[PS-3.13] Consequences of scalar inference derivation revealed through eye movement measures

Politzer-Ahles, S. 1, 2 & Husband, E. M. 1

1 University of Oxford
2 New York University Abu Dhabi

[Scalar] pragmatic inferences are sensitive to context. For instance, in a sentence where 'some' is likely to trigger a 'some'+>'not all' inference (e.g., upward-entailing 'Yousef ate some of the cookies, and the rest are on the table'), 'the rest' is read more quickly than in a sentence where 'some' is unlikely to trigger the inference (e.g., downward-entailing 'If Yousef ate some of the cookies, then the rest are on the table'), because the inference makes salient the complement set, e.g., the cookies that were not eaten. Little is known, however, about the correlates of these effects in eye-tracking, which offers a more fine-grained window into reading processes. We measured eye movements in 33 English speakers as they read such stimuli (based on Hartshorne et al., 2015, LCN). Like most self-paced reading studies, we did not find a significant slowdown on the scalar expression, but did find significant facilitation at 'the rest' in total reading times (p=.031). Furthermore, first-pass reading times changed over the course of the experiment: a facilitation effect only emerged as the experiment progressed, suggesting that the manner in which implicatures were processed underwent adaptation as a result of exposure to the stimuli.