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The PragLab research colloquium is organized by the English Linguistics team at the university of Fribourg and is aimed at internal and external researchers, and master students. It provides researchers with the opportunity to present and discuss their work and ongoing projects among peers.


The colloquium has a broad focus that includes but is not limited to: pragmatics, cognition, psycholinguistics, interpretative processes, language acquisition, argumentation, manipulation and experimental methodologies. It takes place on Mondays at 13:15, the exact date and room will be announced for each talk under the Schedule section.


For further information on the research colloquium and linguistics at the university of Fribourg you can subscribe to the ling mailing list by clicking here.


12 October 2015 (Room MIS10 1.16) 

Christelle Gillioz (University of Fribourg)

How do we understand emotions? Simulation processes and emotion comprehension during reading.

Building on previous findings at the lexical (e.g., Niedenthal, Winkielman, Mondillon, & Vermeulen, 2009) and sentence (e.g., Havas, Glenberg, & Rinck, 2007) levels, this study explored simulation processes implied in emotion comprehension at the discourse level. Activity in readers' facial muscles was recorded while reading emotional narratives describing five emotion components (Scherer, 1989, 2009). Readers showed specific activity in their facial muscles when reading about emotional experience. That is, the zygomaticus (smile muscle) was more activated when reading sentences describing joy features compared to sentences describing anger and sadness features, whereas the corrugator (frown muscle) was more activated when reading sentences related to anger and sadness features compared to sentences related to joy features. Crucially, although this specific muscle activity was the clearest for the expression component, it was also present when looking at action and body components, suggesting that readers internalize the protagonist's emotional state not only in terms of emotional expression but also in terms of action tendencies and internal bodily states.


11 May 2015 (Room MIS10 1.16) 

Diana Mazarella (University College London)

Pragmatics, interpretative strategies and epistemic vigilance

According to Sperber et al. (2010), the scope of the interaction between epistemic vigilance mechanisms and the comprehension process is relatively narrow. Both are activated by the same communicative behaviour, but the only role of the epistemic vigilance system is to assess the believability of the interpretation resulting from the comprehension process. I propose to extend the scope of this interaction as follows. Not only do epistemic vigilance mechanisms affect the believability of a piece of communicated information, but they also contribute to the assessment of the acceptability of interpretative hypotheses (i.e. whether an interpretative hypothesis about the speaker’s meaning is retained and attributed to the speaker as the intended interpretation). Pragmatic interpretation and epistemic vigilance mechanisms may work in parallel and interact with each other in constrained ways. Specifically, I suggest that epistemic vigilance mechanisms may filter out interpretative hypotheses that are incompatible with the speaker’s mental states (i.e. her beliefs and desires) or retain interpretative hypotheses that are accidentally irrelevant to the interpreter but compatible with them (Mazzarella, 2013, forthcoming/2015).


15 December 2014 (Room MIS10 2.04) 

Davis Ozols (University of Fribourg)

Repetition as a Context Selection Constraint: Explaining the ad populum fallacy

Information processing in communication is subject to uncertainty and errors during comprehension as a result of contextualization inferences, resource-bound efficiency constraints and cognitive heuristics. This can be captured through the theory of Context Selection Constraint (CSC). CSC plays a role in the general comprehension process by making a context set needed for comprehending the utterance U more salient than other competing context sets. In case of fallacious communication involving a deceptive message the salience of a sub-optimal context set is increased compared to its competitors. With this in mind I propose to explain the mechanisms behind the argumentative fallacy of ad populum i.e, the use of the majority view or of a generally accepted statement as definite evidence for a conclusion. To test this I will present an experimental design that manipulates repetition of information in order to test its effects on the evaluation of arguments.


1 December 2014 (Room MIS10 1.16) 

Pascal Gygax (University of Fribourg)

Why mechanics are always thought of as men?

When referring to a person’s personal, social or professional role as scientists, travellers or managers, knowing the person’s biological sex is not always crucial for comprehending the discourse. Research nevertheless suggests that readers of sentences where gender is not specified such as “Travellers to Bournemouth are requested to change trains in London” still elaborate a mental representation of travellers to include gender. In the presentation, I will present data in English, French, German and Norwegian to show that readers tend to attribute gender to text protagonists when referred to by role nouns and that they often do so in ways that unnecessarily narrow their mental representation to the relative disadvantage of one gender or the other. Under the heading of “sexist language” this issue has been a topic of political debate since the 1970s, especially in those languages which have grammatical gender, such as German and French (e.g., les étudiants).


24 November 2014 (Room MIS10 1.16)

Ludivine Crible (Université catholique de Louvain)

Assessing the validity of annotation guidelines : Discourse markers across languages and modalities

Cross-linguistic studies of discourse markers (DMs) often face various methodological problems regarding the applicability of a single annotation protocol to very diverse data-driven sets of items from several languages. Ideally, such a protocol should overcome language-specific preferences and encompass all possible actualizations of DMs, in different contexts and data types. I have designed a set of annotation guidelines to address some of these issues, in an operational model which covers both identification and description of DMs in spoken corpora and which has so far been tested on French and English interviews. In this presentation, I will outline the research questions underlying an annotation experiment to be conducted by three coders on multilingual and multimodal corpora. Our main purpose is to test the validity and replicability of the values and criteria designed in the annotation protocol, when applied to different data (here, German and written texts) and by different analysts. Emphasis will be put on the annotation of DM functions and their position in the utterance, since these two variables tend to be subject to interpretation. This endeavour is thought to enhance the reliability of the coding scheme and its applicability to writing and to other languages, by means of inter-rater agreement analyses. The presentation will raise loopholes to be addressed by the annotation experiment while leaving room for further discussion of other unforeseen problems.


17 November 2014 (Room MIS10 1.16)

Kira Boulat (University of Fribourg)

Are you committed? A pragmatic model of commitment

I propose an alternative account of the notion of commitment by focusing on commitment assignment processes in a hearer-oriented perspective. My aim is to present a new pragmatic model with clear predictions within a relevance-theoretic framework. I posit that commitment depends on the strength of the contextual assumptions determined by a given utterance. Strength is defined as a function of the certainty of the information conveyed by the utterance and of its source’s reliability. I distinguish four kinds of commitment: speaker commitment, communicated commitment, attributed commitment and hearer commitment. My hearer-oriented approach focuses on attributed commitment and hearer commitment. I argue that these two processes depend on three main factors: i) linguistic triggers; ii) the source of information and iii) the salience of the communicated assumption in the hearer’s cognitive environment, which is defined in relevance theory as the set of contextual assumptions entertained by an individual. One of my model’s goals is therefore to explain how individuals store pieces of information in their cognitive environment at various degrees of strength. From an experimental perspective, the theoretical claims made above translate into four predictions which regard respectively linguistic markers, the source of information, the interaction between both linguistic markers and source of information as well as the salience of the piece of information. These predictions can be tested experimentally in a priming paradigm.


3 November 2014 (Room MIS 2116)

Cristina Grisot (University of Geneva)

Processing of temporal information in discourse

In this talk, I am interested in human and automatic processing of temporal information in discourse. Precisely, I will suggest a theoretical model consisting of linguistic and non-linguistic sources of temporal information and their interrelations. This model is based on evidence coming from human processing (translation corpus data, experimental and neurolinguistic data) and automatic processing (Natural Language Processing and Machine Translation). The model assumes that language is underdetermined and that it must be contextually worked out as proposed in Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995). I will describe linguistic sources of temporal information in terms of their conceptual and procedural contents (Blakemore 1987; Wilson and Sperber 1993; Wilson 2011).


6 October 2014 (Room MIS 2113)

Steve Oswald (University of Fribourg) & Thierry Raeber (University of Neuchatel)

Why rhetorical questions are more argumentative than ironical questions? 

As it is in the nature of irony to contain criticism (see Garmendia 2010), ironic utterances a priori convey propositions ideally suited for argumentative usages: “The use of irony is possible in all argumentative situations” (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca 2008 [1958]: 280, our translation). This talk will consider one particular instance of ironic utterances, namely ironical questions, and assess i) their relationship with rhetorical questions in terms of similarities and differences, ii) their possible role in argumentative sequences, and iii) their specificity with respect to rhetorical questions, in terms of the cognitive operations their processing involves. We will argue that the point of rhetorical questions is argumentative while the point of ironical questions is foremost interpretative, and that this distinction can be cognitively grounded.




All practical questions regarding the colloquium should be addressed to Davis Ozols, at