Prof. Dr. Mingya Liu

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Mit Hintergrund in allgemeiner und englischer Sprachwissenschaft (Ph.D. Göttingen, 2012) untersuche ich semantische und pragmatische Eigenschaften natürlicher Sprachen mit Schwerpunkt auf Chinesisch, Englisch und Deutsch unter Verwendung theoretisch-linguistischer und psycho-/neurolinguistischer Methoden. Darüber hinaus interessiert mich deren Schnittstelle zur Syntax und ihr Einfluss auf den Spracherwerb und die Sprachphilosophie.


A07 Pragmatic Functions and Effects of Register Variation and Switch: a Register approach to negation and polarity


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

(030) 2093-2277


Publications & Presentations


  • Schwab, Juliane; Liu, Mingya  (2022) Processing Attenuating NPIs in Indicative and Counterfactual Conditionals In: Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    Both indicative and counterfactual conditionals are known to be licensing contexts for negative polarity items (NPIs). However, a recent theoretical account suggests that the licensing of attenuating NPIs like English all that in the conditional antecedent is sensitive to pragmatic differences between various types of conditionals. We conducted three behavioral experiments in order to test key predictions made by that proposal. In Experiment 1, we tested hypothetical indicative and counterfactual conditionals with the English NPI all that, finding that the NPI is degraded in the former compared to the latter. In Experiment 2, we compared hypothetical indicative conditionals and premise conditionals with the same NPI, again finding a degradation only for the former. Both results align with theoretically derived predictions purporting that hypothetical indicative conditionals are degraded due to their susceptibility to conditional perfection. Finally, Experiment 3 provides empirical evidence that comprehenders readily strengthen counterfactual conditionals to biconditionals, in line with theoretical analyses that assume that conditional perfection and counterfactual inferences are compatible. Their ability to still host attenuating NPIs in the conditional antecedent, by contrast, falls into place via the antiveridical inference to the falsity of the antecedent. Altogether, our study sheds light on the interplay between NPI licensing and the semantic and pragmatic properties of various types of conditionals. Moreover, it provides a novel perspective on the processing of different kinds of conditionals in context, in particular, with regard to their (non)veridicality properties.
  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Serova, Dina; Lukassek, Julia; Sauermann, Antje; Schäfer, Roland; Adli, Aria; Bildhauer, Felix; Egg, Markus; Hülk, Kristina; Ito, Aine; Jannedy, Stefanie; Kordoni, Valia; Kühnast, Milena; Kutscher, Silvia; Lange, Robert; Lehmann, Nico; Liu, Mingya; Lütke, Beate; Maquate, Katja; Mooshammer, Christine; Mortezapour, Vahid; Müller, Stefan; Norde, Muriel; Pankratz, Elizabeth; Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Plesca, Ana-Maria; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Rotter, Stephanie; Sauerland, Uli; Schulte, Britta; Schüppenhauer, Gediminas; Sell, Bianca Maria; Solt, Stephanie; Terada, Megumi; Tsiapou, Dimitra; Verhoeven, Elisabeth; Weirich, Melanie; Wiese, Heike; Zaruba, Kathy; Zeige, Lars Erik; Lüdeling, Anke; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Situating language register across the ages, languages, modalities, and cultural aspects: Evidence from complementary methods In: Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    In the present review paper by members of the collaborative research center ‘Register: Language Users’ Knowledge of SituationalFunctional Variation’ (CRC 1412), we assess the pervasiveness of register phenomena across different time periods, languages, modalities, and cultures. We define ‘register’ as recurring variation in language use depending on the function of language and on the social situation. Informed by rich data, we aim to better understand and model the knowledge involved in situation- and function-based use of language register. In order to achieve this goal, we are using complementary methods and measures. In the review, we start by clarifying the concept of ‘register’, by reviewing the state of the art, and by setting out our methods and modeling goals. Against this background, we discuss three key challenges, two at the methodological level and one at the theoretical level: 1. To better uncover registers in text and spoken corpora, we propose changes to established analytical approaches. 2. To tease apart between-subject variability from the linguistic variability at issue (intra-individual situation based register variability), we use within-subject designs and the modeling of individuals’ social, language, and educational background. 3. We highlight a gap in cognitive modeling, viz. modeling the mental representations of register (processing), and present our first attempts at filling this gap. We argue that the targeted use of multiple complementary methods and measures supports investigating the pervasiveness of register phenomena and yields comprehensive insights into the cross-methodological robustness of register-related language variability. These comprehensive insights in turn provide a solid foundation for associated cognitive modeling.
  • Liu, Mingya; Rotter, Stephanie; Giannakidou , Anastasia  (2021) Bias and Modality in Conditionals: Experimental Evidence and Theoretical Implications In: Journal of Psycholinguistic Research [DOI] [ViVo]
    The concept of bias is familiar to linguists primarily from the literature on questions. Following the work of Giannakidou and Mari (Truth and Veridicality in Grammar and Thought: Modality, Mood, and Propositional Attitudes, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2021), we assume “nonveridical equilibrium” (implying that p and ¬p as equal possibilities) to be the default for epistemic modals, questions and conditionals. The equilibrium of conditionals, as that of questions, can be manipulated to produce bias (i.e., reduced or higher speaker commitment). In this paper, we focus on three kinds of modal elements in German that create bias in conditionals and questions: the adverb wirklich ‘really’, the modal verb sollte ‘should’, and conditional connectives such as falls ‘if/in case’. We conducted two experiments collecting participants’ inference about speaker commitment in different manipulations, Experiment 1 on sollte/wirklich in ob-questions and wenn-conditionals, and Experiment 2 on sollte/wirklich in wenn/falls/V1-conditionals. Our findings are that both ob-questions and falls-conditionals express reduced speaker commitment about the modified (antecedent) proposition in comparison to wenn-conditionals, which did not differ from V1-conditionals. In addition, sollte/wirklich in the antecedent of conditionals both create negative bias about the antecedent proposition. Our studies are among the first that deal with bias in conditionals (in comparison to questions) and contribute to furthering our understanding of bias.
  • Dudschig, Caroline; Kaup, Barbara; Liu, Mingya; Schwab, Juliane  (2021) The Processing of Negation and Polarity: An Overview In: Journal of Psycholinguistic Research [DOI] [ViVo]
    Negation is a universal component of human language; polarity sensitivity (i.e., lexical distributional constraints in relation to negation) is arguably so while being pervasive across languages. Negation has long been a field of inquiry in psychological theories and experiments of reasoning, which inspired many follow-up studies of negation and negation-related phenomena in psycholinguistics. In generative theoretical linguistics, negation and polarity sensitivity have been extensively studied, as the related phenomena are situated at the interfaces of syntax, semantics and pragmatics, and are thus extremely revealing about the architecture of grammar. With the now long tradition of research on negation and polarity in psychology and psycholinguistics, and the emerging field of experimental semantics and pragmatics, a multitude of interests and experimental paradigms have emerged which call for re-evaluations and further development and integration. This special issue contains a collection of 16 research articles on the processing of negation and negation-related phenomena including polarity items, questions, conditionals, and irony, using a combination of behavioral (e.g., rating, reading, eye-tracking and sentence completion) and neuroimaging techniques (e.g., EEG). They showcase the processing of negation and polarity with or without context, in various languages and across different populations (adults, typically developing and ADHD children). The integration of multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives in this collection provides new insights, methodological advances and directions for future research.
  • Schwab, Juliane; Liu, Mingya; Mueller, Jutta L.  (2021) On the Acquisition of Polarity Items: 11- to 12-Year-Olds' Comprehension of German NPIs and PPIs In: Journal of Psycholinguistic Research [DOI] [ViVo]
    AbstractExisting work on the acquisition of polarity-sensitive expressions (PSIs) suggests that children show an early sensitivity to the restricted distribution of negative polarity items (NPIs), but may be delayed in the acquisition of positive polarity items (PPIs). However, past studies primarily targeted PSIs that are highly frequent in children’s language input. In this paper, we report an experimental investigation on children’s comprehension of two NPIs and two PPIs in German. Based on corpus data indicating that the four tested PSIs are present in child-directed speech but rare in young children’s utterances, we conducted an auditory rating task with adults and 11- to 12-year-old children. The results demonstrate that, even at 11–12 years of age, children do not yet show a completely target-like comprehension of the investigated PSIs. While they are adult-like in their responses to one of the tested NPIs, their responses did not demonstrate a categorical distinction between licensed and unlicensed PSI uses for the other tested expressions. The effect was led by a higher acceptance of sentences containing unlicensed PSIs, indicating a lack of awareness for their distributional restrictions. The results of our study pose new questions for the developmental time scale of the acquisition of polarity items.
  • Presentations

  • Liu, Mingya; Rotter, Stephanie  (2022) An experimental study of multiple modals and register effects in American and British English In: CLS, University of Chicago [ViVo]
  • Liu, Mingya; Beese, Caroline; Gruber, Thomas; Mueller, Jutta; Schwab, Juliane  (2022) Testing predictive and integrative neural mechanisms in the processing of negative polarity items In: HSP 2022, UC Santa Cruz [ViVo]
  • Rotter, Stephanie; Liu, Mingya  (2022) Register sensitivity of negative concord in American and British English In: SLE Workshop on "A hundred years of negative concord", University of Bucharest [ViVo]
  • Liu, Mingya; Rotter, Stephanie  (2022) An experimental study of multiple modals and register effects in American and British English In: Workshop on "Variation, contact, and modal constructions in English", University of Paris [ViVo]
  • Rotter, Stephanie; Wartenburger, Isabell; Liu, Mingya  (2021) A comparative experimental study on counterfactual conditionals: counterfactual thoughts, perspectives, and emotions In: AMLaP 2021, Paris [ViVo]