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Conference Information

Full Title: Experimental Perspectives on Event Coercion

Short Title: Chronos 11 - Workshop 3
Location: Pisa, Italy
Start Date: 16-Jun-2014 - 18-Jun-2014
Contact: Helga Gese
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Event coercion has been on the agenda in semantic theory and psycholinguistic research for more than a decade now. During the last fifteen years psycho- and neurolinguists have mainly concentrated on two types of phenomena: aspectual coercion from a punctual event into a series of events (1) (starting with Piñango & Jackendoff 1999), and complement coercion from an object into an event, (2) (starting with McElree et al. 2001).

(1) John coughed for many hours.
(2) John began the book.

However, the phenomena that have been investigated experimentally only cover a small part of what has been discussed in the semantic literature (for exceptions see e.g. Pylkkänen et al. 2011). At least three broad classes of event coercion may be distinguished: first, transitions between different ontological types resulting in an event reading, see the object-event shifts in (2) and (3); second, within the ontological category of events, transitions from one aspectual class to another, such as in (1), and the non-iterative instances of this sort in (4) and (5); finally, coercion that affects covert event participants (e.g. the introduction of an initiator in (6) and an agent argument in (7)).

(3) John was sick from the terrible pizza.
(4) The architect built the house for two months.
(5) John found his keys within two hours.
(6) The building stands intentionally in contrast with its industrial environment
(7) He stumbles for his audience.

All of this has to be taken with caution since the number of possible coercion types depends on the ontological distinctions/types a given theory is based on (c.f. Asher 2011). Even worse, what counts as coercion depends on the theoretical background chosen. It is thus not surprising that semantics and psycho/neurolinguistics have not influenced each other as much as they might have (see Baggio et al. 2010; Bott 2010; Pylkkänen et al. 2011 for first steps in this direction). On the other hand, multidisciplinary efforts using experimental evidence should enable us to decide between theoretical alternatives. This would be particularly important because there are often alternative proposals that derive coerced meanings in fundamentally different ways. The proposed coercion theories vary between semantic, pragmatic and underspecification accounts (see e.g. Egg 2005). Others have even claimed that apparent (aspectual) coercion may not in reality involve any coercion at all, but instead be related to the resolution of quantificational restrictions (Deo & Piñango 2011). This situation makes it challenging for experimentalists to relate their results to theoretical work.

Our workshop addresses whether and how psycholinguistic experiments can constrain the available theoretical alternatives and how semantic and pragmatic theory can contribute a cognitively plausible model to psycho- and neurolinguistic studies.

The one-day workshop will be organized by Oliver Bott, Helga Gese, Fritz Hamm and Claudia Maienborn (SFB 833, Tübingen University). Liina Pylkkänen has accepted our invitation as keynote speaker.

The workshop will be part of the conference CHRONOS 11 ('workshop 3') on June, 16-18th 2014 in Pisa, Italy. The conference website can be found here:
Linguistic Subfield: Neurolinguistics; Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics
LL Issue: 24.3622

This is a session of the following meeting:
11th International Conference on Actionality, Tense, Aspect, Modality/Evidentiality

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