Hearing meanings: the revenge of context
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According to the perceptual view of language comprehension, listeners typically recover high-level linguistic properties such as utterance meaning without inferential work. The perceptual view is subject to the Objection from Context: since utterance meaning is massively context-sensitive, and context-sensitivity requires cognitive inference, the perceptual view is false. In recent work, Berit Brogaard provides a challenging reply to this objection. She argues that in language comprehension context-sensitivity is typically exercised not through inferences, but rather through top-down perceptual modulations or perceptual learning. This paper provides a complete formulation of the Objection from Context and evaluates Brogaards reply to it. Drawing on conceptual considerations and empirical examples, we argue that the exercise of context-sensitivity in language comprehension does, in fact, typically involve inference.
KeywordsLanguage Meaning Context Inference Perception Cognition
We would like to thank Joulia Smortchkova and three anonymous reviewers for extremely helpful comments on the manuscript. The usual disclaimer applies. Luca Gasparri gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
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