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The Coffee Shop Sign The Context Place: a college coffee shop Time: 8 am on the Monday of finals week during the winter term (e.g. March 10) Cast: Kevin, the guy behind the counter, who has a weird sense of humor. Miscellaneous sleepy students who have been studying hard for finals. WAL

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Presentation Transcript
the context
The Context
  • Place: a college coffee shop
  • Time: 8 am on the Monday of finals week during the winter term (e.g. March 10)
  • Cast: Kevin, the guy behind the counter, who has a weird sense of humor. Miscellaneous sleepy students who have been studying hard for finals. WAL
the action
The Action
  • WAL goes into the coffeeshop to get a cup of coffee.
  • Greets Kevin, orders coffee.
  • Gets coffee and turns to pay, when he see the following sign posted beside the cash register:
kevin s sign
Kevin’s Sign

Do not serve dead customers.

To anybody.

some questions
Some questions
  • Why do we laugh at the end of the first line?
  • Why do we laugh more at the end of the second?
  • What semantic knowledge is involved here?
  • What processes are involved here?
the verb feed
The verb feed
  • Do not feed the pigeons.
  • ?Do not feed the corn.
  • Do not feed the pigeons (the corn).
  • Do not feed the corn *(to the pigeons).
the verb sell
The verb sell
  • Do not sell the cups.
  • ?Do not sell the students.
  • Do not sell the students ?(the cups).
  • Do not sell the cups (to the students).
the verb serve
The verb serve
  • Do not serve the soup.
  • Do not serve the students.
  • Do not serve the students (the soup).
  • Do not sell the soup (to the students).
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Detailed linguistic knowledge determines what possible interpretations are available.
  • Lots of background information and “normal expectations” influence the construction of interpretation.
  • We can be misled in recognizing which linguistic expression was uttered.
multiple interpretations
Multiple interpretations
  • The clowns all sat on Jumbo’s trunk.
  • Sandra talked to Maria about her aunt.
  • The chancellor told the proctor to stop drinking in the dorms.
  • I didn’t buy an SUV because they use a lot of gas.
one more example
One more example…

A: I just won a chance to have dinner with Ozzie Osbourne and his family.

B: Great! Are you going to take a bat?

Thanks to Deirdre Wilson.

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