Experimental Pragmatics 2019 | Edinburgh, June 19-21 2019

Keynote 4: Gerhard Jäger, Universität Tübingen

Strategic pronoun choice

joint work with Oliver Bott and Torgrim Solstad

In game theory-inspired models of pragmatics such as the Rational Speech Act model, the interlocutors' mutual assumptions about the prior probability distribution over the sender's *type*, i.e., the probability distribution over meanings, are an important parameter when modeling pragmatic inference. In a series of production experiments, we used different verb types (e.g., stimulus-experiencer vs. experiencer-stimulus verbs) to manipulate this distribution. We expected to find a strong effect of verb type on the choice of anaphoric forms (personal pronoun vs. demonstrative). To our surprise, we found the expected effect to be very weak. On the other hand, speakers showed a strong tendency to avoid ambiguity. The latter finding rules out an explanation that entirely omits strategic considerations. The observed pattern can be accounted for by assuming a boundedly rational speaker who does not embark upon a recursive Theory-of-Mind modeling.