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Empirical Methods in Language Studies

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Edited By Krzysztof Kosecki and Janusz Badio

«Empirical Methods in Language Studies» presents 22 papers employing a broad range of empirical methods in the analysis of various aspects of language and communication. The individual texts offer contributions to the description of conceptual strategies, syntax, semantics, non-verbal communication, language learning, discourse, and literature.
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Factors determining genericity in the light of experimental studies of generics

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Abstract: The article reports on and discusses the results of three studies concerning the comprehension of generics by three different groups of speakers. It aims to discuss some of the factors (e.g., competing cues or frequency effects) that might have given rise to the conflicting interpretations. The studies seem to provide more experimental data to a growing body of evidence which supports the claim that not all learners converge on the same grammar. The experimental findings speak in favour of a well-motivated claim that plural generics represent the prototypical generic construction. The article also suggests directions for further research such as, for example, determining to what extent the differences in generic comprehension are education-related.

Keywords: generics, non-generics, genericity, competing cues.

1. Introduction

Generics express generalizations about members of a class. It is widely acknowledged that generics can have a variety of grammatical forms (e.g., Carlson and Pelletier 1995; Langacker 1999; Radden and Dirven 2007; Radden 2009). It is claimed that generics differ in the extent to which they express generality, as well as how many roles within a sentence are generic as opposed to specific (Langacker 1997: 194). Needless to say, there is a consensus among scholars that genericity is not a uniform phenomenon. In this connection, however, it is important to note that we distinguish between two classes of genericity: kind and characterizing predication. These two notions were earlier included under the term “genericity” (Krifka et al. 1995). A characterizing sentence...

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