Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Project A07 in the DFG-SFB1412 “Register” (Phase I: 2021-2023, Phase II: 2024-2028)

Title: Register effects in discourse expectations: Negation and modality in English (2024-2028)

Description: This project investigates doubling constructions (e.g., negative concord, modal concord) in varieties of English in different situational-functional settings. It elevates the inquiry from the description and data validation of the phenomena in Phase I to the more specific hypothesis testing and modeling. Formal theoretical analyses, offline and online psycholinguistic methods and the state-of-art Bayesian statistical techniques will be used to tackle and model the variation in the use, comprehension, and perception of the related register variants in discourse.

Title: Pragmatic Functions and Effects of Register Variation and Switch: a Register approach to negation and polarity (2021-2023)

Description: This project focuses on three sets of related phenomena in varieties of English: negative concord, pleonastic negation, and register-sensitive use of negative polarity items. All of these phenomena involve clear alternations with links to social meanings, which make them a promising empirical domain for the CRC. We investigate the grammatical and register-related factors in these alternations using a combination of theoretical, corpus, and experimental linguistic methods, aiming to make important contributions to the study of linguistic and register variants, and to an improved understanding of register and the relationship of register knowledge to grammatical knowledge.

Ongoing PhD thesis: Stephanie Rotter


Projects in the DFG-RTG2340 “Computational Cognition” (2018-2023)

Project 1: The Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition of Polarity Items, co-PI: Prof. Jutta L. Mueller (University of Vienna)

Description: This project investigated the cognitive processes underlying linguistic expectations, contextual violations, and contextual updating in sentence comprehension. It focused on the phenomenon of polarity sensitivity, as it mirrors the interaction of different aspects of grammar and pragmatics. The aims of the project were three-fold: (1) we investigated how adult speakers integrate polarity items during sentence comprehension; (2) we compared this data to child data to shed light on the learning processes at the interface of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics; and (3) we investigated the dependency relation between polarity items and their licensing contexts under the lens of current sentence processing models. For (1) and (2), we applied electroencephalography (EEG) to reveal the neurophysiological response while processing polarity items in adults and children. For (3), we applied behavioral methods, such as sentence rating tasks and self-paced reading, to investigate the interaction of on-line predictions and memory effects that occurs when a sentence processor has to integrate a polarity item with its licensing context. Completed PhD thesis: Juliane Schwab, Sentence processing at the interfaces – dependency relations across levels of representation (2022)

Project 2: Computational Modeling the Pragmatics of Conditionals, co-PI: Prof. Michael Franke (University of Tübingen)

Description: Despite the very long history of research on conditionals, there is no consensus and no prevalent theory that is able to explain the many and varied ways to interpret a conditional utterance. With the aid of computational models, this project aimed to understand how diverse interpretations arise for different uses of if, then. While most related work on conditionals has focused on qualitative models of their semantics, this project investigated their pragmatics with quantitative computational models combining the Rational-Speech-Act (RSA) model and experimental evaluation. Completed PhD thesis: Britta Grusdt, Pragmatic Use & Interpretation of Conditionals (2023)


Project SPOCC in the the DFG-SPP 1727  “” (2017-2021)

Title: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Conditional Connectives: cross-linguistic and experimental perspectives

Description: The concept of conditionality is central to human thought and action, which is manifested by a rich repertoire of conditional expressions in natural language. A conditional sentence of the form, for example, ‘If p, q’, is constructed by a conditional connective if, an antecedent (p) and a consequent (q). This project investigated the distribution, semantics and pragmatics of conditional connectives in different languages with a focus on German and Mandarin Chinese, using formal semantic/pragmatic (e.g. the speaker commitment model of Giannakidou (1998/2014), the three-dimensional semantic framework of Liu (2012)) and psycholinguistic (comprehension, production, EEG) methods. Due to the multifaceted meaning aspects involved in conditional connectives (such as implicatures and presuppositions), the results promise to shed light on the scope and limits of existing formal models and experimental paradigms of semantics, pragmatics and reasoning.