Truth-conditional variability of color ascriptions: empirical results concerning the polysemy hypothesis

In Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, vol 5. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Recent experimental work has shown that the truth-value judgments of color predications, i.e. utterances of the form “the leaves on my tree are green” or “these walls are brown,” are influenced by slight changes in the context of utterance (Hansen and Chemla 2013, Ziółkowski, 2021). Most explanations of this phenomenon focus on the semantics of color adjectives. However, it is not clear if these explanations do justice to the nuances of the empirical data on context-sensitivity of color predications (Ziółkowski, 2021). In contrast to the adjectival explanations, Agustin Vicente (2015) has recently proposed that the context-sensitivity of color predications can be explained by invoking the polysemy of the noun. In this paper, we present the results of three studies designed to empirically test this hypothesis: a traditional survey experiment (Study 1), an exploratory correlational study inspired by the semantic integration paradigm (Study 2a), and a follow-up experiment (Study 2b) that was designed to mitigate possible shortcomings of Study 2a. The results of our studies present preliminary evidence against Vicente’s theory.

Author Profiles

Adrian Ziółkowski
University of Warsaw
Tomasz Zyglewicz
CUNY Graduate Center


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