Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores counterfactual language understanding (e.g. If money grew on trees…), which requires false information to be accepted as temporarily true (and vice versa). First, counterfactual constructions are defined, then counterfactual reasoning strategies are reviewed, and understanding is linked to existing theories of language comprehension. The key focus of this chapter is to evaluate recent empirical work that has sought to understand how counterfactuals are represented and accessed on-line during language comprehension. Thus, temporally sensitive cognitive neuroscientific methodologies are discussed alongside a variety of language comprehension tasks. Overall, it is concluded that healthy adult readers can make appropriate inferences following a counterfactual context, showing rapid (possibly simultaneous) access to both the counterfactual and factual interpretations of events, which parallels the processes involved in mental state attributions.

Keywords: counterfactuals, language comprehension, inferences, mental representations, anomaly detection, reasoning, eye movements, event-related potentials, social cognition

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.