Friday, December 8: Klaus von Heusinger

Please join us this Friday as Klaus von Heusinger (Linguistics, University of Cologne) presents work on definiteness and indefiniteness.

Date and time: Friday, December 8, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: The comprehension of definite and indefinite noun phrases – towards a dual-process activation model


In this presentation, I argue that the comprehension of definite and indefinite noun phrases is best described within a dual-process model of referent activation. In a first process, a comprehender accesses the concept associated with the noun phrase’s descriptive material while, in a second process, the function of the noun phrase’s article guides the comprehender to select the denoted referent(s). Importantly, definite articles signal that there is a unique element that falls under the previously activated concept. In contrast, indefinite articles signal that there are (potentially) multiple referents for the previously activated concept. The dual-process model proposed here was tested in a visual-world eye-tracking experiment, where the different functions associated with definite and indefinite noun phrases are reflected at the level of a referent’s accessibility to a comprehender.

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