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mar. 26/04/2022 Linguistic Prominence and Modelling Language
MSH-LSE, salle Elise Rivet (et en visio)
Conférence de :
  • Mark Ellison (University of Cologne)

dans le cadre DILIS

This talk comes in three parts. In the first part, I will talk about modelling language at different levels. On the one hand, language arises when two speakers come together and interact. The properties of those speakers determine the language behaviours that happen between them. On the other hand, we can think of individual speakers as part of a network of linguistic connectivity. We can deduce properties of the system as a whole on the basis of properties of the network.

The second part of the talk introduces the notion of linguistic prominence, as it is being explored at the Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Cologne. Prominence picks out one linguistic item from a set of similar items. In many languages, stress identifies a most prominent syllable within a word. Syntactic constructions such as clefting can make one phrase more prominent than others. Discourse contexts make some potential referents more prominent, and so more likely to be referred to. The role of prominence in language understanding is explored.

The final third of the talk brings together the first two parts to develop an account of linguistic prominence. If listeners in conversations make predictions about what is coming up, it is useful for speakers equiped with a theory of mind to manipulate listener reliance on predictions. I argue that added prominence acts to encourage listeners to rely more on the input they receive, than on their predictions, during interpretation. I conclude with considering the implications of this model in language contact situations, and for language change.


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