On the Role of Entailment Patterns and Scalar Implicatures in the Processing of Numerals
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Clifton, Charles Jr.
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CitationPanizza, Daniele, Gennaro Chierchia, and Charles Clifton Jr. 2009. On the role of entailment patterns and scalar implicatures in the processing of numerals. Journal of Memory and Language 61(4): 503-518.
AbstractThere has been much debate, in both the linguistics and the psycholinguistics literature, concerning numbers and the interpretation of number denoting determiners (‘numerals’). Such debate concerns, in particular, the nature and distribution of upper-bounded (‘exact’) interpretations vs. lower-bounded (‘at-least’) construals. In the present paper we show that the interpretation and processing of numerals are affected by the entailment properties of the context in which they occur. Experiment 1 established off-line preferences using a questionnaire. Experiment 2 investigated the processing issue through an eye tracking experiment using a silent reading task. Our results show that the upper-bounded interpretation of numerals occurs more often in an upward entailing context than in a downward entailing context. Reading times of the numeral itself were longer when it was embedded in an upward entailing context than when it was not, indicating that processing resources were required when the context triggered an upper-bounded interpretation. However, reading of a following context that required an upper-bounded interpretation triggered more regressions towards the numeral when it had occurred in a downward entailing context than in an upward entailing one. Such findings show that speakers’ interpretation and processing of numerals is systematically affected by the polarity of the sentence in which they occur, and support the hypothesis that the upper-bounded interpretation of numerals is due to a scalar implicature.
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