Comparative Semantics for Quantification: Evidence from
Verification Studies using "Self-Paced Counting"
May 20, 2006
Martin Hackl, Pomona College
University of Chicago
Formal semantic analyses aim to establish a systematic relation between
the truth-conditional (TC) import of an expression and its
syntactic/combinatorial properties. How (descriptions of) TCs are used
by other systems of the mind - for instance in verification tasks - is
typically not seen as something that formal semantics needs to account
for or that could help distinguish between competing semantic analyses.
An area where this lack of interest yields a particularly wide gap that
more complete theories eventually will have to bridge is quantification.
This talk presents a novel experimental technique ("Self-paced
Counting")that allows us to gather fine grained timing information about
how subjects gather information incrementally in verification tasks that
involve counting. It will be shown that this technique can detect
different verification profiles for semantically equivalent quantified
statements. Evidence of this sort reveals that the semantic primitives
of quantification as assumed in Generalized Quantifier Theory are too
coarse and supports the idea that measure functions, degree expressions
and comparative relations are part of the basic building blocks of
quantification in natural language.