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Time and causality in language comprehension

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A prevalent issue in language processing is how we map words and sentences onto representations of events. Although the processing of some aspects of events is fairly well understood, relatively little is known about how we process and represent an event’s time course and its temporal relation to other events. In this talk, I present a series of experiments investigating the processing of durative and non-durative events and the types of knowledge underlying their representations. It is argued that (a) the duration of events is computed as soon as sufficient information has accrued in the unfolding sentence; and (b) event duration representations are grounded in knowledge of causal relations between events in the world. Thus, causality provides the basis for temporal understanding in language comprehension.

This talk is part of the RCEAL Tuesday Colloquia series.

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