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Mood, Aspect, Modality RevisitedNew Answers to Old Questions$
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Joanna Blaszczak, Anastasia Giannakidou, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, and Krzysztof Migdalski

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226363523

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226363660.001.0001

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Can Semantic Theories Be Tested Experimentally?

Can Semantic Theories Be Tested Experimentally?

The Case of Aspectual Coercion

(p.346) Chapter Ten Can Semantic Theories Be Tested Experimentally?
Mood, Aspect, Modality Revisited

Oliver Bott

University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents the results of one event related potentials (ERP) experiment and three self-paced reading experiments which test the predictions of semantic/pragmatic theories of aspectual coercion in German. Bott contrasts operator-based and underspecification accounts of aspectual coercion with the event calculus, a pragmatic theory of tense and aspect, which proposes a classification of coercion into different types. In the ERP study and in the first self-paced reading experiment focusing on “additive coercion,” the results provide evidence against a semantic operator-based account indicating instead that aspectual coercion heavily relies on pragmatic inference. Two further self-paced reading experiments compared “subtractive coercion” and two types of “iterative coercion”— and the results of these two experiments suggest that different kinds of coercion involve different processing mechanisms. Most strikingly, different subtypes of “iterative coercion,” which in principle should involve the same iterative operator, revealed different coercion costs. Taken together, the experiments demonstrate that an operator-based coercion theory or underspecification account cannot fully account for the experimental data. The predictions of event calculus, however, were fully confirmed by the experiments. Event calculus thus allows us to derive empirically valid predictions about the underlying cognitive processes while incrementally constructing a temporal model of the unfolding discourse.

Keywords:   German, event related potential, aspectual coercion, event calculus, ERP

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