Meaning and Cognition

The research theme Meaning and Cognition aims to explore the interface between cognition and linguistically encoded meaning. In particular, we will investigate how the properties of cognitive systems, such as the approximate numerical system, shape and restrict the range of possible semantic meanings. We will also investigate how linguistic meanings are acquired by children and how this in turn shapes the properties of cognitive systems. The focus will be on the meaning of logical expressions such as 'and' and 'or', on numerical expressions and on the linguistic representation of scales.

The research theme builds on existing expertise in formal semantics and pragmatics, in children's language, in morphology and other areas. The research combines theoretically motivated experimental research, cognitive modeling, and research on language acquisition. Among others the following topics will be investigated: Logical operators and non-verbal meaning, measure scales and numerical cognition, vagueness and degree relatedness in language acquisition, and iconicity. The research theme will shed light on the relation between semantic research, language acquisition research and psychology. It will lead to a refinement of both semantic theories and cognitive models.

Several projects contribute(d) to the theme: the DFG project  Logic across languages: Expressing and interpreting connectives cross-linguistically (Nicolae), the Generator Group of the ERC Synergy Grant Realising Leibniz’ dream: Child languages as the mirror of the mind (Sauerland) and two projects funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation The diachrony of logical atoms (Mitrović) and Scalar diversity: relevance and prior probability (Sun), as well as the completed DFG project Attenuating polarity elements from the scalar range (Solt).

Project publications