Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Noah Goodman (Stanford University) "Uncertainty in language and thought"

Mon, April 29, 2013 | CLA 1.302E

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Probabilistic models of human cognition have been widely successful at capturing the ways that people represent and reason with uncertain knowledge. In this talk I will explore the ways that this probabilistic approach can be brought to bare on natural language pragmatics and semantics. I will first describe a mathematical system, stochastic lambda calculus, that encompasses probabilistic uncertainty and compositional structure. Using this tool I will present a framework for language understanding that views sentence meaning through probabilistic conditioning and pragmatic enrichment as recursive social reasoning then grounds out in this literal meaning. I will consider how this framework explains aspects of quantity implicature, scope ambiguity, scalar adjective meaning, and numerical hyperbole. Time permitting I'll finish by discussing a model of word play humor.

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