Lauren's Linguistics (b)Log

Languages are full of puzzles. If you look carefully you can find intricacies that lurk in the things we say and how we say them. Perhaps the most fascinating part of all this is that whether you're paying attention or not, you have fully mastered these intricacies, and so has your three-year-old!

What follows are short informal overviews of some of the research projects I have worked on. I wrote these up as puzzles because that is how I like to think about language. I hope you will have as much fun trying to solve these as I had working on them (ignoring those last few months of the dissertation—always ignore those).

How to convey information about your reasoning

Inferences of will view the pdf

Co-chaired by Jessica Rett and Yael Sharvit

In my dissertation, I looked at sentences like those in (1). All three seem to convey that the neighbors are barbecuing, but can you figure out when would you use one instead of the other?

  • a. My neighbors are barbecuing right now.
  • b. My neighbors must be barbecuing right now.
  • c. My neighbors will be barbecuing right now.

Also, notice that in (c) the future-tense marker will is used, but there is nothing “future” about this sentence.

Read more

How to request different kinds of information

Disjunction and alternatives in Egyptian Arabic view the pdf

In addition to using language to share information with one another, we also use it to request information from one another. Consider the question in (1). There are two ways to read (1) to request slightly different information. Can you figure out the two ways and how they differ?

  • Do you want coffee or tea?

(Bonus: there is actually also a third way!)

Read more

Another way to convey information about your reasoning & when children come to know this

The effects of syntax on the acquisition of evidentiality view the pdf

Children’s comprehension of syntactically encoded evidentiality view the pdf

Co-authored work with Jessica Rett, Nina Hyams , and Laura Kalin.

Another mechanism that can be used to convey information about how the speaker has arrived at a conclusion is by using so-called “copy-raising constructions”, as in (1). Can you figure out the difference between the two sentences in (1)? When do you think kids know the difference between (a) and (b)?

  • a. It looks like Ernie is sick.
  • b. Ernie looks like he is sick.
Read more

How children learn the meaning of silence

Ellipsis meets wh-movement: Sluicing in early grammar View the pdf

Co-authored work with Victoria Mateu and Nina Hyams.

Language is very efficient at times and there are cases in which we can leave something unsaid if it is recoverable from context. For example, there is stuff missing from (1), can you identify what it is and how it receives its meaning? When do you think kids know how to interpret this missing material?

  • I can see that someone is brushing Ben, can you see who?
Read more