Tourtouri, Elli; Delogu, Francesca; Crocker, Matthew W.

ERP indices of referential informativity in visual contexts

Paper presented at the 28th CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, University of South California, Los Angeles, USA, 2015.

Violations of the Maxims of Quantity occur when utterances provide more (over- specified) or less (under-specified) information than strictly required for referent identification. While behavioural data suggest that under-specified (US) expressions lead to comprehension difficulty and communicative failure, there is no consensus as to whether over- specified (OS) expressions are also detrimental to comprehension. In this study we shed light on this debate, providing neurophysiological evidence supporting the view that extra information facilitates comprehension. We further present novel evidence that referential failure due to underspecification is qualitatively different from explicit cases of referential failure, when no matching referential candidate is available in the context.