Kravtchenko, Ekaterina; Demberg, Vera

Modeling atypicality inferences in pragmatic reasoning

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 44, CogSci 2022, pp. 1918-1924, Toronto, Canada, 2022.

Empirical studies have demonstrated that when comprehenders are faced with informationally redundant utterances, they may make pragmatic inferences (Kravtchenko & Demberg, 2015). Previous work has also shown that the strength of these inferences depends on prominence of the redundant utterance – if it is stressed prosodically, marked with an exclamation mark, or introduced with a discourse marker such as “Oh yeah”, atypicality inferences are stronger (Kravtchenko & Demberg, 2015, 2022; Ryzhova & Demberg, 2020). The goal of the present paper is to demonstrate how both the atypicality inference and the effect of prominence can be modelled using the rational speech act (RSA) framework. We show that atypicality inferences can be captured by introducing joint reasoning about the habituality of events, following Degen, Tessler, and Goodman (2015); Goodman and Frank (2016). However, we find that joint reasoning models principally cannot account for the effect of differences in utterance prominence. This is because prominence markers do not contribute to the truth-conditional meaning. We then proceed to demonstrate that leveraging a noisy channel model, which has previously been used to model low-level acoustic perception (Bergen & Goodman, 2015), can successfully account for the empirically observed patterns of utterance prominence.