SSP Forum: Judith Degen on Overinformativeness » Show

Nov. 27, 2017

Start Date

& End Date

12:30 p.m.

Start Time

to

1:20 p.m.

End Time

at 460-126 (Greenberg Seminar Room)

Location

The
Symbolic Systems Forum

presents

Overinformativeness? Rationally Redundant Reference

featuring
Judith Degen
Linguistics Department

Monday, Nov. 27, 2017
12:30-1:20 pm
Building 460, Room 126 (Margaret Jacks Hall)

ABSTRACT:
Referring is one of the most basic and prevalent uses of language. How
do speakers choose from the wealth of referring expressions at their
disposal? Rational theories of language use have come under attack for
decades for not being able to account for the seemingly irrational
overinformativeness ubiquitous in referring expressions. I present a
novel production model of referring expressions within the Rational
Speech Act framework that treats speakers as agents that soft-optimally
trade off cost and informativeness of utterances. Crucially, the
assumption of deterministic meanings is relaxed. This allows for
capturing a large number of seemingly disparate phenomena within one
unified framework: the basic asymmetry in speakers’ propensity to
overmodify with color rather than size; the increase in overmodification
in complex scenes; the increase in overmodification with atypical
features; and the preference for basic level reference in nominal
reference. The findings cast a new light on the production of referring
expressions: rather than being wastefully overinformative, reference is
rationally redundant. This implicates a production system geared towards
communicative efficiency.

Description

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