Dr. Frances Blanchette
April 19, 2024
9:00 am
Foster Auditorium, Pattee and Paterno Library

Dr. Frances Blanchette

“What’s in a Grammar? Shared Representations in Contexts of Dialect Diversity”

Frances Blanchette, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Center for Language Science
Associate Research Professor, Psychology
Penn State

Speakers of different dialects of the same language display substantial overlap in the types of sentences that they produce. In comprehension, this overlap appears even greater: Speakers readily comprehend many sentence types they would not say themselves. For
example, English speakers generally know that the negative sentences I didn’t eat nothing and I didn’t eat anything can both be used to express that the speaker did not eat, even if they would not themselves produce both of these sentences. How do we account for such differences between production and comprehension? Does the larger overlap in comprehension reflect broader areas of overlapping linguistic knowledge than can be observed in production, or are speakers of different varieties arriving at the same interpretation by different means? This talk presents the results of a series of experiments on negative sentences suggesting that, in contexts of dialect diversity, areas of overlapping linguistic knowledge may be larger than what can be observed in production. The results highlight an important distinction between social and grammatical linguistic representations, and illustrate one way in which these distinct representations may interact in shaping behaviors related to language processing