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Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals

Kulakova, E; Nieuwland, MS; (2016) Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals. Language and Linguistics Compass , 10 (2) pp. 49-65. 10.1111/lnc3.12175. Green open access

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Abstract

Cognitive and linguistic theories of counterfactual language comprehension assume that counterfactuals convey a dual meaning. Subjunctive-counterfactual conditionals (e.g., ‘If Tom had studied hard, he would have passed the test’) express a supposition while implying the factual state of affairs (Tom has not studied hard and failed). The question of how counterfactual dual meaning plays out during language processing is currently gaining interest in psycholinguistics. Whereas numerous studies using offline measures of language processing consistently support counterfactual dual meaning, evidence coming from online studies is less conclusive. Here, we review the available studies that examine online counterfactual language comprehension through behavioural measurement (self-paced reading times, eye-tracking) and neuroimaging (electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging). While we argue that these studies do not offer direct evidence for the online computation of counterfactual dual meaning, they provide valuable information about the way counterfactual meaning unfolds in time and influences successive information processing. Further advances in research on counterfactual comprehension require more specific predictions about how counterfactual dual meaning impacts incremental sentence processing.

Type: Article
Title: Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/lnc3.12175
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12175
Language: English
Additional information: This article copyright © 2016 The Authors. Language and Linguistics Compass copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1477278
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