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A corpus-based examination of Scalar Diversity

Breheny, Richard; Sun, Chao; (2024) A corpus-based examination of Scalar Diversity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 10.1037/xlm0001278. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The phenomenon of scalar diversity refers to the well-replicated finding that different scalar expressions give rise to scalar implicatures at different rates. Previous work has shown that part of the scalar diversity effect can be explained by theoretically motivated factors. Although the effect has been established only in controlled lab-based experiments, there has been a tendency to assume that the marked differences in inference rates that have been observed reflect differences to be found in naturally occurring discourse. We explore whether this is the case by sampling actual language usage involving a wide range of scalar expressions. Adopting the approach in Degen (2015), we investigated the scalar diversity effect in a corpus of Twitter data we constructed. We find that the phenomenon of scalar diversity attenuates significantly when measured in a corpus-based paraphrase task. Although the degree of ‘scalar diversity’ varies, we find that factors derived from theories of scalar implicature can consistently explain nearly two-thirds of the observed variation. As for the remaining variation, we hypothesise that it may be due to a high level of uncertainty about whether adjectival scalar expressions should undergo scalar enrichment.

Type: Article
Title: A corpus-based examination of Scalar Diversity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/xlm0001278
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0001278
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: pragmatics, Scalar implicature, Scalar diversity, corpus
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10172856
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