MoLCINS 1/2: One- versus two-step models of language comprehension: Investigations employing  negative sentences

Principal investigators:
Dr. Carolin Dudschig (2nd phase)
Prof. Dr. Barbara Kaup
Prof. Dr. Hartmut Leuthold
Universität Tübingen

Project description:
There is an ongoing debate in psycholinguistics whether comprehension processes are best characterized by one- or by two-step models of comprehension. According to two-step models, comprehenders first compute the context-independent meaning of an expression based on their linguistic knowledge, and only in a second step take into account their general world knowledge as well as contextual and pragmatic information. In contrast, one-step models assume that various sources of linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge are taken into account simultaneously. In the present project, and on the basis of our findings from the first funding phase, we aim at contributing to this debate concerning the semantic/pragmatic interface by studying the processing of negative sentences. We will focus on the question whether aspects related to the pragmatics of negation are taken into account early on during comprehension, which is of central importance to the distinction between one- and two-step models of comprehension. In particular, we will present affirmative and negative sentences in the context of visual worlds that either do or do not license the use of negation in the sentences. We also aim to find out more about the exact conditions under which negative utterances are pragmatically felicitous. Finally, we are interested in comparing effects attributed to the pragmatics of negation with other pragmatic effects during comprehension, such as effects reflecting the integration of scalar implicatures. In order to gain insights into the temporal characteristics of the processes involved in comprehension, we plan to measure event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and eye-movements during reading and listening. We expect that this project will provide important insights into the comprehension processes at the semantic/pragmatic interface.