Adaptation at the Syntax-Semantics Interface: Evidence from a Vernacular Construction
Frances Blanchette, Erin Flannery, Paul Reed, Carrie Jackson
July 2021

Expanding on psycholinguistic research on linguistic adaptation, the phenomenon whereby speakers change how they comprehend or produce structures as a result of cumulative exposure to less-frequent or unfamiliar linguistic structures, the present study asks whether speakers can learn the semantic and syntactic properties of the vernacular Negative Auxiliary Inversion (NAI) construction (e.g. didn’t everybody eat, meaning ‘not everybody ate’) during the course of an experiment. Participants unfamiliar with the NAI construction were exposed to NAI sentences in either semantically ambiguous or unambiguous contexts. Participants acquired the interpretive properties of NAI and demonstrated native-like syntactic knowledge of restrictions on its subject-type, even after only limited exposure in semantically ambiguous contexts. These results highlight that linguistic adaptation can include the ability to rapidly learn core semantic and syntactic properties of unfamiliar structures, and underscore the utility of incorporating models of hierarchical structure and constituency into theoretical accounts of linguistic adaptation.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004995
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: linguistic adaptation, syntax, semantics, english vernacular, negative auxiliary inversion, scope of negation, quantifier scope, syntax
previous versions: v1 [January 2020]
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