Linguistics Talk: Joint Actions, Word Meaning, & World Knowledge

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When a sentence describes the actions of multiple individuals (Alice and Bob), we draw inferences about what each individual did. We infer from Alice and Bob smiled that they each smiled; whereas we do not necessarily infer from Alice and Bob lifted a box that they each lifted a box, because they may have done so together.

The research of Dr. Lelia Glass investigates an open question: Which other predicates behave like smile or like lift a box, and why? Uncontroversially, these inferences are grounded in how these events take place in the world (e.g., people can only smile individually because people have their own faces). To generalize that type of explanation, her presentation presents quantitative evidence consistent with a series of far-reaching predictions about the behavior of hundreds of predicates, grounded in the nature of the real-world events they describe. More broadly, this work illustrates how the structure of reality creates patterns across the lexicon used to describe it.

Lelia Glass is a visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Modern Languages at Georgia Tech. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University in 2018. Her research interests include lexical semantics (word meaning), pragmatics (meaning in context), and experimental methods.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: esnelling3
  • Created: 08/09/2018
  • Modified By: T. Jesse Brannen
  • Modified: 08/17/2018


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