SLE 2015 Workshop on “Experimental Pragmatics”

The workshop is part of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea in Leiden. It is a joined event of and the NWO funded Language in Interaction gravitation program in the Netherlands at SLE 2015. The aim is to present our research to each other and a broader audience.

Organizers: Peter Hagoort (Donders Nijmegen) and Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin)
Time: 3 September, 2015
Venue: Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), Leiden, Huizinga-4


11:00-11:30 Weiland-Breckle, Hanna and Petra Schumacher
“The role of perspective in the processing of speaker’s meaning”
11:30-12:00 Voß, Friederike, Mila Vulchanova, Pia Knoeferle and Hendrik Eshuis
“The influence of depicted actions and information structure on ambiguous pronoun processing in German children”
12:00-12:30 Kiss, Katalin É., Lilla Pintér and Tamás Zétényi
“A methodological problem of language acquisition studies”
12:30-13:00 Casillas, Marisa, Elma Hilbrink and Imme Lammertink
“Twelve-month-olds differentiate between typical and atypical turn timing”
13:00-14:30 LUNCH BREAK
14:30-15:00 Boell, Anna-Christina, Joseph Deveaugh Geiss, Edgar Onea and Malte Zimmermann
“Exhaustivity and at-issueness in it-clefts: An empirical study”
15:00-15:30 Patterson, Clare, Janna Drummer and Claudia Felser
“The application of binding condition C during native and non-native pronoun resolution”
15:30-16:00 Graf, Tim, Markus Philipp and Beatrice Primus
“Animacy, Agentivity and Verbal Aspect: An Experimental Case Study of the German Progressive with Position Verbs”
16:00-17:30 COFFEE BREAK and Postersession (Arsenaal)
17:30-18:00 Spychalska, Maria, Jarmo Kontinen, Ira Noveck, Ludmila Rösch and Markus Werning
“Exploring the ambiguity between the at least and exactly interpretation of bare numerals: Evidence from event-related brain potentials”
18:00-18:30 Gotzner, Nicole and Anton Benz
“Testing implicatures of complex sentences”
18:30-19:00 Tieu, Lyn, Kazuko Yatsushiro, Alexandre Cremers, Jacopo Romoli, Uli Sauerland and Emmanuel Chemla
“Disjunction in child language: Inclusive, exclusive, or conjunctive?


The field of Experimental Pragmatics has emerged within the last decade. It combines research in Gricean pragmatics with the formal models of modern grammar and the powerful experimental methods of psychology and neuroscience. As a result, Experimental Pragmatics can theoretically state and then empirically test much more precise hypotheses than research in pragmatics previously could. Experimental Pragmatics is thereby expected to lead to a new theory of the mechanisms involved in language in interaction.

The basis of experimental pragmatics is the increased access to experimental, psycholinguistic methods for researchers interested in advancing linguistic theory. Recent developments in software technology and access to sophisticated experimental methods now make it much easier for researchers to contribute to linguistic theory while at the same time conducting experiments. For example, use of the Mechanical Turk internet platform and similar software tools make it possible to conduct several types of experiments such as questionnaire surveys, reaction time studies and mouse tracking even for researchers without access to a laboratory. Furthermore, the R statistics software in the public domain makes it possible for researchers to create publication-quality statistical analyses and graphs in an economic way. In many other domains such as eye-tracking (gaze-plotting), software has become user-friendly, lowering the barrier to start experimental study. Another progress for eye-tracking has been the development of the visual world paradigm. This method is based on the observation that as a sentence is presented to a participant, the eyes move towards the referents mentioned in the sentence. It thus allows the measurement of some aspects of meaning that are relevant for pragmatic investigation during the presentation of a sentence. This method has recently been adapted to research questions targeting situated cognition and the use of linguistic and non-linguistic visual cues during language processing and sophisticated technology is utilized to investigate how language understanding is impacted by the surrounding visual environment.

We expect the Workshop to bring about major progress in pragmatics in three direct ways: 1) subtle phenomena like vagueness and meaning projection become accessible for investigation through experimental methods, 2) timing and neural data tie pragmatic theory to psychological and neural models of language and support the development of processing models, and 3) populations other than healthy adults, especially children, and crosslinguistic comparisons can be investigated with experimental protocols. Beyond these specific areas, we expect two broad benefits of the project to cognitive science in general: For one, the focus on experimentally testable predictions supports the development of increasingly precise pragmatic theories. Furthermore, connects the model theoretic view of linguistics and the cognitive view of psychology and neuroscience in a vital way.