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Seminar Abstract

Three consequences of a language universals in semantics

Speaker : Dr Emmanuel Chemla, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, France.
Date : 4th of December 2018, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    Joint work with Brian Buccola, Isabelle Dautriche, Joel Fagot Languages of the world exhibit similar regularities, so-called "universals". We study simple semantic universals, and trace them outside of language in cognition, and outside of humans in closely related species. In this talk, I present one illustrative case study of the project. Content words — e.g., nouns and adjectives — are generally "connected": there are no gaps in their denotations; no noun means ‘table or shoe’ or ‘animal or house’. We first show that not only content words, but also logical words satisfy a version of the connectedness property. These observations are traced back to three types of facts: (i) regularities in the languages of the world: most words are connected, (ii) acquisition biases: all things being equal, human adults prefer to postulate connected meanings than non-connected meanings (e.g., in artificial language learning experiments) and (iii) similar learning biases for baboons.

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