The Context-Sensitivity of Color Adjectives and Folk Intuitions
In this paper, I report new empirical data on folk semantic intuitions concerning color adjectives in so-called context-shifting experiments. Contextualists present such experiments — that is, they describe different conversational contexts in which a given sentence is uttered — in order to argue that context can shape meaning and truth conditions to such a degree that competent speakers would give opposite truth evaluations of the same sentence in different contexts. The initial findings of Hansen and Chemla (2013) suggest that laypersons’ semantic judgments are sensitive to context in the same way that is predicted by contextualists. In this paper, I focus on context-shifting experiments that involve color adjectives; also, I present experiments that are a partial replication and methodological extension of Hansen and Chemla’s study. One aim of my study was to corroborate these authors’ findings using a bigger sample (total N = 1128), but the main goal was to test the stability of results in different methodological variants of empirical adaptations of context-shifting experiments. This part of the study addresses the issues pointed out in my earlier paper (Ziółkowski 2017), where I argued that certain experimental settings (within-subjects) might bring data that is more favorable to contextualism than other settings (between-subjects). My study compares three different experimental settings: within-subjects (with randomized order of context presentation), between-subjects (where participants evaluating different contexts are
distinct groups), and “contrastive design” (where both contexts are presented side by side on the same screen). My results are highly consistent across the methodological variants I employed, but while they show some of the effects expected by contextualists, it is disputable whether they bring strong support to contextualism with respect to color adjectives.
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