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.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v27i0.4151