What’s Included in the Set of Alternatives?

  • Nicole Gotzner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Pragmatics, Language and Cognition book series (PSPLC)


This chapter examines which specific elements are included in the set of alternatives. The leading research question is whether listeners determine alternatives based on general semantic priming mechanisms or whether they only consider contrastive alternatives, elements that can replace the expression in focus. Experiment 4 compares semantically related alternatives to general non-contrastive associates of a focused expression. [A detailed description of Experiment 4 is published in Gotzner and Spalek (Discourse Process, doi:10.1080/0163853X.2016.1148981, 2016).] [The data of Experiment 4 are published in Gotzner and Spalek (Discourse Process, doi:10.1080/0163853X.2016.1148981, 2016).] The results show that effects of focus particles are selective to alternatives which can replace the expression in focus. The second part of the chapter turns to the theoretical debate concerning the restriction of alternative sets. To address this debate, I present a further analysis of the unrelated items used in Experiment 3. [A version of Sect. 5.4 was published in the Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung (Gotzner, vol. 19, pp. 232–247, 2015). I designed the additional analysis presented in Sect. 5.4 as well as Experiment 4 and analyzed all results.] Overall, the results suggest that listeners consider a broader set of alternatives and that the notion of possible replacements is crucial in determining the relevant alternatives.


Alternative sets Contrast Contextual restriction Semantic and taxonomic categories 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Gotzner
    • 1
  1. 1.Humboldt UniversityBerlinGermany

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