Workshop “Formal and experimental pragmatics: methodological issues of a nascent liaison”

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Organizers: Anton Benz, Judith Degen, Michael Franke, Nicole Gotzner, Gerhard Jäger and Anthea Schöller
Contact: Anton Benz (, Nicole Gotzner (
Date: 1st – 3rd June 2015
Venue: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Berlin, Trajekte-Raum, 3rd floor,


Monday, June 1st 2015

Time Event
10:00 – 10:30 Introductory remarks
Nicole Gotzner
10:30 – 11:15 Semantic values as latent pragmatic parameters: surprising few and many [abstract]
Michael Franke and Anthea Schoeller
11:15 – 12:00 The best response paradigm: A new paradigm to test implicatures of complex sentences [abstract]
Nicole Gotzner and Anton Benz
12:00 – 01:30 LUNCH

01:30 – 02:15 Exploring expectations based on speaker-specific variation in informativity [abstract]
Amanda Pogue, Chigusa Kurumada and Michael Tanenhaus
02:15 – 03:00 Beyond Truth Value Judgments: the Semantic Choice Task with Eye Movement Recording, a powerful instrument for the developmental investigation of language interpretation and processing at the sentence level [abstract]
Daniele Panizza and Karoliina Lohiniva
03:00 – 03:30 BREAK
03:30 – 04:30 Invited talk: Targeted Language Games as a Methodology in Experimental Pragmatics
Mike Tanenhaus

Tuesday, June 2nd 2015

Time Event
9:15 – 10:00 Evaluating Bayesian Approaches to Pronoun Resolution Preferences: The Role of Presupposition [abstract]
Simone Gerle, Anke Holler, Johanna Klages and Thomas Weskott
10:00 – 10:45 The extent of upper-bound construals among different modified numerals [abstract]
Stavroula Alexandropoulou, Yaron McNabb, Sophia Bimpikou, Dominique Blok, and Rick Nouwen
10:45 – 11:00 BREAK
11:00 – 11:45 An experimental investigation of the weakness and evidentiality of epistemic “must” [abstract]
Judith Degen, Justine Kao, Gregory Scontras and Noah D. Goodman
11:45 – 12:30 On the role of context and prosody in the generation of scalar implicatures of adjectives [abstract]
Marie-Catherine de Marneffe and Judith Tonhauser
12:30 – 02:00 LUNCH
02:00 – 02:45 The exhaustive interpretation of the Hungarian pre-verbal focus: entailment or implicature? [abstract]
Tamas Kaldi and Anna Babarczy
02:45 – 03:30 Priming scalar inferences [abstract]
Andreea Nicolae and Uli Sauerland
03:30 – 04:00 BREAK
04:00 – 05:00 Invited talk: Manipulating context: methods and measures.
Hannah Rohde
06:00 Conference Dinner at Valmontone

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015

Time Event
10:00 – 10:45 Measuring Gricean processing: eye movements as a reflection of speakers’ drive to be informative [abstract]
Catherine Davies and Helene Kreysa
10:45 – 11:30 Underinformative event mentions trigger context-dependent implicatures [abstract]
Ekaterina Kravtchenko and Vera Demberg
11:30 – 11:45 BREAK
11:45 – 12:30 The influence of visually depicted actions and information structure on ambiguous pronoun processing in German children [abstract]
Friederike Voß, Mila Vulchanova, Pia Knoeferle and Hendrik Eshuis
12:30 – 13:15 In times of crisis, stage­-level predicates facilitate deixis [abstract]
Philippe Cote-Boucher
13:15 – 13:30 Concluding remarks (organizers)
13:30 LUNCH

After decades of defying broad-coverage formalization, recent years have seen a surge of precise and testable pragmatic theories, which have substantially advanced our understanding of various types of pragmatic inferences, including scalar implicatures, ad hoc Quantity implicatures, M-implicatures, and ignorance implicatures, to name just a few. At least two kinds of approaches can be distinguished according to the level of abstraction at which they operate. Structural approaches are high-level descriptions of pragmatic phenomena in terms of general and abstract constraints, principles or rules. These constraints, principles or rules are often, but not always, motivated by ideas about optimal conversation (think: Gricean Maxims and its offspring) and often target the interpretation of sentences in a default context. On the other hand, interactional approaches try to explain pragmatic phenomena by explicitly representing relevant contextual factors, distinguishing speaker and listener perspectives and interlocutors’ possibly divergent, partial or approximate beliefs about the aforementioned. Structural and interactional approaches should not be perceived as being in opposition, but rather as synergetic, with insights from either positively stimulating the respective other. In this spirit, this workshop is about general methodological problems of connecting formal pragmatics to empirical data, especially data from psycholinguistic experiments. The problem is brought to the surface clearly by interactional approaches, but affects structural approaches too. A prerequisite for these models to work are formally explicit assumptions regarding speaker and listener beliefs about various contextual factors, including, e.g., action alternatives, interlocutor preferences, degree of interlocutor cooperativity, or differential interlocutor knowledge. Therefore, it is vital that empirically driven pragmatic modeling be explicit about how these contextually relevant factors are mapped from the experimental setup onto the formal pragmatic theory.
The workshop will provide a forum for the discussion of methodological questions and related theoretical issues that arise for researchers working at the interface between formal pragmatic theory and experimental data.