Lila R. Gleitman, Andrew C. Connolly, and Sharon Lee Armstrong
This article reviews two kinds of experimental evidence from laboratories that challenge the adequacy of prototypes for representing human concepts. First, experiments suggesting that prototype theory does not distinguish adequately among concepts of maximally variant types, such as formal vs. natural kind and artifact concepts. Second, a more recent experimental line demonstrating how theories of conceptual combination with lexical prototypes fail to predict actual phrasal interpretations, such as language users' doubts as to whether Lithuanian apples are likely to be as edible as apples. An extensive body of empirical research seems to provide evidence for the psychological validity of the prototype position. The default to the compositional stereotype strategy (DS) mentions that barring information, to the contrary, assumes that the typical adjective–noun combination satisfies the noun stereotype.
Giosuè Baggio, Michiel van Lambalgen, and Peter Hagoort
Compositionality remains effective as an explanation of cases in which processing complexity increases due to syntactic factors only. It falls short of accounting for situations in which complexity arises from interactions with the sentence or discourse context, perceptual cues, and stored knowledge. The idea of compositionality as a methodological principle is appealing, but imputing the complexity to one component of the grammar or another, instead of enriching the notion of composition, is not always an innocuous move, leading to fully equivalent theories. Compositionality sets an upper bound on the degree of informational encapsulation that can be posited by modular or component-based theories of language: simple composition ties in with a strongly modular take on meaning assembly, which is seen as sealed off from information streams other than the lexicon and the syntax.
Timothy B. Jay
This chapter describes from a psychological point of view two aspects of taboo word use in American English: the ways people use taboo words to express themselves and the ways people comprehend taboo word expressions. Expression topics selected here include: spoken frequency, verbal fluency, personality traits, emotion expression, anger and frustration, name calling, humor, and coping with pain. Interpretation topics selected include: connotation and denotation, word offensiveness, frequency judgments, fighting words, sexual harassment, and pragmatic contextual variables. The production of expressions with taboo words, as well as the interpretation of them, depends on contextual variables encompassing the expressions including: the speaker–listener relationship and their ages, the social and physical context, and the intended meaning and emotional valence of the expression. Universal statements cannot be made about the production or interpretation of taboo word expressions due to the influence of contextual variables.
In traditional formal semantics, reference, truth, and satisfaction are basic and representation is derivative and dispensable. Semantics in this traditional sense has no bearing on mental processing. Thus, cognitive neuroscience cannot provide any insights into the nature of reference. Unlike traditional semantics, dynamic semantic theories—such as discourse representation theory (DRT) —treat ever-growing, revisable mental representations as the basic semantic entities. New information may refer to previously introduced referents and discourse referents may refer to worldly entities. Because DRT treats mental representations as indispensable, evidence from neuroscience—particularly recording of electroencephalograms (EEG) and its derivative event-related potentials (ERPs)—can reasonably be thought to shed light on meaning and reference. This chapter first reviews the advantages of DRT in accommodating linguistic data and then reviews data from neuroscience that seem to support it. Finally, it considers methodological concerns that have been raised about the neuroscientific approach to semantics.