Experience matters: A psycholinguistic investigation of predicates of personal taste

Elsi Kaiser, Jamie Herron Lee


We discuss two psycholinguistic experiments on subjective adjectives, with the aim of testing the idea that predicates of personal taste (PPTs, e.g. fun, tasty) and non-PPT multidimensional adjectives (e.g. smart, healthy) differ in terms of the perspective-taking they involve. Although both are widely regarded as involving a judge/evaluator, it has recently been proposed that the judge of a PPT needs to be an experiencer, while judges of multidimensional non-PPT adjectives do not have this requirement. We report a new study investigating this claim that builds on and extends our earlier work, by using sentences with one animate and one inanimate argument. This allows us to avoid potential complications from pronoun ambiguity. We manipulated verb argument structure (Experiencer-Theme vs. Agent-Patient verbs) to test if PPTs prefer experiencer judges. The results confirm that PPTs, but not non-PPT multidimensional adjectives, are sensitive to the presence of an experiencer thematic role.

Full Text:



Ambridge, Ben, Amy Bidgood, Julian M. Pine, Caroline F. Rowland and Daniel Freudenthal. 2016. Is passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from adult grammaticality judgment and comprehension studies. Cognitive Science 40(6): 1435–1459.

Banfield, Ann. 1973. Narrative style and the grammar of direct and indirect speech. Foundations of Language 10(1), 1–39.

Bylinina, Lisa. 2014. The Grammar of Standards. LOT Dissertation Series.

Chafe, Wallace L. 1976. Givenness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics, and point of view. In Charles N. Li (ed.), Subject and Topic, 25-55. New York: Academic Press.

Crawley, Rosalind & Rosemary Stevenson. 1990. Reference in single sentences and in texts. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 19(3): 191-210.

Crawley, Rosalind A., Rosemary J. Stevenson & David Kleinman. 1990. The use of heuristic strategies in the interpretation of pronouns. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 19: 245-264.

Djärv, Kajsa and Hezekiah, A. Bacovcin. 2017. Prosodic Effects on Factive Presupposition Projection. Presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT), University of Maryland.

Fludernik, Monika. 1993. The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction: The Linguistic Representation of Speech and Consciousness. London: Routledge.

Harris, Jesse A. and Christopher Potts. 2009. Perspective-shifting with appositives and expressives. Linguistics & Philosophy 32(6):523–552.

Hobbs, Jerry R. 1979. Coherence and coreference. Cognitive Science, 3, 67–90.

Hothorn, Torsten and Achim Zeileis. 2015. partykit: A modular toolkit for recursive partytioning in R. Journal of Machine Learning Research,16:3905-3909.

Hothorn, Torsten, Kurt Hornik, and Achom Zeileis. 2006. Unbiased recursive partitioning: A conditional inference framework. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics 15:651-674.

Jarvis, W. Blair G. and Richard. E. Petty. 1996. The need to evaluate. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(1), 172-194.

Kaiser, Elsi. 2015. Perspective-shifting and free indirect discourse: Experimental investigations. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 25: 346-372.

Kaiser, Elsi & Jamie Herron Lee. To appear. Predicates of Personal Taste and Multidimensional Adjectives: An Experimental Investigation. To appear in the Proceedings of the 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 35). Cascadilla Press.

Kamp, Hans. 1975. Two theories about adjectives. In E. L. Keenan (Ed.), Formal semantics for natural language, 123–155. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kehler, Andrew. 2002. Coherence, reference, and the theory of grammar. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Kehler, Andrew & Hannah Rohde. 2013. A Probabilistic reconciliation of coherence-driven and Centering-driven theories of pronoun interpretation. Theoretical Linguistics, 39: 1-37.

Kennedy, Christopher and Malte Willer. 2016. Subjective attitudes and counterstance contingency. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 26: 913-933.

Kennedy, Christopher. 2013. Two Sources of Subjectivity: Qualitative Assessment and Dimensional Uncertainty. Inquiry 56 (2-3):258-277.

Klein, Ewan. 1980. A semantics for positive and comparative adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy 4:1-45.

Lasersohn, Peter. 2005. Context dependence, disagreement, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy 28 (6): 643–86.

McHale, Brian. 1978. Free indirect discourse: A survey of recent accounts. PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 3, 249–78.

McNally, Louise and Isidora Stojanovic. 2017. Aesthetic adjectives. In James Young (ed.), The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgments, 17-37. Oxford: Oxford University Press..

Ninan, Dilip. 2014. Taste Predicates and the Acquaintance Inference. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 24, 290-309.

Open Science Collaboration. 2015. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science, Science 28 Aug 2015: 349 (6251), aac4716.

Patel-Grosz, Pritty. 2012. (anti-)Locality at the Interfaces. PhD dissertation, MIT.

Pearson, Hazel. 2013. A judge-free semantics for predicates of personal taste. Journal of Semantics 30(1):103-154.

Potts, Christopher. 2007. The expressive dimension. Theoretical Linguistics 33 (2): 165–98.

R Core Team. 2013. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL http://www.R-project.org/.

Sæbø, Kjell Johan. 2009. Judgment ascriptions. Linguistics and Philosophy, 32:327- 352.

Sassoon, Galit W. 2013. A typology of multidimensional adjectives. Journal of Semantics 30:335-380

Stephenson, Tamina. 2007. Judge dependence, epistemic modals, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (4):487–525.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v27i0.4151

Copyright (c) 2017 Elsi Kaiser, Jamie Herron Lee