Chris Cummins


PPLS, University of Edinburgh

Research projects

My research is predominantly in experimental semantics and pragmatics, and focuses on why speakers choose to use particular linguistic forms, and how hearers interpret this.

My PhD, supervised by Napoleon Katsos, was about the meaning and use of numerically-quantified expressions (and was supported by a University of Cambridge Domestic Research Studentship).

In my ongoing work, I'm continuing to explore how we communicate about quantity, with a particular interest in "high-stakes" interactions. For instance, how does the psychology of number impinge on how we understand information about risk in medical communication? My goal is to shed light on how information can be conveyed to hearers in order to optimise their ability to make decisions from it.

Relatedly, I'm also interested in the interface between pragmatics and general reasoning. Working with Antonella Sorace, I've recently received funding from the Leverhulme Trust for a project on reasoning in bilinguals, with the aim of showing whether pragmatic considerations are partly responsible for the apparently greater rationality of L2 decision-making.

Along with J. P. de Ruiter, I have also been interested in modelling the processes by which people recognise speech acts in dialogue. The aims of this work are both to improve our understanding of human interaction (particularly in constrained domains) and potentially to inform the development of artificial dialogue systems.

I've worked on the production and comprehension of non-asserted content in several small projects, supported by the EURO-XPRAG network and by the Bielefelder Nachswuchfonds. I've also been part of two other projects funded by EURO-XPRAG:

My other research interests include the computational modelling of various aspects of language use, and the development and criticism of novel experimental and statistical methodologies. I am interested in neurolinguistics and have contributed to a project on the neurocognition of prosody (PI Brechtje Post).