The DFG funded project ‘Scales in language processing and acquisition: Semantic and pragmatic contributions to implicature computation’ (SPA) investigates the meaning of scalar expressions. Scales are hidden behind many words. If something is large, it could also be huge, for example. The project SPA will shed new light on long-standing debates about the nature of scales, by investigating a large number of such expressions in language processing and acquisition. The overarching goal is to develop a new model of scales and implicature, that accounts for variability among such expressions. We will examine (a) the extent to which a single mechanism underlying implicature computation can be retained for different scales and (b) the kinds of alternatives that constitute the basis for implicature computation. A major focus will lie on the interpretation of adjectival scales, which have been well-studied in semantics but remain underexplored in pragmatics. We will employ a variety of psycholinguistic methods as well as probabilistic modeling tools in order to integrate insights from semantic and pragmatic theory and cognitive science. This project represents the first large-scale attempt at testing how various scales are processed and how semantic and pragmatic representations of scales develop in tandem.
Project leader: Dr. Nicole Gotzner