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Quantity implicature and perspective-taking: insights from a novel task

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There are several influential views on whether some form of theory of mind is required to derive pragmatic inferences. In this presentation I will share with you a new task that colleagues and I have designed where success depends on sensitivity to the pragmatic maxim of informativeness, to perspective-taking, or to both. Using this task with neurotypical children and neurotypical and autistic adults, we find that (i) some listeners reliably derive pragmatic inferences without taking into account the perspective of the speaker, and that (ii) their propensity to take into account the perspective of the speaker is affected by what they, the listeners, see from their perspective. I will use these findings to suggest that listeners may but need not represent the epistemic state of the actual speaker in order to derive implicatures, and the implementation of theory of mind is subject to metacognitive monitoring. I don’t think that these findings speak in favour of any particular theory of implicature but I think that they do contribute towards a psycholinguistic model of implicature derivation.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Linguistics Forum series.

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