Eric Acton

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Associate Professor

English Language and Literature

612S Pray-Harrold


[email protected]


  • Ph.D., Stanford University
  • BS, Mathematics and Linguistics, Haverford College

Interests and Expertise

  • Non-entailed and social meaning and its underlying dynamics
  • Pragmatics
  • Semantics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Corpus and conversational linguistics
  • Language and ethnicity
  • Language and politics


  • Pragmatics
  • Semantics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • African-American English
  • Language and gender
  • Introduction to Linguistic Science
  • Discourse analysis

Publications and Presentations

  • Acton, Eric K. to appear. Sociophonetics, semantics, and intention [pdf]. Journal of Linguistics.
  • Hunt, Matthew Christopher and Eric K. Acton. To appear. ‘How’s the wife?’: Pragmatic reasoning in spousal reference. Journal of Pragmatics.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2021. Pragmatics and the third wave: The social meaning of definites. Social Meaning and Linguistic Variation: Theorizing the Third Wave, ed. by Lauren Hall-Lew, Emma Moore, and Robert J. Podesva. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2021. Review: Negative Inversion, Social Meaning, and Gricean Implicature: A Study Across Three Texas Ethnolects, William Salmon, De Gruyter Mouton, Boston/Berlin (2020), 218pp., $114.99 (U.S.), ISBN 9781501519277. Journal of Pragmatics 181:162-164.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2019. Pragmatics and the social life of the English definite articleLanguage 95.1:37-65.
  • Morgan, Beau-Kevin, Kelsey DeGuise, Eric K. Acton, Daniele Benson and Alla Shvetsova. 2017. Shifts toward the supra-regional in the Northern Cities region: Evidence from Jewish women in Metro Detroit. NWAV 46, Madison, 5 November. NWAV Presentation.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2017. Pragmatics, the third wave and the social meaning of definites [pdf]. NWAV 46, Madison 5 November.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2017. Semantics, pragmatics and the social meaning of the English definite article. Integrating Approaches to Social Meaning - ESSLLI 2017, Toulouse, 25 July. IASM slides.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2017. A socio-pragmatic framework for non-entailed meaning. 28 March. New Advances in Formal Pragmatics, Paris.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2017. Semantics, variation and the English definite article. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, 7 January.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2016. Beyond Grice: A socio-pragmatic framework for non-entailed meaning. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. 9 January.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2015. Non-entailed content: A socio-pragmatic framework. Redrawing Pragmasemantic Borders, Groningen, The Netherlands, 20 March.
  • Melnick, Robin and Eric K. Acton. 2015. Function words, power and opposition: A socio-pragmatic "deep" corpus study. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Portland, 10 January.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2014. Pragmatics and the social meaning of determiners (Doctoral dissertation). Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2014. Standard change and the Finnish partitive-accusative object distinction.  Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 10.
  • Acton, Eric K. and Christopher Potts. 2014. That straight talk: Sarah Palin and the sociolinguistics of demonstratives. Journal of Sociolinguistics 18.1: 3–31.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2013. Gender differences in the duration of filled pauses in North American English. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston, 4 January.
  • Acton, Eric K., Daria Popova and Shane Steiner-Threlkeld. 2013. Quantifier scope and tensed clauses. The 6th California Universities Semantics and Pragmatics Conference 6, University of California, Berkeley, 11 October.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2013. Standard change and the Finnish partitive-accusative object distinction. Colloque de Syntaxe et Sémantique à Paris (CSSP) 2013, Université Paris-Diderot, Paris, 26 September.
  • Podesva, Robert J., Annette D'Onofrio, Eric K. Acton, Sam Bowman, Jeremy Calder, Hsin-Chang Chen and Janneke van Hofwegen. 2012. Linguistic and social effects on the perception of voice onset time in Korean stops. Acoustical Society of America (ASA) 164, Kansas City, 23 October.
  • Acton, Eric K. and Christopher Potts. 2012. The latent affective meaning of demonstratives. Guest lecture in the course Meaning as Use: Indexicality, Expressives and Self-reference taught by Stephen Wechsler and Eric McCready at the North American Summer School in Logic, Language and Information (NASSLLI) 2012, University of Texas at Austin, 22 June.
  • Acton, Eric K. 2011. On gender differences in the distribution of um and uh. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics: Selected Papers from NWAV 39 17.2: 1–9.

Collaborative Research Projects