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Common sense reasoning in dialogue

Interacting with others frequently involves making common-sense inferences linking context, background knowledge and beliefs to utterances in the dialogue. These inferences are often enthymematic, that is, the premises given do not by necessity lead to the conclusion. If a dialogue participant presents the argument ”P therefore Q”, an interlocutor must supply a warrant that P is a valid reason for Q in order for the argument to be successful. In rhetoric, these warrants are often referred to as topoi. To produce and interpret enthymemes, interlocutors thus draw on background knowledge or contextual information, and for an enthymeme to be accepted, some such information must be accommodated if it is not already present in the discourse model. However, sometimes an enthymeme can be warranted by different topoi. Thus, the pragmatic meaning conveyed by an enthymeme in relation to a listener depends partly on which topos the listener accesses in the interpretation process. In this talk I will present an approach to dialogue where enthymemes and topoi play a role for interpretation and production of conversational moves. I will present some phenomena which are frequent in dialogue and how these are related to enthymematic reasoning, and show how some of these may be accounted for in a game board style model cast in Type Theory with Records. 

Iconicity in the syntax of sign languages

This talk discusses an iconic mapping of scope relations in sign languages: The higher the scope of a syntactic operator the higher its expression on the body will be. While operators taking scope above tense are systematically expressed via facial non-manual markers, operators taking scope between tense and the vP are signed manually. Categories scoping inside the vP, in contrast, are expressed via a manipulation of the movement path of the verb sign. While the data will mainly come from German Sign Language, the observed mapping seems to be universally found in sign languages.

Syllables in spoken language production: Insights from psycholinguistic and clinical studies

Syllables play a prominent role during the late planning stages for spoken language production: during (morpho-)phonological encoding, phonemes are bundled to form abstract phonological syllables. During phonetic encoding, these syllables are converted into motor programs that will be input to articulation. A hypothesized mental syllabary located at the interface between phonological and phonetic encoding, offers speakers precompiled motor programs that contribute to the ease and accuracy of fluent speech production. Retrieving such ready-made motor programs from storage requires less attention and is more automatized compared to assembling units from subsyllabic segments. Effects of syllable frequency have been taken as evidence that high-frequency syllables are stored, thereby explaining how they can be produced faster and more accurately compared to low-frequency syllables. While these effects have been replicated across different languages in which syllables constitute more or less transparent units, there are still many open questions with regard to the activation dynamics within the mental syllabary and the integration of the dual-route mechanism of retrieving (high-frequency) and assembling (low-frequency) motor programs into the course of speech planning. Further questions concern the prerequisites for storage, how syllables are acquired and stored in bilingual speakers and how motor programs are produced when access to stored units is impaired.

After providing a brief overview of the course of word-form encoding and the mental syllabary theory, I will present evidence for the involvement of syllables in phonological and phonetic encoding processes I will touch upon open questions by providing insights from investigations of bilingual speakers and speakers with language and speech impairments.

“Low” focus, smuggling and locality 

I present several “constructions” (inversion in Bantu, focalization with ser ‘be’ in regional Spanish and Portuguese, inverse copular constructions), that instantiate focus movement to a dedicated position in the vP periphery. Taken together, they illustrate a mechanism whereby FocusP is selected by a head that also attracts the complement of Focus. I show how these formal devices serve to bypass locality constraints.



The main registration will be from 8.15-8.45 on Wednesday inside the X-Building. Late registration will be possible from 9 to 12. If you arrive later/on another conference day, please let us know in advance.

Conference Dinner & Social Activities

The welcome dinner will take place on Wednesday evening at 18.30 at Nichtschwimmer

For Thursday evening, we have organized a guided city tour in English from 19.00 to 20.30, starting at Altes Rathaus (Adress: Niederwall 25). It will be free of charge, but there are only 30 places available. You can sign up for the tour upon registration. There will be an informal dinner and drinks at Kachelhaus afterwards.

Sponsored by: 

The Van Riemsdijk Foundation

Universitätsgesellschaft Bielefeld