Overspecification and the Cost of Pragmatic Reasoning about Referring Expressions

Peter BaumannNorthwestern University
Brady ClarkNorthwestern University
Stefan KaufmannUniversity of Connecticut

Abstract

In current approaches to pragmatic reasoning the comprehension and production of referring expressions is modeled as a result of the interlocutors' mutual perspective-taking under the additional assumption that speakers try to minimize their articulatory effort or production cost. The latter assumption is usually not tested and instead built into the experimental tasks of referential language games by artificially restricting the set of possible referring expressions available to identify a referent. We present two language game experiments: a production experiment, in which the speakers were allowed to freely choose a referring expression, and a comprehension experiment to replicate earlier findings with our stimuli. Our results show that while listeners easily perform pragmatic reasoning, speakers resort to overspecification when the effort of pragmatic reasoning becomes too high.

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Overspecification and the Cost of Pragmatic Reasoning about Referring Expressions (260 KB)



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