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The distribution of word orders across languages is highly nonuniform, with subject-verb-object (SVO) and subject-object-verb (SOV) orders being prevalent. Recent work suggests that the SOV order may be the default in human language. Why, then, is SVO order so common? We hypothesize that SOV/SVO variation can be explained by language users' sensitivity to(More)
Sentence processing theories typically assume that the input to our language processing mechanisms is an error-free sequence of words. However, this assumption is an oversimplification because noise is present in typical language use (for instance, due to a noisy environment, producer errors, or perceiver errors). A complete theory of human sentence(More)
Inferring what speakers mean from what they say requires consideration of what they know. For instance, depending on the speaker's level of expertise, uttering Some squirrels hibernate can imply that not all squirrels hibernate, or it might imply the weaker proposition that the speaker does not know whether all squirrels hibernate. The present study(More)
One of the most puzzling and important facts about communication is that people do not always mean what they say; speakers often use imprecise, exaggerated, or otherwise literally false descriptions to communicate experiences and attitudes. Here, we focus on the nonliteral interpretation of number words, in particular hyperbole (interpreting unlikely(More)
We investigate the effects of alternative utterances on pragmatic interpretation of language. We focus on two specific cases: specificity implicatures (less specific utterances imply the negation of more specific utterances) and Horn impli-catures (more complex utterances are assigned to less likely meanings). We present models of these phenomena in terms(More)
While the ubiquity and importance of nonliteral language are clear, people's ability to use and understand it remains a mystery. Metaphor in particular has been studied extensively across many disciplines in cognitive science. One approach fo-cuses on the pragmatic principles that listeners utilize to infer meaning from metaphorical utterances. While this(More)
We investigate the mechanisms that allow people to successfully understand language given noise in the world and in their own perceptual inputs. We address two parts of this question. First, what knowledge do people use to make sense of language inputs that may have been corrupted? Second, how much of this knowledge is used while people are processing(More)