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Clefts: Quite the contrary!

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Clefts: Quite the contrary!

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  1. Clefts: Quite the contrary! Emilie Destruel, University of Iowa David Beaver, UT Austin Liz Coppock, University of Gothenburg Sinn und Bedeutung 2016 University of Edinburgh

  2. Outline • Hypotheses • Empirical studies • General discussion

  3. The English it-cleft (1) It’s John who cooked beans. Often conceived as identificational focus (Kiss 1998), with the following standard components:

  4. Hypotheses • The standard components suffice. • In addition to to the standard components, an antecedent in prior discourse(corresponding to a focal alternative à la Rooth) is required. • A contrastiveness requirement must be added to the standard components.

  5. Evidence for Hypothesis B (2) A: Sarah looks good with glasses! B: #Yeah, it was Boots she got them from. B:Yeah, she got them from Boots. (3) A: Sarah just got some glasses from Vision Express. B: No, it was Boots she got them from B: No, she got them from Boots. These examples do not differ wrt to the standard components, but rather the presence of an antecedent (Rooth1992; Schwarschild 1999)

  6. Evidence for Hypothesis C? Even an antecedent is not enough for a cleft to be perfectly felicitous (Destruel & Vellemann 2014): (4) A: Where did Sarah get those glasses? B: # I think it was Boots she got them from. B: I think she got them from Boots.

  7. Contrastiveness • Zimmermann 2008: “contrastivity… means that a particular focus content or a particular speech act containing a focus is unexpected for the hearer from the speaker’s perspective”. • Extrapolating: The more commitment the hearer has displayed to a contrary claim, the more likely contrastive marking is.

  8. Outline • Hypotheses • Empirical studies • General discussion

  9. Idea to test The more strongly the interlocutor appears committed to a (false) proposition, the better it is to repudiate them with a cleft.

  10. Example stimuli Weak commitment context A: Mark just bought a very ugly car. And it looks like it's about to fall apart. I guess Leah convinced him to buy it. Strong commitment context A: Mark just bought a very ugly car. And it looks like it's about to fall apart. Leah convinced him to buy it. Responses (same for both contexts) B: Actually, it’s Linda who convinced him to buy it. (cleft) B’: Actually, Linda who convinced him to buy it. (SVO)

  11. Contexts 1, 3, 5, 7 - CONTRADICT + CONTRADICT

  12. Contexts 2, 3, 4, 5

  13. Contexts

  14. Subject vs. non-subject Context with non-subject focus: A: Look at John this evening. He’s all dressed up. I guess he is going out with Tammy. B: Actually, he is going out with Karen. B’: Actually, it’s Karen he’s going out with.

  15. Design • 6 contexts x 2 grammatical functions (subject vs. non-subj)= 12 lexicalizations • 12 lexicalizations x 12 items= 144 experimental dialogues • Counterbalanced across 12 lists;each participant saw 24 items (12 subj, 12 non-subj). • Order pseudo-randomized among 24 fillers.

  16. Three studies • Pre-test 1: strength of existential inference • Pre-test 2: strength of commitment • Main study • All used the exact same material,except only A’s part was presented in pre-tests. • 3 different groups of participants.

  17. Pre-test studies #1 & #2 1. Strength of existential inference: How strongly does A believe `someone V-ed’? 2. Strength of commitment: How committed is Speaker A to `Subj V-ed’?

  18. Pre-test #1: Strength of existential inference Speaker A: Mark just bought a very ugly car. And it looks like it's about to fall apart. I guess Leah convinced him to buy it. On a scale from 1-7, how likely is it that someone convinced Mark to buy a very ugly car? (1-Extremely unlikely, 7-Extremely likely) 1          2          3          4          5          6          7

  19. Results

  20. Good news! • The contradictory contexts (2-6) don’tdiffer significantly from each other with respect to Speaker A’s commitment to existence. • So, if these contexts differ in the strength of A’s commitment to a statement that B will contradict (as they were designed to do), then we can test our prediction.

  21. Pre-test #2:Strength of commitment • Question: How strongly is A committed to the target proposition? • 4 designed levels of commitment strength: • Non-contradictory • Weak • Strong • Presuppositional Increasingly stronger commitment

  22. Pre-test #2: Procedure Speaker A: Mark just bought a very ugly car. And it looks like it's about to fall apart. I guess Leah convinced him to buy it.  On a scale from 1-7, how strongly is Speaker A committed to the fact that Leah convinced Mark to buy a very ugly car? (1-Extremely not committed, 7-Extremely committed) 1          2          3          4          5          6          7

  23. Results

  24. Existential * Strength of Commitment

  25. More good news! • Recall: Contradictory contexts (2-6) all provide an antecedent and commit Speaker A to existence. • But, crucially, they differ in the strength of A’s commitment to a statement that B will contradict. • So we can test our prediction (Hypothesis C).

  26. Main study • Conducted on MTurkplatform (N= 64) • Measured naturalness of B’s response. • Independent variables: • Contrastiveness (commitment * contradiction) • Existential • At-issueness • Grammatical function

  27. Measuring contrastiveness • In non-contradictory contexts, items have a contrastiveness value of 0. • In contradictory contexts, the contrastiveness value for an item is the strength of Speaker A’s commitment to the conflicting proposition (as measured in pre-test #2). Contrastiveness = Commitment * Contradiction

  28. Results for Clefts

  29. Non-contradictory contexts  Contradictory contexts

  30. Models for dataset with clefts**random effects were also included 1: Judgment ~ Grammatical function (ns.) 2: Judgment ~ At-issueness(ns.) 3: Judgment ~ Contrastiveness(t = 17.36) 4: Judgment ~ Existential (t = 14.8) 5: Judgment ~ Contrastiveness+Existential (better than 4;χ2 = 69.5, p < 0.001)

  31. Conclusion for clefts Contrastiveness improves the acceptability of cleft sentences, independently of whether the existential presupposition is satisfied.

  32. Results for Canonicals

  33. Non-contradictory contexts  Contradictory contexts

  34. Models for dataset with canonicals**random effects were also included 1: Judgment ~ Grammatical function (ns.) 2: Judgment ~ At-issueness(ns.) 3: Judgment ~ Contrastiveness(t = -5.24) 4: Judgment ~ Existential (ns.) 5: Judgment ~ Contrastiveness+Existential (not better than model 4;χ2 = 1.39, p = 0.23)

  35. Comparing Clefts & Canonicals

  36. Outline • Hypotheses • Empirical studies • General discussion

  37. General discussion • We have experimentally operationalized a notion of contrastivenessthat relates to how strongly the addressee believes the contrary. • We have shown that this factor significantly improves clefts, in contrast to canonicals, controlling for other factors known to influence the acceptability of clefts. • Not captured by any existing model of clefts.

  38. THANK YOU!

  39. References • Destruel, E & Velleman, L. (2014). Refining contrast: Evidence from the English it-cleft. In C. Piñon (ed.), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 10: 197-214. • Rooth, M. (1992). A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics, 1: 75-116. • Schwarschild, R. (1999). Givenness, avoid-F and other constraints on the placement of accent. Natural Language Semantics, 7: 141-177. • Zimmermann, M. (2008). Contrastive focus and emphasis. In ActaLinguisticaHungarica:347-360.

  40. Appendix

  41. Clefts’ naturalness ratings per Gram.function

  42. Strength of Commitment* Cleft’s naturalness

  43. SVO naturalness ratings per Gram.function

  44. SVO vs. Clefts’ naturalness ratings