How World Knowledge Shifts Adjective Interpretation

AbstractDimensional adjective interpretation is dependent on the comparison class -- the set of of object representations -- against which the object being modified by the adjective is judged. This paper explores the factors determining the composition of the comparison class, arguing that real world size information and prototypicality play crucial parts in its determination. Researchers often implicitly assume that only the objects in immediate visual context constitute the comparison class. However, Exp. 1 shows that this information from the visual context is integrated with knowledge of real world size and category properties to form the comparison class. Exp. 2 shows that prototype information is utilized when making size judgments of cartoon images, while size judgments of objects in photographs draw more heavily on a speaker's prior knowledge about the actual size of the objects in the world. Exp. 3 demonstrates that the effects observed in Exp. 1 and 2 were not caused by the adjectives used, but rather reflect differences between the size of the objects depicted in the images.

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