Dr. Alon Fishman

Dr. Alon Fishman is a post-doctoral researcher at the DHSS Hub. He is a linguist, specializing in semantics and pragmatics, and is particularly interested in the ways different kinds of mental content (thoughts, feelings, impressions) are communicated; whether they are “hard-coded" in a language's lexicon and grammar, or conveyed implicitly via contextual inferences. He uses psycholinguistic experiments and corpus analyses to provide empirical answers to theoretically-motivated questions.

Dr. Fishman received his PhD from the Department of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. In his dissertation he investigated verbs of perception (e.g., English "look" and "sound," Hebrew "nire" and "nishma"), focusing on utterances that convey uncertainty (e.g., “The dress looks blue"), as well as metaphorical utterances (e.g., “The song sounds like a warm bed feels"). He conducted a set of experiments showing that inferences of uncertainty involve both world knowledge and an assumption of cooperative communication. In a separate experiment, supplemented with a corpus study, he challenged the longstanding idea that perception metaphors depend on a universal “hierarchy of the senses".

Fishman's recent publications have appeared in Linguistics, Language and Cognition, and Journal of Pragmatics. His current research adopts the Rational Speech Act framework, a formal framework for computationally modelling cooperative communication between a speaker and a listener. He aims to extend the framework with formal representations of the evidence available to speakers, in order to capture listeners' inferences about certainty, reliability, and perception.