Special Issue

Work in Progress: Proposal for a Special Issue in the Journal ‘Linguistics’

Empirical Approaches to Effects of Context on Language Production and Comprehension

Editors: Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb, Ekaterina Lapshinova-Koltunski, Marie-Pauline Krielke, Heike Przybyl


  • Referential choice as a feature of context (Hongying Xu and Lise Fontaine)
  • Measuring accessibility through surprisal: a cross-linguistic study of personal pronouns (Annemarie Verkerk and Luigi Talamo)
  • Hierarchical semantic relations in translation and simultaneous interpreting (Ekaterina Lapshinova-Koltunski, Yuri Bizzoni, Stefan Fischer, Christina Pollkläsener and Heike Przybyl)
  • The role of informativity for variation in integrating adverbial clauses (Augustin Speyer)
  • Register formation and communicative constraints: Modeling registerial changes in English scientific writing over 300+ years (Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb, Marie-Pauline Krielke, Yuri Bizzoni, Isabell Landwehr and Katrin Menzel)
  • CELEX or SUBTLEX? Predicting reading times of German nouns and verbs by means of two common frequency measures (Katja Häuser and Jutta Kray)

The proposed special issue addresses a central topic in the field of linguistics by examining the complex interplay between contextual factors and language processing. As language is a core aspect of human cognition and communication, understanding the role of context in shaping linguistic behavior is crucial for advancing knowledge in the discipline. We think that this issue will be highly relevant to the readership of ‘Linguistics’.

The study of context in language has long been acknowledged as essential for understanding language production and comprehension (e.g. Grice’s (1975) cooperative principle, Sperber and Wilson’s (1986) relevance theory). These theoretical frameworks emphasize the importance of shared background knowledge, expectations, and inferential processes for effective communication, considering factors beyond there mere linguistic structure. In recent years, the role of context on language production and comprehension is increasingly being recognized as an essential factor to be considered for empirical studies in linguistics. This special issue aims to adopt a broad and multidimensional view of context, recognizing that cognitive, communicative, and socio-cultural elements may arise from specific situations, interactions, or timeframes impacting language production and comprehension.
To advance our understanding of language within this broader context, in this special issue we bring together empirical research from a diverse range of disciplines: contrastive and diachronic linguistics, translation and interpreting studies, language typology, and psycholinguistics. Moreover, the submitted abstracts draw on a variety of methodological approaches, including corpus-based analyses, computational modeling, and experimental paradigms. A common ground among the papers of this issue is informativity and prediction of linguistic units in particular contexts (very local, linguistic up to socio-cultural contexts) for the analysis of language production and comprehension. The authors investigate a range of context-dependent phenomena. Two papers consider referential choice: Xu and Fontaine analyze overinformative referential expressions in English journalistic texts and Verkerk and Talamo the accessibility of personal pronouns from a typological perspective considering various Indo-European languages in a dedicated parallel corpus. Lapshinova-Koltunski et al. look at hierarchical semantic relations in translated and interpreted language showing production mode (written vs. spoken) to impact the choice of general vs. specific words. Speyer analyzes the informativity of adverbial clauses as a determinant for the choice of expression of a relationship in Early New High German. Degaetano-Ortlieb et al. study how register formation is shaped by communicative constraints, modeling registerial changes in English scientific writing over 300+ years across various linguistic levels (words up to texts). Häuser and Kray look at reading times of German nouns and verbs from five large-scale self-paced reading experiments in German to re-evaluate the utility of the SUBTLEX compared to the CELEX database. With this range of multidisciplinary studies this issue is a move towards a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that govern the interplay between context and language processing, aiming to elucidate further the general principles that guide language production and comprehension in various linguistic and communicative contexts.

The interdisciplinary nature of the special issue and its empirical focus align with the journal's aim of promoting diverse perspectives and methodological approaches as well as its commitment to evidence-based research. We think that this special issue contributes to the ongoing development of knowledge in the field and offers valuable insights for the Linguistics Journal's readership.