The University of Connecticut’s Logic Colloquium opened its first meeting of the semester with a lecture on probabilistic language by Daniel Lassiter, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Stanford.
Lassiter spoke about his research on the linguistic purpose of terms like “might,” “possibly” and “likely.” While these words may sound similar, he said, they actually communicate different levels of probability.
In a controlled experimental setting, participants interpreted phrases like “it might rain tomorrow” to be more certain than saying “it could possibly rain tomorrow,” for example. This kind of research helps linguists to understand the psychology behind language by uncovering the base meaning of words we use everyday.
Lassiter used complex equations and bayesian networks, graphs that communicate the probability of a belief being true, to explain his research.
The Logic Colloquium next meeting will be held Friday, Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. in room 419 of the Henry Ruthven Monteith building. The talk will be given by University of Leeds lecturer Paolo Santorio, who specializes in the philosophy of mind and language.
Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.