Judith Degen

Stanford University

Homepage: https://sites.google.com/site/judithdegen/


Over "overinformativeness": rational redundant referring expressions

The well-documented asymmetry in speakers' propensity to redundantly use size vs color adjectives in reference games has posed a long-standing challenge to experimental pragmaticists and computational linguists alike. I will present a novel production model of referring expressions that accounts for this asymmetry and also straightforwardly predicts fine-grained interactions between the number of distractor objects and the amount of variability among those distractors on speakers' probability of redundant adjective use. The model treats speakers as rationally trading off the cost of an additional adjective with the amount of information about the target object it provides, under the assumption that adjectives' truth functions are differentially noisy. I will argue that the systematicity with which speakers redundantly use adjectives suggests that, rather than being wastefully overinformative, redundant referring expressions are the result of a system geared towards communicative efficiency.


Judith Degen is a postdoctoral scholar in the Psychology Deparment at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Brain & Cognitive Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Rochester in 2013. She studies phenomena at the semantics/pragmatics interface using a combination of computational modeling, corpora, and behavioral methods.
Her work includes research on the production and comprehension of quantifiers, ad hoc Quantity implicatures, and the role of context in pragmatic inference, with a particular focus on scalar implicature.