Yosef Grodzinsky at University College London

Yosef Grodzinsky is giving a talk on Wednesday May 15at the Linguistics Department, University College London. The title of his talk is “The neural processing of positive and negative quantifiers”. You can read the abstract below:

Quantification is central to natural language in all its aspects. We have new clues about the mental operations involved, obtained through the use of multiple experimental methods (RT, fMRI, and error patterns in aphasia). In this talk, I will present new results and a dilemma: experimenting with quantifier Polarity contrasts, we found pronounced differences, but also important similarities, in the real-time processing of positive (upward entailing) and negative (downward entailing) proportion and degree quantifiers (more/less-than-half; many/few). I will also report preliminary results from neuroimaging and from patient work, suggesting that the same Polarity contrast activates parts of Broca’s region in fMRI, and leads to comprehension difficulties in aphasic patients, who have trouble with negative, but not positive quantifiers of the above types.

The resulting picture is rich and highly structured. It might help us refine our view of the role of the main language regions in the brain. This picture leads, moreover, to a theoretical dilemma: some of these results are naturally accounted for by an analysis based on Barwise & Cooper’s insight on the way generalized quantifiers are verified; and yet, other findings are better accommodated in a movement-based analysis of negative quantifiers, akin to the one commonly given to negative indefinites.

I will dwell on this dilemma, consider possible ways to resolve it, and discuss the potential significance of these new results and their interpretation to the relevant intellectual domains.

(based on work with Isabelle Deschamps, Galit Agmon, Yonatan Loewenstein, Lew Shapiro, Katrin Amunts, Stefan Heim, and others.)

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