Overspecification of small cardinalities in reference production

Natalia Zevakhina, Elena Pasalskaya


This paper presents experimental evidence for overspecification of small cardinalities in refer-ence production. The idea is that when presented with a small set of unique objects (2, 3 or 4), the speaker includes a small cardinality while describing given objects, although it is overin-formative for the hearer (e.g., 'three stars'). On the contrary, when presented with a large set of unique objects, the speaker does not include cardinality in their description – so she produces a bare plural (e.g. 'stars'). The effect of overspecifying small cardinalities resembles the effect of overspecifying color in reference production which has been extensively studied in recent years (cf. Rubio-Fernandez 2016, Tarenskeen et al. 2015). When slides are flashed on the screen one by one, highlighted objects are still overspecified. We argue that one of the main reasons lies in subitizing effect, which is a human capacity to instantaneously grasp small cardinalities.


overspecification; redundancy; informativeness; semantics; pragmatics; psycholin-guistics; reference production; numerals; color adjectives

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/elm.1.4858

Copyright (c) 2021 Natalia Zevakhina, Elena Pasalskaya

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