian), verb prefixes (present in Russian and Dutch; absent in Italian and Spanish) and the different ordering of verbs and complements affect the incremental processing of telicity. (Foppolo, Santin, Danu and van Hout, in progress) Presuppositional triggers - in a joint work with Marco Marelli we tested adults’ incremental interpretation of the presuppositional triggers "only" and "also". We found that participants could use the inference associated with "only" to predict that the upcoming object would be new to the discourse as fast as they could exploit the inference associated with "also" to anticipate the previously mentioned target. We also found that the modulation of the visual complexity of the scenario (by varying the number of the objects, their colors and their disposition along different dimensions, cf. Figure 2) affected the way presupposed content was used during incremental processing. (Foppolo and Marelli, in progress) - in a joint work with Valentina Bianchi (University of Siena), we are currently testing adults’ incremental interpretation of definite descriptions. By manipulating the uniqueness of the referent we aimed at testing the timecourse of the presupposition of unicity (and existence) associated with definite descriptions. (Foppolo and Bianchi, in progress) - in a joint work with Jeremy Zehr and Florian Schwarz (UPenn), we are currently extending our research by comparing the incremental processing of asserted vs. presupposed content (or entailed vs. backgrounded content), which might reflect different paths during online processing. (Zehr, Foppolo and Schwarz, in progress) Overall, the general purpose of this line of research is to understand how listeners exploit linguistic cues in order to predict upcoming linguistic material and how these inferences are modulated by (semantic, pragmatic, visual…) features of the context in which the sentence is processed. Our aim is to contribute evidence for a predictive mechanism whose primary role is to facilitate language comprehension by means of the continuous integration of linguistic cues with real-world visual information.

Figure 1
Figure 2

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Keywords: scalar implicature, presuppositions, visual world paradigm, anaphor resolution, telicity

Conference: XPRAG.it Behavioral and Neural Evidence on Pragmatic Processing , Genoa, Italy, 10 Jun - 11 Jun, 2017.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

Topic: Processing of presuppositions

Citation: Foppolo F (2019). Who's who? The incremental processing of presuppositions (and beyond). Front. Psychol. Conference Abstract: XPRAG.it Behavioral and Neural Evidence on Pragmatic Processing . doi: 10.3389/conf.fpsyg.2017.71.00014

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Received: 10 May 2017; Published Online: 25 Jan 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Francesca Foppolo, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Psychology, Milan, 20126, Italy, francesca.foppolo@unimib.it

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