DGfS News


Calls for Proposals: XPrag.de

XPrag.de: New Pragmatic Theories based on Experimental Evidence

XPrag.de: New Pragmatic Theories based on Experimental Evidence

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled "XPrag.de: New Pragmatic Theories based on Experimental Evidence" (SPP 1727). The programme will run for an initial period of three years and is extendable to six years.

The overall goal of XPrag.de is to develop a precise pragmatic theory that is informed by evidence using experimental methods. The programme is addressed at researchers in linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and related fields who seek to advance pragmatic theory by simultaneously formulating formally explicit models of the cognitive mechanisms underlying pragmatics and testing these models using experimental methods. The new field of Experimental Pragmatics has emerged gradually since 2004, primarily through efforts in Germany and other parts of Europe. Experimental Pragmatics represents a new approach to pragmatics, which is one of the most challenging areas of linguistic theory, where progress has been difficult. Three reasons why progress in pragmatics has been slow are the absence of formally explicit models and correspondingly precise hypotheses, the lack of relations from pragmatic theory to cognitive mechanisms, and the sole reliance on natural observation, which is a coarse-grained method, to test hypotheses.

Experimental Pragmatics has begun to make substantial progress on
age-old pragmatic problems by integrating three independent advances:

  • the growing power of formally precise, predictive pragmatic models on the basis of developments in other fields of linguistics, especially semantics, and their ability to make fine-grained predictions,
  • the emergence of links between elements of pragmatic models and cognitive and neuro-scientific mechanisms for example within the embodied cognition paradigm,
  • the increased availability and accessibility of many suitable experimental methods to test the fine-grained predictions of these new pragmatic models.

These three developments in combination have already proven capable of resolving some long-standing pragmatic problems, but much more of the potential remains for future work. We expect XPrag.de to bring about major progress in pragmatics in three direct ways:

  • subtle phenomena like vagueness and meaning projection become accessible for investigation through experimental methods,
  • timing and neural data tie pragmatic theory to psychological and neural models of language and support the development of processing models, and
  • populations other than healthy adults, especially children, and crosslinguistic comparisons can be investigated with experimental protocols.

Beyond these specific areas, we expect two broad benefits of the project to cognitive science in general: for one, the focus on experimentally testable predictions supports the development of increasingly precise pragmatic theories.

Furthermore, XPrag.de connects the model theoretic view of linguistics and the cognitive view of psychology and neuroscience in a vital way.

XPrag.de aims to make progress in all areas of theoretical pragmatics. The three core areas where XPrag.de invites proposals are:

  • enrichment of literal meaning (implicatures, vagueness, free choice, projective meaning),
  • access to non-literal meanings (e.g. metaphor, metonymy, coercion), and
  • models for pragmatic phenomena (e.g. intentions, presuppositions, anaphoric reference, multi-modality).

The scientific ambition of XPrag.de is best met by a broad collaboration involving researchers from different disciplines: in addition to pragmaticists, semanticists, psycholinguists, psychologists of language, neuroscientists and philosophers of language have substantial contributions to make.

Proposals for the first three-year period can be submitted by

1 October 2013 through the DFG's electronic proposal processing system
“elan". In this system please select "SPP 1727" when submitting your
proposal. All proposals must be written in English.

Further information

The DFG's electronic portal "elan" can be found at:
Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG
forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG's
website at:

For further scientific information, please contact the Priority
Programme's coordinators:

PD Dr. Uli Sauerland,
Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS),
10117 Berlin,
phone +49 30 2019-2570;
till 30.05.2013: Department of Linguistics, Harvard
University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Dr. Petra Schumacher,
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz,
Department of English and Linguistics,
55099 Mainz, petra.schumacher@uni-mainz.de
phone: +49 6131 39-23859

For administrative enquiries please contact:

Dr. Helga Weyerts-Schweda,
DFG,53170 Bonn,

News Archive

visit the News Archive
back to the top