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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Language Sciences

Postgraduate Course: Experimental Pragmatics (LASC11126)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThe main goal of this course is to introduce and explain the motivation for the discipline of experimental pragmatics. Experimental pragmatics has recently emerged as an independent and productive discipline of linguistic research. It focuses on meaning in context, and employs experimental techniques from linguistics and psycholinguistics. This approach complements traditional methods of pragmatic enquiry, both by providing objective quantitative data and by enabling us to study things that are not necessarily accessible to
introspection, such as the time-course of processing. In this course, we examine some of the major topics in experimental pragmatics, such as implicature, presupposition, and reference resolution. We will consider what the experimental approach can add to our understanding of these issues. In particular, we will see how different pragmatic theories give rise to empirically testable predictions, and how we can design and conduct experimental research to confirm or disconfirm these predictions. And we will see how this approach can be useful in distinguishing between different theories when they are all apparently descriptively adequate.
Course description The course will give a general overview of the topics covered by current research in experimental semantics and pragmatics, and the methodologies used to investigate these topics. Specific areas covered will include implicature, presupposition, reference assignment, and the interpretation of figurative language. From a methodological point of view, we will discuss truth-value judgements, acceptability ratings, eye-tracking and reasoning tasks. We will also examine how to use online platforms to obtain experimental data, which may be useful for the assessed research exercise.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. become familiar with the methodological approach used in this field
  2. (through engaging with the primary research literature) become aware of the current state of the art with respect to some of the key issues in experimental pragmatics, and will learn to what extent current pragmatic theories can depend upon experimental support
  3. learn how to develop and carry out their own experiments to address relevant theoretical questions
Reading List
Breheny, R., Katsos, N. and Williams, J. (2006). Are generalised scalar implicatures generated by default? An on-line investigation into the role of context in generating pragmatic inferences. Cognition, 100: 434-63.

Geurts, B., Katsos, N., Cummins, C., Moons, J. and Noordman, L. (2010). Scalar quantifiers: logic, acquisition, and processing. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(1): 130-48.

Geurts, B. and Pouscoulous, N. (2009). Embedded implicatures?!? Semantics & Pragmatics, 2, article 4: 1-34.
Noveck, I. A. (2001). When children are more logical than adults: experimental investigations of scalar implicature. Cognition, 78: 165-88.

Rubio, P. (2007). Suppression in metaphor interpretation: Differences between meaning selection and meaning construction. Journal of Semantics (Special Issue on Processing Meaning), 24(4): 345-371.

Sperber, D. & Noveck, I. A. (2004). Introduction to Experimental Pragmatics. In Noveck, I. A. & Sperber, D.(eds.), Experimental Pragmatics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 1-23.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills With regard to specific intellectual skills, participants will learn to
- read and critically assess the primary experimental literature
- evaluate the strength of experimental evidence and its impact on theory
- appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of competing experimental paradigms for pragmatic research
- conceive, design and conduct a simple pragmatics experiment.
Additional Class Delivery Information Attend all lectures as scheduled
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Christopher Cummins
Tel: (0131 6)50 6858
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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