Speaker’s Choice and Language Use

When communicating, speakers make plenty of choices. More precisely, each individual utterance represents a path in an infinite labyrinth of possibilities: "half-full" or "half-empty", "some" or "not all", a loud "GOOD MORNING!", a silent "good morning" or something in between? Each of these choices has consequences on how the hearer understands (or misunderstands) an utterance. The research theme Speaker‘s Choice and Language Use investigates the paths on which people navigate through the highly complex labyrinth of language. On the one hand, we are interested in how a speaker chooses a path, and on the other hand, how the hearer interprets the choice of this path.

A speaker's choice is almost never by chance, but rather to express a certain aspect of meaning. Therefore, the topic is approached from the perspective of semantics and pragmatics, also taking into consideration syntactic, cognitive and other constraints. We strive for a close integration of experimental and theoretical work.  On this basis we develop formal models of decision processes and the interfaces to syntax and semantics. The comparison of different theoretical approaches – in particular grammatical, game theoretic and algorithmic models – is a central goal. We are also particularly interested in the influence of speaker knowledge on the choices and compare, for example, children and adults.

Beside the projects within XPrag.de Lexikalische Inferenz vs. Skalare Implikatur (Sauerland), Probabilistische Modellierung der Verwendung von Quantoren durch typische und atypische Sprecher (Krifka, Sauerland) and Experimentelle Spieltheorie und skalare Implikaturen: Untersuchung von Variationen im Kontext und Skalentyp (Benz) the DFG project   Propositional and Non-at-issue Content in Text Generation: Exploring the QUD–Perspective (Benz) and the CRC-project  Modeling meaning-driven register variation (Solt & Sauerland) contribute to the theme. And so did the DFG project Attenuating polarity elements from the scalar range (Solt), completed in 2020.