News at virtual CUNY 2020

Several members presented their research at the 33rd Annual CUNY Human Sentence Processing Conference, which took place at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from March 19th-21st 2020 virtually. associate Florian Schwarz (UPenn) gave a talk on “Reflections on (some of) the roles of linguistic theory in psycholinguistics: Case studies in presupposition projection” in the session Friday, Session 5, chaired by Mercator Fellow Jesse Snedeker. It is worthwhile to watch the recorded session.

In addition, there were many poster presentations by members. Some posters can be found at

  • “Investigating the grammatical SNARC effect for collective nouns” by Fabian Hurler (MoLCINS, Tübingen), Nikole Patson, Tessa Warren and Barbara Kaup (MoLCINS, Tübingen).
  • “Lexical and contextual cue effects in discourse expectations: experimenting with German zwar…aber vs. English sure…but” by Juliane Schwab and Mingya Liu (SPOCC, HU Berlin)
  • “Exhaustivity of questions embedded under know, predict, agree and surprise” by Lea Fricke and Edgar Onea (both ExQ, Graz)
  • “Is sonderlich losing its NPI-status?” by Juliane Schwab, Mingya Liu (SPOCC, HU Berlin) and Jutta Mueller
  • “Order, relevance and script knowledge: Revising temporal structures” by Maria Spychalska (ImpliPer, Cologne)
  • “New data on the nature of competition between indefinites and definites” by Nadine Bade (ObTrEx, Tübingen) and Florian Schwarz
  • “Processing implicatures: a comparison between direct and indirect SIs” by Paul Marty, Romoli Jacopo, Yasutada Sudo, Bob van Tiel (MUQTASP, ZAS Berlin) and Richard Breheny
  • Every Horse didn’t Jump over the Fence: Scope Ambiguity via Pragmatic Reasoning” by Sherry Yong Chen (former Intern) and Bob van Tiel (MUQTASP)
  • “Binding options of German demonstrative pronouns: a large-sample study and a computational model” by Umesh Patil and Stefan Hinterwimmer ( associate, Cologne) at the 43rd Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) virtual conference

Several members will present their research at the 43rd Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) conference, which will take place (virtually) at Humboldt University Berlin from April 8th to 20th, 2020.

Attendance is free of charge. Please find further information about how to attend virtually here:

There will be two contributions by members at the main colloquium. Cornelia Loos and Sophie Repp from project YesNo2 in Cologne will present a poster together with former member Markus Steinbach (University of Göttingen) on “Responding to positive and negative assertions in German Sign Language (DGS)”. Furthermore, associate Andreea Nicolae (ZAS Berlin) will present a poster on “The polarity of additive particles”. member Nicole Gotzner (SIGames, ZAS Berlin) will give a talk on “The dual function of L+H* pitch accents” at the “Workshop I: Prosody in Speech Signal, Perception and Gestures”

Furthermore, coordinator Uli Sauerland organizes together with Wataru Uegaki (University of Edinburgh) the “Workshop II: Semantic Universals in the Modal and Attitudinal Domain”

There are time slots to interact with presenters. Please check the conference program. member Nicole Gotzner receives funds to lead an Emmy Noether Research Group

We are very happy to announce that member Nicole Gotzner from project SIGames will receive 1.4 Mio Euros by the German Research Foundation (DFG) to lead an Emmy Noether Research Group. With the Emmy Noether Programme the DFG wants to give exceptionally qualified early career researchers the chance to qualify for the post of professor at a university by leading an independent junior research group for a period of six years.

In the project “Scales in language processing and acquisition: Semantic and pragmatic contributions to implicature computation (SPA)”, Nicole and her team will develop a new model of the interpretation of scalar expressions. They will investigate how adults mentally represent terms like “large” and “gigantic”, and how children learn to associate such terms on a scale.

Pragmatic inferences are ubiquitous in communication among humans. For communication to be successful, we need to understand the literal meaning of utterances but also which alternative meanings are not intended. Consider the following exchange between an adult and a child. The adult asks “Would you like to have ice-cream or chocolate?” and the child responds “I would like to have both”. This response contradicts the scalar implicature typically triggered by or, which children do not fully understand until age 7. Scalar implicature is standardly modeled via a so-called Horn scale, which is an association between the weaker or and its stronger alternative and in the mental lexicon. When a speaker uses the weaker expression, the listener may conclude that the stronger alternative does not hold. Horn scales exist across a variety of expressions, including connectives (<or, and>), quantifiers (<some, all>) and various adjective types (<large, gigantic>, <wet, pouring>, <possible, certain>). Despite the pervasiveness of such scales in language, little is known about their cognitive basis and how children learn to associate different terms on a scale during the course of language acquisition. Implicatures have long been studied in formal and experimental pragmatics, yet the mechanisms underlying implicature computation are still a matter of hot debate.

The project SPA will shed new light on long-standing debates about the nature of Horn scales and alternatives, 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 Horn 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.

Call for submissions to “QUDs and exhaustivity: experiments, computation, and theory”, September 25-26th, 2020 in Graz, Austria

On September 25th to 26th, 2020 the workshop “QUDs and exhaustivity: experiments, computation, and theory” will take place at the University of Graz, Austria. The workshop is organized by Anton Benz (ZAS Berlin, SIGames) and Edgar Onea (Graz, ExQ).

In the workshop the organizers wish to bring together pragmatic and grammatical approaches to exhaustivity inferences associated with different constructions: scalar implicatures, clefts, focus constructions, embedded questions, presuppositions, discourse relations etc. Thereby, they assume that the relevance of a set of alternatives and the QUD may be a link between different types of approaches that needs further exploration. Deadline for submissions is July 15th, 2020. More details and the call for papers can be found here!

Friedemann Pulvermüller from project BraiSiCo awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to explore the mechanisms underlying specifically human cognitive capacities Principal Investigator Friedemann Pulvermüller from project “BraiSiCo” at Freie Universität Berlin receives 2.5 million euros from the European Research Council to explore the mechanisms underlying specifically human cognitive capacities. His project “MatCo – Material Constraints Enabling Human Cognition” will use novel insights from human neurobiology translated into mathematically exact computational models to find new answers to long-standing questions in cognitive science, linguistics and philosophy. Models replicating structural differences between human and non-human primate brains will help delineate mechanisms underlying specifically human cognitive capacities. Key experiments will validate critical model predictions and new neurophysiological data will be applied to further improve the biologically-constrained networks.

This novel research pathway offers biologically well-founded and computationally precise perspectives on addressing exciting hitherto unanswered fundamental questions, such as the following: How can humans build vocabularies of tens and hundreds of thousands of words, whereas our closest evolutionary relatives typically use below 100? How is semantic meaning implemented for gestures and words, and, more specifically, for referential and categorical terms? How can grounding and interpretability of abstract symbols be anchored biologically? Which features of connectivity between nerve cells are crucial for the formation of discrete representations and categorical combination? Would modelling of cognitive functions using brain-constrained networks allow for better predictions on brain activity indexing the processing of signs and their meaning?

Link to the webpage of Friedemann Pulvermüller’s Brain Language Laboratory! at the workshop “Degree Expressions and Polarity Effects”

There will be several contributions by members at the workshop “Degree Expressions and Polarity Effects” to be held at ZAS Berlin from March 9th-10th, 2020. The workshop is organized by associate Stephanie Solt (DegAtt,ZAS) and Cameron Wilson (ZAS).

On Monday, March 9th, at 12pm, there will be a talk by Eri Tanaka, Kenta Mizutani and Stephanie Solt on “Equative semantics and polarity sensitivity”.

At the poster session in the afternoon (4:40-6:20), associates Andreea Nicolae and Kazuko Yatsushiro will present a poster on “Eating kein veggies: negative concord in child German”. E. Cameron Wilson and Stephanie Solt will present a poster on “M-­degree modifiers and polar sensitivity”

On Tuesday, March 10th, at 10:50am, Nicole Gotzner from project SiGames will give a talk together with Diana Mazzarella (Neuchatel) on “The interpretation of negated adjectives: Dissociating polarity from face-­‐threatening potential”. At 11:30am, Bob van Tiel from project MUQTASP together with Elizabeth Pankratz, associate Chao Sun and Paul Marty will talk on “Polarity in scalar inference processing”. At 1:40pm, Shun Ihara, Stephanie Solt, Kenta Mizutani will talk on “Licensing of Minimizer PPIs under Negation”. And, at 2:20pm, Prinicipal Investigator Mingya Liu (SPOCC, HU Berlin) will give a talk together with Juliane Schwab and Jutta Mueller (both Osnabrück) on “Is sonderlich losing its NPI-­‐status?” at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the DGfS in Hamburg

There will be several contributions by members at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) to be held at the University of Hamburg from March 4th-6th, 2020.

Nicole Gotzner from project SiGames, ZAS Berlin, organizes together with Bob van Tiel (MUQTASP, ZAS Berlin), Anton Benz (SiGames, ZAS Berlin) and Mercator Fellow Napoleon Katsos (University of Cambridge) the workshop “AG 13: Diversity in pragmatic inferences: experimental data, computational models, and the semantics/pragmatics interface“.

On Thursday, March 5th at 2:15 pm, associate Richard Breheny (University College London) will give a talk together with associate Chao Sun (Humboldt University of Berlin), Nicole Gotzner and Anton Benz on “Diverse mechanisms explain Scalar Diversity”.

On Friday, March 6th at the poster session (1:15-2:15, Foyer ESA 1 Flügel West), Lea Fricke (ExQ, Graz University), Dominique Blok (ExQ, University of Potsdam) and Malte Zimmermann (ExQ, University of Potsdam) will present a poster on “The pragmatic status of strong exhaustive readings of embedded questions”.

Call for papers “The Processing of Negation and Polarity” in Berlin, October 1-2, 2020

On October 1st to 2nd, 2020, the workshop “The Processing of Negation and Polarity” will take place at Humboldt University Berlin. The workshop is organized by Carolin Dudschig (University of Tübingen, MoLCINS), Barbara Kaup (University of Tübingen, MoLCINS), Mingya Liu (Humboldt University of Berlin, SPOCC) and Juliane Schwab (Osnabrück University).

The workshop aims at establishing a broad perspective on the processing of negation and polarity, with a focus on (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • One- versus two-step models of language comprehension through investigations employing negative sentences
  • Experimental approaches to the semantics and pragmatics of canonical and noncanonical negation (negative concord, pleonastic negation)
  • Processing of entailment cancelling contexts (negation, modals, questions, conditionals)
  • Negative and positive polarity items
  • Experimental computational/developmental/sociolinguistic approaches to negation and polarity

Deadline for submissions is May 31st, 2020. More details and the call for papers can be found here.

Deadline approaching, submit to “Modal Inferences”, June 3-5, 2020 at the University of Enna “Kore” in Siracusa, Sicily, Italy

On June 3rd-5th, 2020 the workshop “Modal Inferences” will take place at the University of Enna Kore, in Siracusa, Sicily, Italy. The workshop is organized by Ilaria Frana (University of Enna), Marie-Christine Meyer (ZAS Berlin), Salvatore Pistoia-Reda (ZAS Berlin/Siena), Jacopo Romoli (Ulster University), and Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin). The goal of the workshop is to bring together theoretical and experimental researchers in Linguistics, Psychology and Philosophy, working on deepening our understanding of modal inferences (e.g. inferences about the epistemic state of the speaker or the addressee) and how they arise in natural languages. We welcome submissions articulating empirical and theoretical issues on topics including but not limited to ignorance inferences arising from disjunctions, modified numerals and related constructions, speaker/hearer’s epistemic biases in polar questions, epistemic inferences arising from the future tense, evidentials, indefinites, discourse particles, miratives, and predicates of personal taste. Deadline for submissions is February 15th, 2020. More details and the call for papers can be found here.

Call for submissions to “MK40: Common Knowledge, Common Ground, and Context in Communication”, June 18-19th, 2020 in London

On June 18-19th, 2020 the workshop “MK40: Common Knowledge, Common Ground, and Context in Communication” will take place at University College London. The workshop is organized by Richard Breheny (University College London) and Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin). The event is co-sponsored by and Mind & Language.
The proposed workshop will mark the fact that it is 40 years since the staging of a similar workshop in 1980. That workshop was organised by the Linguistics department at UCL and the papers were collected in the well-known volume, Mutual Knowledge edited by Neil Smith. Contributors included Paul Grice, Herb Clark, Philip Johnson-Laird, Gerald Gazdar, Aravind Joshi, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson.
As with the original MK conference, the aim of this workshop is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, philosophers, developmental researchers, ethologists, linguists and others to discuss questions about common knowledge and its role. Link to the workshop’s webpage: “MK40: Common Knowledge, Common Ground, and Context in Communication”

We welcome abstracts for 30 minutes talks (20 + 10 discussion) or posters which address issues relevant to the workshop’s theme. Abstracts should be no longer than 2 A4 pages, with a 12 pt font and 2.5 cm/1 inch margins. The abstracts must be anonymous and not identify the authors. Authors may submit at most two abstracts, at most one of which may be single-authored. Please submit via EasyChair by 1 March 2020 at the latest.

Invited Speakers:

Malinda Carpenter (St Andrews)
Herb Clark (Stanford)
Bart Geurts (U. of Nijmegen)
Daphna Heller (U. of Toronto)
Harvey Lederman (Princeton)
Henrike Moll (USC)
Mandy Simons (CMU)
Dan Sperber (CEU)
Deirdre Wilson (UCL)