You are here: Home Publications Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals

Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals

Kulakova, E., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2016). Understanding Counterfactuality: A Review of Experimental Evidence for the Dual Meaning of Counterfactuals. Language and Linguistics Compass, 10(2), 49-65. doi:10.1111/lnc3.12175.
Cognitive and linguistic theories of counterfactual language comprehension assume that counterfactuals convey a dual meaning. Subjunctive-counterfactual conditionals (e.g., ‘If Tom had studied hard, he would have passed the test’) express a supposition while implying the factual state of affairs (Tom has not studied hard and failed). The question of how counterfactual dual meaning plays out during language processing is currently gaining interest in psycholinguistics. Whereas numerous studies using offline measures of language processing consistently support counterfactual dual meaning, evidence coming from online studies is less conclusive. Here, we review the available studies that examine online counterfactual language comprehension through behavioural measurement (self-paced reading times, eye-tracking) and neuroimaging (electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging). While we argue that these studies do not offer direct evidence for the online computation of counterfactual dual meaning, they provide valuable information about the way counterfactual meaning unfolds in time and influences successive information processing. Further advances in research on counterfactual comprehension require more specific predictions about how counterfactual dual meaning impacts incremental sentence processing.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands


Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213
E-mail:   


Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn