English Language & Linguistics

Research award for 'Establishing Common Ground'

10 March 2015

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Dr Christina Kim, from the Department of English Language & Linguistics, has won a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for her project 'Establishing Common Ground: The Interaction of Linguistic Knowledge, World Knowledge and Shared Experience in the Online Resolution of Context-Dependent Meaning'.

BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants support primary research in the humanities and social sciences. They are awarded for a clearly defined piece of research, which will have an identifiable outcome on completion.

Christina's project concerns communication that extends beyond spoken language. We infer what speakers intend to communicate using a combination of linguistic knowledge, general knowledge about the world, and speaker-specific information. We are generally able to adapt our mental representations of the discourse context and common ground on the fly, yet how we combine these sources of information to do so is poorly understood.

The study will focus on two classes of context-dependent expressions: focus particles, which express meanings of focus (such as the words 'only', 'even' and 'also'); and gradable adjectives, that is, adjectives that can be measured in degrees (such as size, age, and luminosity). Both of these require listeners to infer comparison sets based on information from the context. Eye-tracking experiments will investigate the relative contributions of the three information sources mentioned, including assessing the effects of shared linguistic experience on communicative effectiveness. This project will help explain how we initially estimate common ground representations when communicating with new interlocutors, faced with potentially widely varying bodies of experience, and how we adapt these representations with continued exposure.

For more information on BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants, please see the webpage here: www.britac.ac.uk/funding/guide/srg.cfm

English Language & Linguistics, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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Last Updated: 23/01/2014