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Seminar: 9/28 - Adele Goldberg, Princeton University

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman Hall

Explain me this: how we learn what not to say

Certain novel utterances are fully acceptable (e.g., She sneezed the bullet out of her nose), and yet others are noticeably dispreferred even though they are semantically sensible and syntactically well-formed (e.g., ?? She explained him the story; ?? the afraid boy). How learners sort out which novel formulations are acceptable and which are not has remained a puzzle for decades. Results from several new experiments are reported that suggest that competition in context -- statistical preemption -- plays a key role in speakers' learning which formulations are dispreferred. I will also suggest a domain-general mechanism that appears to underlie this process.