Laine Stranahan is a psycholinguist based in Berlin. She received her MA and PhD in linguistics from Harvard University, where she worked with Jesse Snedeker in the Laboratory for Developmental Studies on the processing of pragmatic inferences, including scalar implicature ("some elephants are mammals" implies not all elephants are) and contrastive inference ("pass me the tall glass" implies there is a short glass nearby). Using eye-tracking in the visual world paradigm, Laine expanded on previous research (Grodner & Sedivy, 2011) showing that listeners compute fewer contrastive inferences when their interlocutor produces redundant descriptions (e.g., "pass me the tall glass" when there is only one glass nearby), showing that sensitivity to interlocutor behavior is reduced under working memory load. At Harvard, she worked on the semantics/pragmatics of tense, following Uli Sauerland (2002) in asking whether tense morphemes (like past-tense "-ed") convey temporal meaning exclusively through their literal denotations or whether some/all such meaning is constructed by the listener via the interaction of morpheme denotation, speaker alternatives (i.e., what they could have said but didn't), and context. At Harvard, Laine also worked on scalar implicature, i.e. the alternative-based derivation of upper bounds, from numerals like "two" and scalar quantiiers like "some" (just as "some elephants are mammals" implies that not all are, "I have two dogs" implies that I don't have three or more). Results suggest (email me for the data; see Chapter 2 of my dissertation for writeup) that numeral upper bounds are robust and rapid, while even non-pragmatic scalar meanings are slow and vulnerable to interference. Before becoming an experimental psycholinguist in order to investigate the boundary between semantics and pragmatics, Laine received her BA from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in linguistics and philosophy, where she worked with John Lawler, Ezra Keshet, and Lawrence Sklar on the boundary between philosophy and linguistics, addressing linguistically-motivated attempts to resolve debates in the metaphysics of time with data from semantics of tense (thesis here). Outside of academia, she has worked in nonprofit language documentation at the Long Now Foundation, where she helped build an environmentally and temporally robust parallel text corpus of all extant human languages under Dr. Laura Welcher of the Rosetta Project.


Stranahan, L. (2018.) Effects of Working Memory Load and Speaker Reliability on Contrastive Inference and Quantifier Processing (Doctoral dissertation). Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.