The causes and consequences explicit in verbs

TitleThe causes and consequences explicit in verbs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHartshorne, JK
Secondary AuthorsO'Donnell, TJ, Tenenbaum, JB
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Date Published02/09/2015
ISSN2327-3798 (Print) 2327-3801 (Online)

Interpretation of a pronoun in one clause can be systematically affected by the verb in the previous clause. Compare Archibald angered Bartholomew because he ...(he = Archibald) with Archibald criticised Bartholomew because he ...(he = Bartholomew). While it is clear that meaning plays a critical role, it is unclear whether that meaning is directly encodedin the verb or, alternatively, inferred from world knowledge. We report evidence favouring the former account. We elicitedpronoun biases for 502 verbs from seven Levin verb classes in two discourse contexts (implicit causality and implicitconsequentiality), showing that in both contexts, verb class reliably predicts pronoun bias. These results confirm and extendrecent findings about implicit causality and represent the first such study for implicit consequentiality. We discuss these findingsin the context of recent work in semantics, and also develop a new, probabilistic generative account of pronoun interpretation.


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