LINGUIST List 32.1342

Thu Apr 15 2021

Confs: Cog Sci, Philos of Lang, Pragmatics, Psycholing/Online

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 14-Apr-2021
From: Nicole Gotzner <>
Subject: XPRAG Wine Gatherings
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XPRAG Wine Gatherings
Short Title: XPRAG-Wine

Date: 15-Apr-2021 - 15-Apr-2021
Location: Potsdam (Zoom), Germany
Contact: Nicole Gotzner
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Language; Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics

Meeting Description:

The XPRAG Wine Gatherings is travelling far north to visit Paula Rubio-Fernandez (University of Oslo). Learn about one of the oldest debates in ancient philosophy! The title of Paula' s talk is 'Similes and metaphors as scalar expressions of similarity: Bringing together two different literatures in experimental pragmatics' (abstract attached).

Date: 15 April, 8.15 p.m. (CET)

Speaker: Paula Rubio-Fernandez (University of Oslo)

Talk: Similes and metaphors as scalar expressions of similarity: Bringing together two different literatures in experimental pragmatics research

Hosts: Nicole Gotzner (University of Potsdam) and Ira Noveck (Université de Paris, CNRS)

Drink menu: Norwegian wine or Glögg

Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 876 5060 2862
Passcode: 202020

Mailing list:

YouTube channel:

Program Information:

Abstract: Similes and metaphors as scalar expressions of similarity: Bringing together two different literatures in experimental pragmatics research

One of the oldest debates in pragmatics (dating back to Aristotle!) discusses the relation between similes and metaphors (e.g., Wilma is like a princess vs Wilma is a princess). Going beyond figurative language, we have proposed that comparison and categorization statements are scalar expressions of similarity, with the stronger term conveying class inclusion (Rubio-Fernandez et al., 2017). Thus, ‘Betty is like a nurse’ would normally imply that Betty is not an actual nurse; otherwise the speaker should have uttered the corresponding categorization statement ‘Betty is a nurse’.

In this talk, I will present the results of two recent experimental studies looking at the derivation of scalar implicatures when interpreting categorization and comparison statements. The first study investigated preschoolers’ pragmatic abilities in three experiments using similes and metaphors (Long et al., 2021). The results of this study revealed a developmental trend in the derivation of scalar implicatures, starting as early as 3 years in some conditions. We argue that young children might derive higher rates of scalar implicatures with similes than with other scalar expressions because categorization and comparison statements (e.g., ‘A whale is a mammal’ or ‘A clementine is like an orange’) are probably highly frequent in child-directed speech. Our results therefore support the view that children’s difficulties with scalar implicatures need not stem from their limited pragmatic abilities, but from the protracted acquisition of alternative expressions and their scalarity (Papafragou & Skordos, 2016).
The second study follows up on recent work on enrichment priming with adults (Rees et al., 2018, 2019). The results of three experiments confirm that including canonical ‘some’ and ‘all’ statements (e.g., ‘Some elephants have trunks’ vs ‘All elephants have trunks’) in sentence verification and sentence evaluation tasks increases the number of pragmatic responses to underinformative comparisons to a superordinate (e.g., ‘A banana is like a fruit’; Shukla et al., under review). We interpret these results as evidence that ‘some’ and ‘all’ sentences introduce an informativity bias in sentence verification and sentence evaluation tasks, affecting the degree to which these experimental tasks elicit pragmatic reasoning.

Long, M., Shukla, V., & Rubio-Fernandez, P. (2021). The development of simile comprehension: From comparison to scalar implicature. Child Development.
Papafragou, A., & Skordos, D. (2016). Scalar implicature. The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Linguistics (pp. 611-632). Oxford: Oxford University Press
Rees, A., & Bott, L. (2018). The role of alternative salience in the derivation of scalar implicatures. Cognition, 176, 1-14.
Rees, A., Bott, L., & Schumacher, P. B. (2019). Event-related potentials in pragmatic priming. Neuroscience Letters, 712, 134435.
Rubio-Fernandez, P., Geurts, B., & Cummins, C. (2017). Is an apple like a fruit? A study on comparison and categorisation Statements. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 8(2), 367-390.
Shukla, V., Long, M., Bhatia, V., & Rubio-Fernandez (under review). Some sentences prime pragmatic reasoning in the verification and evaluation of comparisons.

Page Updated: 15-Apr-2021