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Probabilistic Pragmatics

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Probabilistic Pragmatics

Pragmatics was once thought of as the ‘wastebasket’ of linguistics: as the caricature went, phenomena that were too complex to handle in the semantics were pushed to the mushy pragmatics, where they were dispatched with hand-wavy “just-so” stories. Recent developments in cognitive science have provided us with a new set of tools for modeling pragmatic listener behavior as social reasoning about a speaker who is assumed to have the communicative intention of informing their listener. This reasoning is formalized as probabilistic (Bayesian) inference and model predictions are tested using large-scale crowd-sourced experiments together with corpus analysis.

The course will introduce students to models of pragmatics that employ probabilistic inference to explain both utterance interpretation and production choices for a variety of phenomena: scalar implicature, ad hoc Quantity implicature, Manner implicature, gradable adjectives, and perspective-taking in the resolution of referring expressions.

Course information can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/probabilisticpragmatics/

Course Status: Closed

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Course Number:

328

Course Session:

First two-week Session

Times:

Tuesday: 10:30 am-12:20 pm
Friday: 10:30 am-12:20 pm

Instructor(s):

Subfields:

Prerequisites:

Basic familiarity with logic, semantics, pragmatics, and experimental methodology; fundamental programming concepts; ideally some lambda calculus and basics of probability.