Experimental Approaches to Semantics (ExAS)

Language & Logic

The past decade has seen the increasing use of experimental approaches to the study of meaning, motivated both by a desire to confirm and augment intuition-based data and by the growing availability of accessible experimental modalities such as Amazon Mechanical Turk. Experimental Pragmatics in particular has become a well-established sub-discipline in formal linguistics, as reflected in a foundational collected volume (Novek & Sperber 2006), a biannual conference series XPRAG, a recently concluded European networking program EURO-XPRAG, and a new German Priority Program XPRAG.de. The outcome of this collective effort has been important theoretical advances in areas including especially scalar implicature, as well as presupposition, reference resolution, negation, metaphor, and other topics (see e.g. papers in Sauerland & Yatsushiro 2009), as well as a community of scholars who share learning and opportunities for collaboration.
Experimental methods have also been applied to questions of a semantic rather than pragmatic nature, and have made significant contributions in a number of domains, including quantification (Bott & Rado 2007; Hackl 2009; Pietroski et al. 2009), number words and modified numerals (Musolino 2004; Geurts et al. 2010), gradability and vagueness (Frazier et al. 2008; Syrett et al. 2010; Alxatib & Pelletier 2011; Ripley 2011; McNabb 2012; Sassoon 2012; Solt & Gotzner 2012), plurality (Sauerland et al. 2005; Pearson et al. 2010; Grimm 2013) and polarity sensitivity (Chemla et al. 2011).
Nonetheless, Experimental Semantics has been slower to establish itself as a specialization in its own right. To some extent this is due to the challenges inherent to research on semantic meaning, including difficulties in representing meanings non-linguistically, in eliciting the necessary subtle judgments from naïve subjects, and in particular in distinguishing underlying semantic content (literal meaning) from the results of pragmatic inferencing. Not the least, however, is the lack of a dedicated forum where findings can be highlighted and where scholars with diverse theoretical interests can share learning relating particularly to the role of experimentation in formal semantics.
The goal of ExAS is to fill this gap, by providing a platform for the presentation of theoretically relevant experimental research in formal semantics, as well as for the discussion of the benefits and challenges in conducting experiments into semantic questions. We invite submissions on a range of topics relating to this broad theme, including but not limited to:
Experimental tests of the predictions of formal semantic theories
Investigations aimed at resolving disputed linguistic judgments
Psycholinguistic research (processing, acquisition) whose results have a bearing on semantic theory
New experimental methodologies for research in semantics
We will particularly welcome contributions that address the challenges involved in designing and interpreting experimental studies into semantic questions, and/or the limitations of such approaches.

First week
14:00 - 15:30 - slot 3