2020-06-05Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/21462
The role of non-categorical relations in establishing focus alternatives sets
Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Categorisation is arguably the most important organising principle insemantic memory. However, elements that are not in a categorical relationcan be dynamically grouped together when the context provides a common theme for these elements. In the field of sentence (and discourse) comprehension, alternatives to a focused element can be thought of as a set of elements determined by a theme given in the utterance context. According to Alternative Semantics (Rooth, 1985, 1992), the main function of linguistic focus is to introduce a set of alternatives to the focused element within an utterance. Here, we will investigate the contribution ofthe utterance context to the composition of focus alternative sets. Specifically, we test whether a focus alternative set can contain elements that belong to different taxonomic categories (i.e., that are not closely semantically related). Using a behavioural probe recognition experiment, we show that participants activate elements from another taxonomic category than the focused element as part of sentence comprehension. This finding suggests that the composition of a focus alternative set is not simply based on semantic relations between the members of the set and the focused element, but that contextual relations also play a crucial role.
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