Conceptual alternatives

Brian Buccola · Manuel Križ · Emmanuel Chemla

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Experimental materials (stimuli, results, scripts, etc.)

Abstract. Competition between sentences is at the core of numerous phenomena in natural language semantics. For instance, the competition between sentences such as Some of the shapes are red and All the shapes are red is taken to explain why an utterance of the former implicates that the latter is false. It is generally assumed that such competition is regulated by the relative syntactic simplicity of the competing utterances. Using theoretical and experimental tools devised to study human non-linguistic, conceptual abilities, we provide evidence for a new perspective: the rules that govern competition in natural language may be better and more deeply understood as rooted in relative conceptual simplicity, and thus are inherited from non-linguistic domains. We also provide evidence that the various construals of numerals preferentially attested in human language may likewise be rooted in non-linguistic, conceptual preferences.