Semantics and Pragmatics Exchange (SemPrE)
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hana Filip, PhD
Lehrstuhl Semantik, Institut für Sprache und Information
Wednesday, 12:30 -2 pm
Building 23.32, Level 02,
CRC (SFB) CONFERENCE ROOM
January 9, 2019
University of Rochester
Plurality and Referentiality
Certain uses of the plural form of indefinite nouns, such as in (1), have long been puzzling because they appear to include reference to singular entities.
(1) a. Q: Do you have children?
A: Yes, I have one.
b. Ed didn't see dogs. (False if Ed saw one dog)
Based on such examples, many researchers have argued that plural indefinite nouns are actually "inclusive", designating 'one or more' (including singular entities), rather than "exclusive", designating 'more than one' (excluding singular entities). Sauerland et al. (2005), among others, relate the inclusive reading to downward-entailing environments (such as negation or the antecedent of conditionals), claiming number “marking on indefinites in a downward entailing environment does not affect truth conditions”.
This talk presents experimental and empirical evidence that the inclusive readings (i) cannot be causally related to downward-entailing environments, as this association both under- and over-generates and (ii) cannot be associated with indefinites in general, but only with non-specific/non-referential indefinites. Instead, the experimental results indicate that the key factor is whether the indefinite can be construed as non-referential/generic, which favors inclusive readings, or referential, which resists them. The contexts which permit inclusive readings, e.g. negation and interrogatives, are shown to be just those which may in general block referential commitment. I argue this lack of referential commitment promotes inclusive plural readings. I then discuss the typological prediction of this account, namely that inclusive plural readings should only occur in languages for which the bare plural has non-referential/generic uses, a claim which receives support from languages such as Armenian.
December 12, 2018
University of Warsaw and Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf
Natural Negative Evidence in Formal Semantics
The common type of negative evidence employed in formal semantics is the judgment-based “somewhat elusive notion of semantic deviance –- a notion that the field of formal semantics acknowledges but might lack the right tools to model” (Vecchi et al. 2011). “[W]e still do not have a precise linguistic account of what it means for a linguistic expression to be “nonsensical” or semantically deviant, nor a clear relation between this notion and that of being unattested in a corpus: Semantic deviance remains a difficult and understudied phenomenon” (Vecchi et al. 2016).
In this talk, I will present (i) an analytic procedure of translating semantically unacceptable expressions to factorized comprehension sets (Katz 1964) via intended meaning and semantic hypothesis, and (ii) a statistical test to tell whether the expression has zero probability of occurring in text corpora given the meaning and the hypothesis. I will demonstrate this treatment on starred expressions from the existing literature. The resulting new type of evidence is the empirical probability that a given formalized meaning is impossible to occur. I will discuss its limitations and argue for its potential to address four flaws of the traditional judgment-based evidence:
1. Volatility. The differences in the judged acceptability among respondents can originate from different meanings ascribed to the expression.
2. Causal obliqueness. The psychological relation of unacceptability is equivocal in that it can be caused by different flaws, suit different explanations, and support unrelated hypotheses.
3. Unobservability. Judgments are produced by respondents through introspection whereas text corpora are intersubjectively observable.
4. Theory-loadedness. Judgment reports are responses to designed questions whereas language behavior documented in corpora occurs naturally without interaction with the researcher.
December 5, 2018
Complutense University of Madrid
States, events and copulas: a Romance perspective
This talk focuses on the aspectual distinction between States and Events and its manifestations in Romance languages, with particular attention to Spanish. The main goal of this study is to establish a satisfactory limit between these two aspectual classes, by answering two main questions: (i) what is an Event (and, as a consequence, a State)? (ii) How is this distinction encoded in grammar?
The need for this study derives from the puzzling (and long-standing) observation that [dynamism], or any other equivalent criterion (Vendler 1957; Kenny 1963; Comrie 1976; a.o.), is not a relevant primitive of eventivity, since there are predicates that behave as Events despite the fact that they are non-dynamic, i.e. static (Dowty 1979; Maienborn 2005, 2007, 2011; a.o.). I observe that, once we abandon [dynamism], we reach a State/Event distribution that is equivalent to the Individual-Level/Stage-Level distinction (Milsark 1974; Carlson 1977), whose understanding, in fact, represents another major unknown for the research on inner aspect (see Fernald 2000; Fábregas 2012).
I put forward the hypothesis that the State/Event and the Individual/Stage distinctions are one and the same thing (see also Hoekstra 1992), and that the difference between the two classes rests merely on the lack or the presence of inner aspect. Moreover, based on the concept of ‘event’ adopted in modern (post-Einsteinian/Minkowskian) physics and philosophy, where reality is taken as a 4D continuum (3 Space + 1 Time dimensions), I propose that the aspectual primitive of eventivity is a ‘Spacetime point’, which I label as [Stage] (also Silvagni 2015, 2016, 2017).
In order to find out how such a [Stage] primitive (and, thus, the State / Event distinction) is encoded in grammar, I focus on non-verbal predication in Romance languages; more in particular, I study the Spanish copular alternation (ser/estar) and its relation to mono-copular languages, such as French and Italian. I empirically show that [Stage] is a formal feature (in the sense of Zeijlstra 2008, 2014), which is encoded in Event predicates (that is, SLPs) as an uninterpretable instance [uS], and that Eventive (or SL) structures are derived by an agreement operation between a predicate and an Asp head endowed with an [iS] feature, which is realized as estar in the case of Spanish.
The study provides a more accurate understanding of the State/Event distinction and, at the same time, the Individual/Stage contrast. Additionally, it constitutes a detailed analysis of non-verbal predication and copular alternation in Romance, which can also offer a comprehensive explanation of typical controversial phenomena, such as coercion and the IL/SL distinction in those languages that lack a SL-copula.
November 21, 2018
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Interpreting Slavic bare NPs: Empirical reflections on the null hypothesis
The literature on bare NPs in articleless languages has been dominated by the neo-Carlsonian view, according to which bare NPs denote properties and can be type-shifted to other meaning types, such as particulars (iota), kinds (cap), or quantifiers (ex), whereby these type-shifts are restricted in various ways (Chierchia 1998, Krifka 2003, Dayal 2004, Geist 2010, a.o.). According to some versions of this view, bare singulars end up being interpreted on a par with definite descriptions, either essentially always (Dayal 2004) or always when they are topical (Geist 2010).
In my talk, I will offer an alternative, inspired by Heim’s work (Heim 1982, Heim 2011), according to which bare NPs in articleless languages, including bare singulars, are completely underspecified with respect to (in)definiteness. The idea is that bare NPs denote restricted variables (or functions from situations to such variables, being of type <s,e>), which either receive a value contextually or are bound by intra-sentential quantifiers (Heim 1982). Consequently, inferences typically associated with definite descriptions - particularly uniqueness and/or maximality - never really arise for bare NPs (contra the neo-Carlsonian view of “definite” bare NPs).
This return to what could be considered the null hypothesis - namely that definiteness is not even a relevant category in languages without articles - will be supported by corpus and experimental evidence. Novel analyses based on Czech corpus data (from Šimík & Burianová 2018) show that bare NPs are interpreted as indefinite more often than some theories would expect. Also, they exhibit no bias of singulars to be interpreted as definites (Dayal 2004) - the proportion of definite and indefinite bare singulars vs. plurals is identical. Furthermore, the majority of indefinite interpretations of Czech bare NPs can be traced to particular expressions in the clause (e.g. presentational verbs, negation, adverbs of quantification, etc.) - suggesting that indefinite interpretations indeed arise from clause-internal quantificational closure of the bare NP variable, contributed by a suitable object language expression. Indefinite bare singulars are thus no longer quirks requiring special treatment (Dayal 2004), but fall out naturally from the analysis. Another portion of evidence comes from experiments on the interpretation of Russian bare NPs, as compared to German (in)definite NPs (Šimík & Demian, submitted). These experiments show a weak but consistent effect of definiteness on uniqueness (sg) and maximality (pl) in German. Russian, on the other hand, exhibits no such consistent effect - Russian bare NPs are interpreted as indefinite (or non-definite) even if such an interpretation is primed by information structure (word order, prosody; cf. Geist 2010 and many others), or grammatical number (Dayal 2004), making the results fully consistent with the null hypothesis.
November 7, 2018
Towards a Formal Account of the Countability of Qualities and Events
While abstract objects are a well-discussed topic in philosophy, in linguistics this class of nouns has occasionally been investigated, usually as part of a bigger linguistic issue, as e.g. derived nominals, countability or polysemy. In standard analyses of the semantics of count and mass nouns ‘abstract nouns’ are usually left out. However, ‘abstract nouns’ are frequent in language and they can also be count or mass:
(1) Have you noticed how much beauty goes into dying?
(2) One of the many virtues of pumpkins is the ability to combine equally well with sugar and spices or salt and cheeses, making them perfect for pies, cookies and cakes, as well as for soups, side dishes and stews.
In my talk I will discuss the polysemy of nouns that denote abstract entities and tackle the question how countability is defined in such nouns. I will present an empirical investigation of such nouns which includes (i) an annotation of lexical properties that are responsible for a count and mass interpretations, (ii) a specification of dependent senses of nouns and how they are derived and (iii) a corpus study. Based on this research I will propose an analysis to account for count and mass uses of ‘abstract nouns’.
October 24, 2018
CNRS, Institut Jean Nicod
(joint work with Salvatore Florio, University of Birmingham)
Plurals and mereology
A prominent tradition in linguistic semantics analyzes plurals by appealing to mereology (e.g. Massey 1976,Link 1983, Link 1998, Gillon 1992, Champollion 2016, Champollion 2017). The mereological approach to the semantics of plurals has attracted heavy criticisms, especially within philosophical logic where many authors subscribe to an alternative framework based on plural logic (e.g. Boolos 1984, Yi 1999, Rayo 2002, Rayo 2006, McKay 2006, Oliver & Smiley 2013). Some of the criticisms target a broader class of 'singularist' semantics which interpret plural expressions in terms of singular ones. The mereological approach is the most popular, and perhaps the most plausible, of those analyses.
criticisms have been very influential in philosophy. What has been overlooked
is that, once the mereological approach is properly understood, linguists
have the basic tools to respond. Our aim is to clarify and develop these
responses systematically, bringing together the linguistic and philosophical
In the first part of the talk, we offer a precise articulation of the mereological approach and of the semantic background in which the debate can be meaningfully reconstructed. We focus on the best-known implementation of the approach, namely that of Godehard Link, but we comment on the relevance of our discussion for alternative implementations.
In the second part, we deal with the criticisms and assess their logical, linguistic, and philosophical significance. Our conclusion is that the mereological approach fares no worse than plural logic and that it remains a viable and well-motivated framework for the analysis of plurals.
October 17, 2108
Numerals and quantification in Ch’ol
In this talk, I investigate a set of underdescribed numeral constructions in Ch’ol that I call possessed numerals. Unlike the bare numerals in (1), these possessed numerals in (2) occur with possessive prefix i- and relational suffix -el, allowing both cardinal (2a) and ordinal (2b) interpretations.
(1) cha’-tyikil wiĖik
(2) Possessed numerals
a. tyi i-cha’-tyikl-el wiĖik
TYI A3-two-CL-RS man
‘the two men’
b. i-cha’-tyikl-el=bä wiĖik
‘the second man’
The cardinal interpretation in (2a) contains tyi in addition to the possessed numeral and the ordinal interpretation in (2b) contains a relative clause marker =bä. Building off the semantics of bare numerals in Ch’ol (Bale and Coon, 2014), I propose a compositional semantics for these possessed numerals. I argue that tyi in (2a) introduces a uniqueness presupposition, supported by data from the ordinal construction and the possessed numeral ‘one’, which lack tyi. The morpheme tyi shows up in other quantificational phrases to derive strong quantifiers from weak quantifiers. For instance, I present data from other quantifiers like pejtyel and its possessed form tyi i-pejtyel-el ‘all’ that have similar entailment differences as (2a) and (1) do. All data comes from my fieldwork in Chiapas, Mexico.
July 12, 2018
New York University
Two switches in the theory of counterfactuals: A study of truth conditionality and minimal change
I report on a comprehension experiment on counterfactual conditionals based on a context involving two switches (joint work with Ivano Ciardelli and Linmin Zhang). We found that the truth-conditionally equivalent clauses (i) switch A or switch B is down and (ii) switch A and switch B are not both up make different semantic contributions when embedded in counterfactual antecedents. Assuming compositionality, this contradicts the textbook view that meaning can be identified with truth conditions. This finding has a clear explanation in inquisitive semantics: truth-conditionally equivalent clauses may be associated with different propositional alternatives, each of which counts as a separate counterfactual assumption. Related results from the same experiment challenge the common Stalnaker-Lewis interpretation of counterfactuals as involving minimizing change with respect to the actual state of affairs. We propose to replace the idea of minimal change by a distinction between foreground and background for a given counterfactual assumption: the background is held fixed in the counterfactual situation, while the foreground can be varied without any minimality constraint.
(This talk presents work reported in a paper recently appeared in the journal Linguistics and Philosophy, available at http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003200.)
July 4, 2018
University of York
Semantic and Pragmatic Effects on Bare Plurals in Questions
It is well established in the literature (see Sauerland et al. 2005 and Zweig 2009 among others) that in the context of a polar question, bare plurals and singular indefinites do not seem to be distinct; i.e., (1a) and (1b) will receive identical answers, “Yes” for at least one apple and “No” only if there are no apples whatsoever:
1a. Do we have apples in our pantry?
1b. Do we have an apple in our pantry?
What is less frequently discussed in the literature, however, is that this similarity is modulated by a variety of pragmatic considerations, relating to both the context in which the question was asked and the possible referents for the noun phrase in question. In this talk, I will explore some of these effects, presenting novel data from a visual world experiment and discussing the theoretical implications of its results in the greater context of plural semantics.
June 27, 2018
Obviation in North Slavic languages
In many languages, including Romance and some Slavic languages, subjunctive clauses selected by volitional verbs allow for syntactic phenomena to occur in a less local domain than it is the case with other types of subordinate clauses (especially indicative clauses). One of these phenomena is so‐called ‛obviation’, i.e. obligatory disjoint reference of subjects in the matrix clause and subjects in subjunctive clauses, cf. (1) for Polish.
(1) Jareki chc‐e, żeby pro*i/j śpiewa‐ł. Polish
JarekM:SG:N wantPRS:3:SG thatSUBJ pro singLPT‐M:SG
‛Jarek wants him to sing.’
Obviation is often attributed to ‛domain extension‘ collapsing the tense domains of the matrix and the embedded clause. The nature of domain extension, however, is rarely explicitly analyzed. I will present an analysis of obviation effects which relies on cross‐clausal feature dependencies. I assume that (potentially cross‐clausal) occurrences of features may constitute the relevant domains for construal processes. Selectional properties of volitional verbs and the deficiency of the clausal complement‘s T‐feature provide the prerequisite for cross‐clausal feature sharing, i.e. the matrix and the complement clause‘s T‐features form one feature chain making the respective instances featurally identical. I will show, however, that feature identity may be not only determined by φ‐features and referential indices, but also by features such as [Īagentivity], or features determining, whether a situation is subject to control by a participant (Szabolcsi’s RESP feature), or contrastive focus features.
June 13, 2018
Masaryk University Brno
Subatomic quantification in natural language
In standard lattice‐theoretic approaches to natural language (e.g., Link 1983, Landman 2000, Champollion 2017) singularities and pluralities are presumed to involve distinct mereologies and it is commonly supposed that quantificational expressions do not access subatomic part‐whole relations. In this talk, I explore three hypotheses regarding natural language semantics: (i) natural language is sensitive to topological relations holding between parts of singularities (cf. Grimm 2012), (ii) there are general counting rules that presuppose such relations, and (iii) quantification over parts is subject to identical restrictions as quantification over wholes. I propose that ‘to be countable' means ‘to be an integrated part of an integrated whole' where ‘part' employs the reflexive mereological ≤ relation, and thus covers both proper and improper parts. In other words, only an entity conceptualized as a whole that comes in one piece can be put in one‐to‐one correspondence with the natural numbers. Similar, a proper part of such an entity that is conceptualized as an integrated object is also countable. The evidence for the linguistic relevance of this claim comes from the interaction between cardinal numerals and partitives involving irregular plurals in Italian as well as distinct classes of Polish ‘half', ‘part' and ‘whole' words and from the quantificational behavior of multipliers such as the English ‘double’.
May 30, 2018
University of East Anglia
The Syntax-Semantics Interface and Its Ontological Significance
The orthodoxy in semantic theory is that semantics carries various presuppositions and entailments about ontology - the world. I shall suggest that all the virtues of the orthodoxy may be retained while relinquishing the ontological load. Semantics, on such a view, constitutes constraints upon what can be said rather than determinants of how the world is.
May 2, 2018
Jon Ander Mendia
Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf
Epistemic Numbers (ENs) are complex cardinal numerals formed by combining a number with a non‐numerical expression, typically an indefinite. Unlike other cardinal numbers, ENs (i) denote a range of possible values, and (ii) convey an epistemic effect of uncertainty or vagueness about the exact number. For instance, a sentence like twenty‐some people came is an acceptable answer to a question like How many people came?, and it can denote integers ranging from 21 to 29, conveying that the speaker is unsure about the exact number. I focus on three main cross‐linguistic facts: (i) some languages allow ENs with a variety of quantifiers, not just indefinites akin to some or wh‐indefinites; (ii) in some languages ENs can either precede or follow the numeral; and (iii) the interpretation of ENs depends on the numerical base of the language, and cannot combine with just any numeral. Giving prominence to this cross‐linguistic variability, in this talk, I provide an initial semantic analysis flexible enough to account for a variety of languages, and a pragmatic account of the epistemic effect.
April 25, 2018
University of Amsterdam & Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf
Quantification in Frames
In earlier work, I discussed the Stat'imc'ets quantifier system in which no generalised quantifier can take scope over another and which therefore only has cumulative readings for QNP V QNP sentences. This gives an argument for frames as the basis for NL semantics rather than (extensions of) FOL, since, in the latter systems, quantifiers are predicted to have scope over each other by default and cumulative readings that have to be painfully reconstructed. The Stat'imc'ets data seem to show that rather than scope taking readings, cumulative readings are the typologically unmarked case for QNP V QNP sentences.
Stat'imc'ets has however a category of formally distinct dependent NPs which together with possessive NPs allow for readings dependent on quantifiers. These readings need to be accounted for, just like the possibility of the Stat'imc'ets system leading to a system like English in which all quantifiers can be dependent. The talk will present a new treatment of this using the attribute domina which links dependent NPs to their dominant NP or operator (this is just the easiest way of dealing with quantifier scope in dependency grammar). Dominated NPs will end up having functional denotations in an extension of a standard satisfaction semantics for frames and will so also allow an explanation of the paycheck sentences. Also, the Barry Schein mixed cases can be adequately treated (cumulative but the tricks may be dependent on the basketball players):
Every basketball player learnt two new tricks from these videos.
Viola Schmitt's pioneering work on conjunction and plurals can be constructed as an argument against my frame analysis of cumulative quantification, showing that it is much too simple and needs extension to most other categories. This is a highly non‐trivial business in frame semantics. An example is the cumulative reading (only Bill sang, only John danced) of:
John and Bill sang and danced.
A new generalisation is presented that overcomes the objection and that also deals with collective readings. The Stat'imc'ets quantifier system is a special case of the generalisation. A full treatment of conjunction in frames is however definitely an open problem.
April 18, 2018
University of Cologne
I lost my damn watch!
Expressive adjectives between syntax and semantics
Expressive adjectives (EAs) received a lot of attention in the semantic literature, which however treated their syntax mostly just like that of ordinary descriptive adjective. However, as I show in this talk, EAs differ in many and sometime puzzling aspects from descriptive ones. They cannot be modified or carry degree morphology, for instance. Most crucially, they exhibit interesting compositional behavior since they can be interpreted in a position different than they appear. Arguing against a purely pragmatic approach, both experimentally and conceptually, I propose a syntactic solution for the constraints in the semantic interpretation of EAs that builds on the assumption that expressivity is a syntactic feature, on par with features like tense or number. I develop an (upwards) agreement‐based analysis according to which the expressive content of an EAs is introduced by an uninterpretable expressivity feature which agrees with a corresponding interpretable feature at some higher node. This not only gets the restrictions about where EAs can be interpreted right but can also derive a lot of their special behavior and leads to direct mapping between syntactic structure and semantic interpretation.
January 24, 2018
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
'Figurative' uses of verbs and grammar
(joint work with Alexandra Spalek)
The goal of this talk, based on work in progress with Alexandra Spalek, is to draw attention to the contrastive study of 'figurative' uses of verbs as a way of gaining a new perspective on the challenges that must be met when addressing the interaction between conceptual content associated with words and their grammatical properties. Specifically, I will present the results of a comparison of the 'literal' and 'figurative' uses of six English verbs and their Spanish counterparts. This comparison reveals that figurative uses are strongly constrained by grammatical properties of the literal uses, indicating that the two uses emanate from a single lexical entry for each verb. Crucially, we find striking contrasts between figurative uses in the two languages which correlate with independently identified contrasts in the grammars of their verbal systems. However, at the same time, we find striking similarities in the sorts of conceptual domains in which the figurative uses are attested for each pair, even when the grammatical details differ, pointing to important conceptual similarities between the English and Spanish counterparts. The data will therefore force us to ask how contrasting grammatical constraints are associated with similar conceptual content. I will offer some preliminary reflections on this question, particularly in relation to the debate over Levin & Rappaport Hovav's (1991) Manner/Result Complementarity hypothesis.
January 17, 2018
Linguistics Convergence Laboratory
National Research University
Higher School of Economics, Moscow
ROOM: Building 25.13, Room U1.24 (PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF VENUE)
Associative plural as indexical category
Animacy Hierarchy was introduced as a cross-grammatical factor which governs, in different languages, widespread splits of nominal categories, including case or number marking. Among other phenomena, Animacy Hierarchy has been invoked to describe the lexical distribution of associative plurals (APL). In this paper I argue that APL as an interpretation of nominal plurality is motivated not by the high position the respective noun holds on the Animacy Hierarchy but is a combined effect of coercion by the unique reference inherent to proper names and associative links easily recoverable for human referents. Interpretation of APL relies upon activation of set relations its referent holds to other entities in the speech act or in the speech participants’ minds. APL is thus argued to be an indexical rather than a functional semantic category. --- In the end, and if we have time, I will place APL in the context of other interpretative, or 'vague' categories, such as flexible relative clauses and genitives.
January 10, 2018
Heinrich Heine University
In previous work (Anderson, to appear, Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21), I provide an analysis of what I call “some”-exclamatives, an exclamative form in English using the determiner “some” along with an intonational contour marking it as an exclamative (as in “he is some lawyer!”). These exclamatives express a positive or negative evaluation of how the referent of the “some”-headed DP exemplifies the property denoted by the NP. In this talk, I present preliminary experimental data examining the interaction of rising/falling intonation and speaker evaluation. From an online judgement study, we find that listeners can use intonation to make inferences regarding whether the speaker is making a positive or negative evaluation. Additionally, we find interactions between bias and the semantic class of the nominal complement of “some” (whether the noun denotes a human or an instrument). I extend my prior analysis in order to account for some of these findings.
December 13, 2017 CANCELLED WILL BE RESCHEDULED
The Syntax-Semantics Interface and Its Ontological Significance
The orthodoxy in semantic theory is that semantics carries various presuppositions and entailments about ontology ‐ the world. I shall suggest that all the virtues of the orthodoxy may be retained while relinquishing the ontological load. Semantics, on such a view, constitutes constraints upon what can be said rather than determinants of how the world is.
December 6, 2017
Heinrich Heine University
Russian Diminutives as Counting and Measuring Operators: Implications for the Semantics of Counting, Measuring and the Mass/Count Distinction
Diminutive nominal suffixes occur in many typologically diverse languages and have a varied interpretational pattern. Crosslinguistic studies identify at least three uses of diminutives: (i) expression of smallness; (ii) expression of individuation into small/minimal units accompanied by a grammatical shift from mass to count noun; (iii) emotional evaluation (Jurafsky 1996, Schneider 2003/13, Fortin 2011). Previous research has focused on the contrast between proper diminutives expressing small size/measure and emotive diminutives (e.g. Schneider 2003/13, Fortin 2011) and there has been little semantic study of the individuating function of diminutives. The results of a few studies suggest that (at least in some languages) there may be a categorial distinction between the two types of suffixes: proper diminutives are adjectival (Fortin 2011, Wiltschko & Steriopolo 2007) while individuating suffixes are either quantificational (Jurafsky 1996, Fortin 2011) or classifiers (Wiltschko 2006, Ott 2011). However, this has not been explored in detail. The present project aims to explore the syntax and semantics of “proper” vs. individuating diminutives in Russian (as in stolik ‘a small table’ and ris‐risinka ‘rice‐ a grain of rice’), focusing on the following questions: (i) Why do diminutives individuate, i.e. why does smallness facilitate grammatical individuation? (ii) Under what grammatical, lexical and pragmatic conditions do they individuate? (iii) Is the semantic contrast reflected in a syntactic, categorial distinction, and if so, then why? I explore these issues in the context of recent work on counting, measuring and the mass/count distinction (Chierchia 1998/2010, Krifka 1989/95, Landman 2004/16, Rothstein 2009/10/17, Filip & Sutton 2016) and hypothesize that individuating and non‐individuating diminutives belong to the class of counting and measuring operators respectively. More specifically, proper diminutives are measure modifiers assigning measure characteristics to entities, whereas individuating suffixes are counting operators which allow parts of substances to be counted. I show that studying diminutives in the proposed framework will lead to a better understanding of diminutives, and, also, it will throw light on fundamental topics in semantics including measuring, countability and individuation.
November 29, 2017
Kurt Erbach, Peter R. Sutton, Hana Filip, and Kathrin Byrdeck
Heinrich Heine University
Object mass nouns in Japanese
Classiřer languages are commonly taken to have no grammaticized lexical mass/count distinction, but rather have this distinction encoded through the syntax and semantics of classiřers (e.g. Chierchia 1998, 2010; Muromatsu 2003; Rothstein 2010, 2017). We contest this claim by drawing on data from Japanese, a typical classiřer language. We provide novel empirical evidence showing that Japanese quantiřers (e.g. nan-byaku-to-iu ‘hundreds of’) can be used as tests for the mass/count status of Japanese nouns in the absence of classiřers. Such quantifiers can directly modify nouns like onna-no-hito (‘woman’) denoting inherently individuable entities, but not nouns denoting undiﬀerentiated stuﬀ like yuki (‘snow’). Moreover, and more importantly, acceptability tests using these quantiřers lead to the identification of object mass nouns in Japanese, i.e. nouns that have inherently individuable entities in their denotation and yet are infelicitous in syntactic environments which are diagnostic of count nouns. This mismatch between notional and grammatical categories and the existence of object mass nouns in Japanese contradicts Chierchia's (2010) prediction that such noun behavior should not exist in classifier languages. It follows that Japanese lexical nominal system is endowed with a grammatical mass/count distinction, which bears a certain resemblance to that which we řnd in number marking languages (e.g. English), therefore casting doubt on the common view that classiřer languages have no grammaticized lexical mass/count distinction. We propose a novel semantic analysis of Japanese lexical nouns and classiřers, based on Sutton & Filip (2016), a framework that unites notions of context in Rothstein (2010) and Landman (2011), and motivates the idea that counting contexts can remove overlap so that count nouns have disjoint counting bases while mass nouns do not.
November 22, 2017
University College London
The semantic role of classifiers in Japanese
In obligatory classifier languages like Japanese, numerals cannot directly modify nouns without the help of a classifier. It is standardly considered that this is because nouns in obligatory classifier languages have uncountable denotations, unlike in non-classifier languages like English, and they need to be turned into countable denotations by classifiers before being able to be modified by numerals. Contrary to this, it is proposed that what makes Japanese an obligatory classifier language is not the semantics of nouns but the semantics of numerals. Specifically, evidence is presented that numerals in Japanese cannot function as predicates on their own, which is taken as suggesting that numerals in Japanese are exclusively used as singular terms. It is then proposed that the semantic function of classifiers is to turn such singular terms into modifiers/predicates.
November 15, 2017
Laura Kallmeyer and Rainer Osswald
Heinrich Heine University
Polysemy, Coercion, and Quantification
In this work we model systematic polysemy and its interaction with quantification within a framework that combines Lexicalized Tree Adjoining Grammar (LTAG) with frame semantics and Hybrid Logic (HL).
We first present the proposal from Babonnaud et al. (2016) according to which an inherently
polysemous noun such as `book', which provides referential access to both a physical and an
informational object, is assumed to refer to entities of type physical‐object which have an attribute content whose value is of type information. The physical aspect and the informational aspect are then addressed in different ways in contexts such as `read the book', `carry the book', `master the book' or `a heavy book on magic'.
Treating books as physical information carriers in this way gives rise to the following “quantification puzzle” as noted for instance in (Asher & Pustejovsky, 2006). While 'John carried off every book in the library' poses no problem since the domain of quantification consists of physical entities, it not obvious how to cope with 'John read every book in the library', which is naturally interpreted as quantifying over all contents of the books in the library. Since the library may own more than one copy of a book, there is not necessarily a one‐to‐one correspondence between the physical books in the library and the book contents. It is not even necessary that John used a copy from the library at all.
The solution we propose retains the idea that books are treated as physical information carriers, i.e., we quantify over these physical objects, while using only the information components as arguments of the predicate in the scope of the quantifier. This is possible due to the flexibility of the chosen syntax‐semantics architecture, in particular, underspecified use of Hybrid Logic and specific syntax‐semantics interface features.
November 8, 2017
Eleni Gregoromichelaki and Jon Ander Mendia
Heinrich Heine University
Continuation and discussion of their respective talks on October 18 and 25, 2017.
October 25, 2017
Heinrich Heine University
Ad-hoc grammatical categorisation in DS-TTR
I will introduce a formalism, DS-TTR, motivated by the need to underpin dialogue modelling and explain the role of language in human interaction. In DS-TRR, the view of natural languages as codes mediating a mapping between “expressions” and the world is abandoned to give way to a model where utterances are taken as joint actions aimed to locally and incrementally alter the affordances of the context. Such actions employ perceptual stimuli composed not only of “words” and “syntax” but also elements like visual marks, gestures, sounds, etc. Any such stimuli can participate in the domain-general processes that constitute the “grammar”, whose function is to incrementally predict the next action steps via the dynamic categorisation and integration of various perceptual inputs. One consequence of this view is that specifically linguistic syntactic categories, representations or constraints are eschewed and explained away as the effects of the dynamics of interactive processing. Given these assumptions, a challenge that arises is how to account for the reification of such processes as exemplified in apparent metarepresentational practices like quotation, reporting, citation etc. I will argue that even such phenomena can receive adequate and natural explanations as “demonstrations” through a grammar that allows for the ad-hoc creation of occasion-specific content through reflexive mechanisms.
October 18, 2017
Jon Ander Mendia
Heinrich Heine University
Some kind of relative clause
Amount Relatives (ARs) differ from restrictive relative clauses in that they have an interpretation where what is referred to is not a particular object denoted by the head of therelative clause, but an amount of such objects (Carlson 1977, Heim 1987). For instance, the sentence it will take us the rest of our lives to drink the champagne they spilled that evening is ambiguous: on its more salient interpretation, the sentence claims that what would take us long to drink is a particular “amount” of champagne, not any “particular” champagne.
Virtually all extant analyses of ARs agree on one thing: the that-clause denotes a set of degrees. This is usually implemented by covert movement of a degree operator and abstraction over a degree variable.
In this talk I propose to reanalyze ARs. I suggest that the "amount" interpretation is a special case of “kind” interpretation. First, I show that both "kind" and “amount” interpretations show the same distinguishing properties when we compare them to ordinary (intersective) relative clauses. Second, I show that there is no trace of the presence of degree quantification/abstraction in ARs, a fact that, all else equal, is not expected if Ars were degree expressions. Then I analyze "amount" interpretations as cases of ad hoc “subkind” interpretations: the that-clause contributes a way to determine a particular subkind of the kind-level object provided by the head of the relative clause (in the example above, an ad hoc subkind of champagne). Time permitting, I will discuss the fact that other languages may possess ARs as envisioned by traditional analyses -i.e. they must be treated as degree expressions- and consider the cross-linguistic ramifications of this state of affairs.
July 26, 2017
University of Gothenburg, King's College London and Queen Mary University of London
July 19, 2017
University of Konstanz
Temporal implicatures in sentence comprehension: Evidence from acceptability ratings and self-paced reading times Implicatures are inferences that go beyond the literal semantic meaning of an utterance. In psycholinguistics, scalar implicatures are the most widely researched type of implicature. These implicatures are triggered by scalar expressions, like some (implying some, but not all), and have been investigated in a number of paradigms. We present data on a new type of implicature, namely, temporal implicatures. These are triggered by temporal expressions like this week (implying this week, but not next). When combined with predicates that ascribe a temporary property like be ill, this implicature makes sense: John is ill this week implies that John is ill only this week. However, a combination with predicates ascribing permanent properties like be tall is less felicitous: # John is tall this week implies that John's size is not constant; this implicature clashes with speakers' world knowledge about the size of grown-ups.
A series of judgment studies employing the Literal Lucy paradigm show that just like scalar implicatures, temporal implicatures are psychologically real and are independent from the semantic meaning of the sentence. In addition, data from self-paced reading show that temporal implicatures are routinely drawn during language comprehension, and computed early. We argue that the infelicity of temporal modification with permanent predicates (# John is tall this week) is due to a pragmatic inference that conflicts with world-knowledge, rather than grammatical.
July 12, 2017
Accounting for inferences of pluralized count and mass nouns : Evidence from Greek
Across languages, plural marking on count nouns typically gives rise to multiplicity inferences , indicating that there is more than one entity in the denotation of the noun. Plural marking has also been observed to occur on mass nouns in Greek, giving rise to a parallel abundance inference, indicating that there is a large quantity of what is denoted by the noun. Kane et al. (2016) propose a unified implicature account of abundance and multiplicity inferences, which prima facie predicts a uniform pattern across inferences, and standard implicatures. We tested this prediction by comparing multiplicity inferences, abundances inferences, and standard implicatures in Greek-speaking children and adults. The results reflect an overall pattern of implicature calculation, supporting a unified implicature analysis across the inferences.
July 5, 2017
Heinrich Heine University
Fighting for a share of the covers: Accounting for inaccessible readings of plural predicatesPlural predication presents a challenge that remains unsettled despite the numerous attempts to present a satisfying analysis (Moltman 2016, Farkas &de Swart 2010, Oliver & Smiley 2006, Yi 2005, 2006, Landman 2000, 1989a,b, Schwarzschild 1996, Link 1993, 1983, Krifka 1990, 1989, Schein 1986, Scha 1981, to name a few). The current discussion looks at a small part of this multi-faceted topic, namely the available readings of certain plural predicates. Gillon (1987) argues that certain plural predicates are ambiguous inrespect to the truth value of their minimal covers—i.e. sets of subsets ofpluralities, in which none of the subsets overlap with the sum of the others, and the sum of all subsets is equal to the plurality itself. While Gillon’s (1987) argument is logically sound, I present evidence that suggests that certain minimal covers are not immediately accessible interpretations of cumulative predicates. Namely, following certain plural predicates, the lexical modifiers together and individually cannot be used in tandem to indicate which minimal cover of the predication is true. Following Gillon (1987), I assume these minimal covers must exist despite their inaccessibility, so the issue at hand is determining how they come to exist and why they are inaccessible from the initial interpretation of certain plural predicates. Landman’s (2000) analysis of events and plurality provides a multi-step process in which cumulative predicates are derived from covers. This analysis can be used to show how the interpretations of predicate that includes the relevant minimal covers come to exist, but leaves the inaccessibility of such covers unexplained. I propose that complex minimal covers are inaccessible because their derivation is simply too complex to process on-line. This explanation accounts for the infelicity of lexical modifiers, preserves the logic of minimal covers, and avoids the introduction of further devices into the account.
June 28, 2017
Mojmír Dočekal and Marcin Wągiel
Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Counting degrees and events: A cross-linguistic perspective
In this talk, we bring in novel data concerning distribution and semantic properties of two classes of adverbs of quantification in Czech, i.e., event numerals such as *dvakrát* ('twice/two times') as opposed to degree numerals such as *dvojnásobně* ('doubly/twofold'). We explore the contrasts between the expressions in question including the interaction with comparatives and equatives as well as scope asymmetries. Furthermore, we discuss their relationship with frequency adverbs and degree adverbs, respectively, as well as cross-linguistic variation including data from typologically distinct languages such as Vietnamese. We propose that degree numerals target values on a provided scale and are, hence, best analyzed as degree quantifiers resembling differentials whereas event numerals have a more general semantics which primarily allows for quantification over individuated events, but also enables to operate on degrees.
June 21, 2017
University of Debrecen, Hungary
Telicity across languages
This talk is concerned with how telicity arises across languages. More specifically, it offers a semantic take on the encoding and calculation of telicity and identifies two types of strategies in typologically such different languages as English, Hungarian and Slavic languages. It promotes the idea that telicity arises either (i) as a result of overt or covert maximalization over events, as in the case of most predicates in Hungarian and Slavic languages, or (ii) simply due to the co-occurrence of a verb encoding incremental change, a theme participant whose quantity is known, and a bounded path that is traversed in the course of the denoted event, as with most English verbal predicates (Kardos 2012, 2016). Important ways in which the languages under investigation differ is that they rely on these strategies to different extents, which has significant interpretational and morphosyntactic differences with respect to verbal predicates.
Following Filip and Rothstein (2006) and Filip (2008), I assume that telicity arises either as a result of a maximalization operator MAXE mapping sets of partially ordered events onto sets of maximal events. The application of MAXE is contingent on a verb assigning a figure-path incremental relation, a quantified theme DP, and a bounded path, an idea originating in Beavers (2012). Alternatively, telicity can also arise without maximalization over events with a verb assigning a figure path incremental role to a theme DP whose quantity is known and a bounded path since in these cases for any event that the verbal predicate describes, it does not describe any non-final subevent of that event. An important difference between the two processes is that the former leaves the predicate with quantized reference, and thus telicity is guaranteed, whereas in the latter case it is not a necessary consequence.
This is illustrated in Hungarian and Slavic languages, where event maximalization is encoded in particle verbs and perfective verbs. In English, where event maximalization is not necessary for telic interpretations in the case of most predicates, degree achievements like warm and cool are well-known for aspectual variability (Hay et al. 1999). Furthermore, in the case of predicates containing a particle verb or a perfective verb, which arguably encode event maximalization, the internal argument is semantically constrained in a way that the quantity of its referent must be known, and this satisfies a necessary condition for telicity (see above).
As for how the event maximalizing operator is encoded, there are different options to be explored. It is either the case that it is encoded covertly in VPs, as in some instances in English, or perfective verbs, as argued for by Filip (2008) in her analysis of Slavic languages, or that it is encoded overtly in perfective prefixes in Slavic languages or verbal particles in Hungarian. That particles and prefixes seem to systematically turn stative predicates into telic predicates in Hungarian and several Slavic languages may be taken as one piece of evidence for their being overt event maximalization/telicity markers.
Yet another question that is worth pursuing is whether bounded events must be marked in Slavic languages similarly to Hungarian. If this requirement holds, the expectation is that predicates that are inherently bounded (e.g. achievements like die and break a vase and degree achievements associated with an endpoint like empty the fridge and straighten the rope) must contain some marking element (e.g. a particle or a prefix). In Hungarian, this expectation is met, whereas in Slavic languages different patterns arise, making obligatory telicity marking suspicious (cf. Di Sciullo & Slabakova 2005).
June 14, 2017
University of Cologne
On (the diachrony of) jakoby-clauses in Polish
In this talk, I will examine the development and use of dependent clauses in Polish introduced by the complementizer jakoby (lit. ‘as if’) and show which factors in the lexical meaning of jakoby were responsible for the semantic change that it underwent.
In the Old Polish example given in (1), the dependent clause is introduced by the hypothetical comparative complementizer jakoby (‘as if’) and it is embedded under the matrix predicate widzieć (‘seem’), expressing indirect inferential evidence:
‘the people on earth interpreted it as if it wanted to slay all of them’
(KG, Kazanie I: Na Boże Narodzenie 26-7)
In Old Polish, jakoby-clauses can be embedded only under verbs of seeming. In other words, the structure seem as if p is used instead of seem that p if what the available evidence suggests is somehow in conflict with what the speaker believes or used to believe. In Present-day Polish, in turn, as illustrated in (2), the jakoby‑clause is embedded under the speech verb zaprzeczać (‘deny’):
‘The company denied that there supposedly were any reports about faulty prepaid cards.’
(NKJP, Dziennik Zachodni, 27/9/2006)
The complementizer jakoby is not interpreted as a hypothetical comparative conjunction as if any longer, but as a hearsay complementizer (Ňthat + allegedly). Interestingly, neither Czech nor Slovak have experienced this change.
Based on Faller (2011) and Murray (2017), I will present account showing that the change of jakoby involved two main developments: First, the meaning of jakoby was broadened to allow for inferences from reportative information (compatible with, but not enforced by its seem-type embedding verbs). Second, the reportative flavor acquired by jakoby licensed its use in complements of speech verbs. Since these new contexts were no longer compatible with the original inferential meaning, they ultimately lead to the inability to use jakoby in its original contexts, cf. (3):
Faller, Martina (2011): A possible worlds semantics for Cuzco Quechua evidentials, in: Proceedings of SALT 20 ed. by Nan Li and David Lutz, eLanguage, 660‑683.
Murray, Sarah E. (2017): The Semantics of Evidentials. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
June 7, 2017
University of Gothenburg
In defence of lost causes? Type Theories for Natural Language Semantics
In this talk, I will present an overview of the use of TTs for representing linguistic semantics. A historical overview is first given that covers in brief the history of type theory. Then, the discussion moves to the application of type theories, mostly type theories within the tradition of Martin Löf, to various issues in linguistic semantics like common nouns, modification, belief intensionality and copredication among others. Various alternatives are discussed when needed while the differences with simple type theory, which is the basis of Montague Grammar, are highlighted. Furthermore, the use of proof assistants implementing constructive type theories in dealing with Natural Language inference and checking the correctness of formal semantics accounts is discussed arguing that constructive type theories combined with the associated maturity in proof assistant technology can produce powerful reasoning engines and effective “semantic account checkers”. Lastly, I discuss the use of TTs within the new setting in computational linguistics, namely Deep Learning, trying to see its usefulness or not, and potential avenues of interaction between the two fields.
May 31, 2017
Aspect (and other verb categories) in monolingual and bilingual acquisition
I trace the developmental projection of the acquisition of aspect (and other verb categories) in monolingual and bilingual children. Specifically, the goal is find out, how children use the verb morphology to gain access to syntactic structure and to identify differences in monolingual vs. (simultaneous and successive) bilingual acquisition. Working within the general framework of constructivism, I will show how the semantic structure of a predicate guides the acquisition of the tense/aspect and agreement morphology.
Our methodology is called predicate tracking. Working within the lexicon of individual children, a predicate is identified and then the emergence of the verb morphology is tracked. Thus, the history of acquisition for each predicate is determined. Minimal morphological contrasts as evidence for the productivity of tense/aspect and agreement concepts are searched for. Prior research has shown a relatively consistent frequency pattern cross-linguistically where the following two configurations are highly probable: 1) telic verbs with past tense and bounded aspectual morphology, and 2) atelic verbs with non-past tense and unbounded aspectual morphology. This finding has prompted the argument that aspect emerges prior to tense in child language. According to some variations on the Principle and Parameters theme, this sequence is required by the principle of economy. Our research with the predicate tracking methodology indicates the following: 1) the precise pattern of acquisition is determined by the properties of lexical aspect, i.e., the logical structure of predicates, 2) the pattern varies cross-linguistically, and 3) deictic tense is likely to be productive prior to viewpoint aspect.
May 24, 2017
Leda Berio, Anja Latrouite, Robert Van Valin, Gottfried Vosgerau
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Immediate and General Common Ground
The traditional literalist account of meaning has been challenged by several theories that stress the importance of context and of contextual information in communication, especially for mechanisms of meaning determination and reference fixing. However, the role of lexical meaning in such contextualist accounts often remains only vaguely defined. In this paper, we defend an account of communication that keeps the advantages of contextualist theories, while a new element is introduced that we claim could help solving some of the remaining issues. By differentiating Immediate and General Common Ground in communica- tion, we draw a distinction between mechanisms related to the situation at hand and those concerned with world and language knowledge. We further argue that such a distinction can help understanding cases of loose use and metaphors of which we provide some examples. Finally, we claim that this distinction has grammatical reality, as it is shown by the examples from Lakhota (North America), Umpithamu (Australia), Kuuk Thaayorre (Australia) and Mongsen Ao (India) discussed in the paper.
May 17, 2017
University of York
How to pluralise a Mass noun: The ingredients
The relation between mass terms and plurals is well known and well supported empirically in terms, for example, of determiners that are common to the two classes of nominals to the exclusion of the singular. At the same time it comes in general as a surprise that given the notion that mass terms as "somehow plural" they never show up in the plural. From this point I look at a set of languages which do pluralise mass nouns and attempt to derive the possibility of plural mass terms. The objective is to build a syntactic and semantic framework with as minimal assumptions as possible, within which they can naturally occur. More specifically I look a the set of required morphosyntactic features, their position in the nominal extended projection and their associated semantics. Then we try to understand where the points of variation lie and what sort of variation is predicted.
May 3, 2017
Uniklinik RWTH Aachen & Forschungszentrum Jülich
If so many are "few", how few are "many"? The
neurocognition of quantifier processing
April 26, 2017
Kathrin Byrdeck & Kurt Erbach
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Object Mass Nouns in Japanese
Classifier languages are commonly assumed not to have a grammaticized mass/countdistinction among nouns. In this talk we pursue two main goals. First, based on data from Japanese and some insights in Sudo (2016, forthcoming), and Inagaki & Barner (2009), we provide new empirical evidence that Japanese nouns for concepts like BOOK, DOG, SHOE (encoded by prototypical count nouns in languages with a grammaticized mass/count distinctions) and collective artifacts like MAIL, FURNITURE have individuated counting bases. We provide empirical evidence in support of the claim that Japanese nouns like yūbinbutsu (`mail’) have the hallmark properties of object mass nouns: (i) they are compared according to cardinality in `more than’ constructions (also Inagaki & Barner 2009), and (ii) they are infelicitous in constructions associated with count nouns. To the extent that the existence of object mass nouns can be established in the grammar of Japanese, as we argue, it follows that Japanese has grammatical reflexes of the mass/count distinction, rather than just exhibiting cognitive and grammatical reflexes of individuation (atomicity) alone. Second, we offer a new formal analysis of the Japanese mass/count distinction, building Sutton & Filip’s (2016) context-sensitivity driven account of the mass/count distinction, and specifically of object mass nouns. Our results bolster a nascent growing body of studies strongly suggesting that Japanese (and other classifier languages) in fact do have direct grammatical reflexes of the mass/count distinction.
April 19, 2017
University of Groningen
Eventive vs. Evidential Speech Reports
In this talk I argue for a distinction between eventive and evidential speech reports. In eventive speech reports the at-issue contribution is the introduction of a speech event with certain properties. Typical examples include direct and free indirect speech. In evidential speech reports, by contrast, the fact that something was said is not at issue, but serves to provide evidence for the reported content. Typical examples include Quechua and Bulgarian reportative evidentials, Dutch and German reportative modals ('schijnen', 'sollen'), and the German reportive subjunctive. Following up on an observation by Von Stechow & Zimmermann (2005:fn.16), I argue that English indirect discourse is ambiguous. In the current framework this means it allows both an eventive reading, where a reported speech act is at issue, and an evidential reading, where it is backgrounded.
January 11, 2017
Georg-August Universität Göttingen
Names, Pronouns and Demonstratives as use-sensitive expressions
Kaplan famously distinguished between pure indexicals and true demonstratives. Nevertheless, he thought that these two kinds of expressions are only two subvarieties of the same semantic kind, namely the kind of context-sensitive expressions. I will argue that Kaplan underestimated the significance of his distinction and that it is in fact a distinction in semantic kind. In my opinion, there are two different sorts of expressions whose reference depends in different ways on the occasion of their use and which should semantically berepresented in different ways. Firstly, there are context-sensitive expressions. The reference of these expressions depends on certain objective factors that constitute a context of use. These expressions have a Kaplanian character that determines their referent relative to a context of use. Examples of this kind are expressions like “I”, “now” and “today”. They all share the following feature: It is impossible that two different uses of an expression of these kind have different referents relative to the same context of use. Formally they can be represented, as Kaplan did, by functions from contexts of use to intensions. Secondly, there are use-sensitive expressions. These expressions are neither sensitive to any objective factors of a context of use nor can their linguistic meaning be conceive of as a character. These expressions can have anaphoric or referential uses. Some of them have bound and pragmatic anaphoric uses. The reference of such an expression is determined relative to a referential or pragmatic anaphoric use by accompanying referential intentions. Uses of use-sensitive expressions are individuated by means of their accompanying referential intentions. Formally use-sensitive expressions are represented as indexed expressions that are semantically interpreted by means of an index-sensitive assignment function. Different indexes correspond to different referential intentions. Co-referential use-sensitive expressions are semantically interpreted by means of indexed-assignment-functions with the same output. In this sense, the referent of a use-sensitive expression is determined by subject factors that are independent of the parameters of a context of use. The reference of use-sensitive expressions can additionally be constrained in some cases by the use-conditional meaning of such an expression. Use-conditional linguistic meanings can either be captured (a) as restrictions on indexed-assignment-functions or (b) as restrictions on the class of adequate possible uses of an expression. It is possible that any two different uses of an expression of these kind have different referents relative to the same or different contexts of use. Some use-sensitive expressions also have bound uses and their corresponding assignment functions can be shifted by the right sort of quantifiers. Bare demonstratives are use-sensitives expressions without an additional use-conditional meaning and they only have pragmatic anaphoric uses. Proper names are use-sensitives expressions with an additional use-conditional meaning that restricts the possible referents of a name to its bearer; but names only have pragmatic anaphoric uses. Third person personal pronouns are use- sensitives expressions with an additional use-conditional meaning that restricts the possible referents of them to male or female individuals and they have both pragmatic and bound anaphoric uses.
December 14, 2016
King's College London
Language as Mechanisms for Interaction: the challenge of modelling dialogue
My task is to introduce and justify the formalism of Dynamic Syntax (DS), whose central claim is that natural languages are mechanisms for interaction, defined by grammars that articulate the online incremental process of growth of interpretation/linearisation underpinning both production and parsing. The talk will then argue that with this perspective, there is evidence that language evolution could have been possible without having to presume rich innateness, sudden-switch change, or prior availability of higher-order inferential capacities such as mind-reading. My starting point is to illustrate data from conversational dialogue which are a huge challenge for syntax and semantics models, since sentence-based grammars are not at all well suited to express the facts of dialogue – and even for pragmatists, since dialogue dynamics provide evidence that successful communication does not have to involve reading others’ minds or grasping some propositional understanding to be shared. Rather, what is essential is speaker/hearer interaction. Then I will give a sketch of Dynamic Syntax sufficient to show how the dynamics of dialogue will emerge as an automatic consequence of the framework as well as expressing universal constraints on the process of structural growth. Finally I shall show how the individual mechanisms that underpin anaphora, ellipsis, discontinuity effects, and scope dependencies, can all be seen to be vehicles for interaction, in virtue of generalisations across these phenomena which can only be expressed in dynamic, interactive terms.
December 7, 2016
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Bare singular nouns in Hungarian and the mass/count distinction
I argue for an analysis of Hungarian in which notional singular count nouns are semantically number neutral, and thus felicitous, with measure constructions and the WH-quantifier mennyi (‘what quantity of’). This provides an alternative analysis to Schvarcz (2016) and Schvarcz & Rothstein (2015) who analyze the majority of Hungarian notional count nouns as dual life—i.e. mass or count depending on the context. They assume könyv (‘book’) is mass with mennyi & measure constructions, but it is count in cardinality constructions. However, certain Hungarian constructions indicate bare singular count nouns are interpreted as number neutral. Furthermore, measure constructions sanction the occurrence of mass and bare plural count nouns but disallow singular count nouns (Krifka 1989, Landman 2016). Following Landman (2016) allows a more straightforward analysis that shows the Hungarian nominal system is more like other mass/count languages has been previously thought.
November 30, 2016
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Adverbs of Change, Aspect, and Anaphoricity
Adverbs of change, such as quickly or slowly, have been known to give rise to a number of interpretations. A sentence like Kazuko ran to the store quickly can describe the intensity of the described action (a manner reading), the temporal extent of the entire event (a duration reading), or the time between the culmination of the event and some previous event (an anaphoric reading). It has also been noticed that available interpretations are sensitive to thelexical aspect of the verbal predicate; for example, The police quickly spotted the suspect is only compatible with an anaphoric reading for quickly. Existing accounts of adverbs of change (e.g. Cresswell 1978; Rawlins 2013) take manner readings as primary and successfully extend these to duration readings, but struggle to derive anaphoric readings. In contrast, I take anaphoric readings as primary and argue that other readings are special cases of these. Adverbs of change are claimed to modify the temporal distance between two instantaneous events that are compositionally or anaphorically available. The proposed account, couched in a dynamic semantic framework, does particularly well in predicting anaphoric interpretations and demonstrates how adverbs of change interact with lexical aspect to derive other available readings. It also correctly predicts certain positional effects and can accommodate the idiosyncratic behavior of adverbs like slowly, which appears to lack truly anaphoric interpretations.
November 23, 2016
Ruhr University of Bochum
Scalar implicatures in context of full and partial information: Evidence from ERPs
A major part of the psycholinguistic research on scalar implicatures has been focused on the question of how scalar implicatures are generated: in a default and automatic manner or as results of effortful reasoning processes. This so-called default- vs. context-based controversy has been experimentally operationalized in terms of processing costs of scalar implicatures: the processing costs have been taken as a proxy of the implicature’s default vs. non-default character. Yet, it has eventually become evident that the data hardly fit this dichotomy. Many studies on the processing of scalar implicatures brought contrastive results: some experiments provided evidence that the processing of the pragmatically enriched interpretation is costly relative to the processing of the semantic meaning, other studies found no additional cost for the processing of scalar implicatures. It was further shown by Degen & Tannenahus (2015) that scalar implicatures may be differently processed depending on contextual support: in contexts that support the pragmatic interpretation, scalar implicatures will occur as default and automatic, whereas when the contextual support is weaker, listeners will take longer to arrive at the inference. This results were integrated within a probabilistic model of linguistic processing, called constraint-based account and predicting that interlocutors may use information from multiple sources during sentence comprehension to create expectations about the future development of the utterance. In my talk I will present results from EEG studies on scalar implicatures processing arguing in favor of the constraint-based model. Comparing results from two studies: where the scalar implicature processing was tested in context of full information and in context of partial information, I will discuss how the contextual support may determine the cognitive costs of the implicature processing.
November 16, 2016
Heinrich Heine University
Manner adverbs, agentive adverbs, and adverbs in between
November 9, 2016
Heinrich Heine University
The algebra of ambiguity
We present an algebraic approximation to the semantic content of linguistic ambiguity. Starting from the class of ordinary Boolean algebras, we add to it an ambiguity operator and a small set of (rather peculiar) axioms which we think are correct for linguistic ambiguity beyond doubt. We then show some important, non-trivial results that follow from this axiomatization, which turn out to be surprising and not fully satisfying from a linguistic point of view. The results leave us with some open questions, both on the linguistic algebraic side – like the nature of intention in ambiguous statements, or the properties of disjunctive axioms in universal algebra.
July 20, 2016
Universität zu Köln
Focus association in sentence processing
The focus structure of a sentence reflects the discourse context, but in the presence of various operators, such as only, even and most, it has an effect on the truth-conditions or the presuppositions of the sentence. Stolterfoht et al. (2007) and Carlson (2013) showed that only facilitates the processing of focus structures during silent reading. When (1) is read without preceding context, the first conjunct receives a wide focus interpretation (marked as FI), and when the processor encounters the ellipsis remnant (F2), it must revise the focus structure of the first conjunct from wide to matching narrow focus (F3). The presence of only in (2) requires narrow focus on its associate (FI), which is congruous with the ellipsis remnant. Revision of the focus structure in (1) vs. (2) was associated with an ERP signature in the Stolterfoht et al. study on German, and with increased reading times in Carlson’s self-paced reading study on English.
1) [Am Dienstag hat der Direktor [den Schüler]F3 getadelt]F1, und nicht [den Lehrer]F2
On Tuesday has the principal.Nom the pupil.Acc criticized and not the teacher.Acc
2) Am Dienstag hat der Direktor nur [den Schüler]F1 getadelt, und nicht [den Lehrer]F2
On Tuesday has the principal.Nom only the pupil.Acc criticized and not the teacher.Acc
Since ‘only x ... and not y’ is frequent in discourse, the presence of only could create an expectation for an explicit mention of excluded alternatives, and this bias alone could account for the facilitation in (2). In self-paced reading experiments on Polish we showed that the processing of replacive ellipsis ( ‘and not ... ’ ) is facilitated in the presence of the three associators: only, even, most, which indicates that it is indeed the focus association mechanism that explains the facilitation in (2) (Tomaszewicz and Pancheva (2016)). The use of Polish allowed us for a direct comparison between only, even and most, because (i) like in German replacive ellipsis is unambiguous due to Accusative case marking, and therefore any differences in ellipsis resolution can be attributed to the processing of focus structure alone; (ii) with most the focus on ‘sculptors’ yields a superlative reading that is unavailable in English or German (in Pancheva and Tomaszewicz (2012) and Tomaszewicz (2015) we argue that this reading arises via focus association).
We found that in Polish only, even and most create an expectation for narrow focus on the object, but the facilitatory effects occur already on the conjunct ‘and not’ with only and even, and on the ellipsis remnant with most. This difference likely reflects the difference between two types of focus association: obligatory and optional as identified in the formal semantic research on focus. Obligatory focus association is taken to be encoded in the lexical semantics of focus sensitive expressions (only, even), whereas optional/free association is a result of the contextual setting of the domain variable of an operator like most (Beaver and Clark (2009)). While prenominai only and even have one syntactic associate (3), most is free to associate either with the adverbial or the subject in English (4a-b), or with the object in Polish (5).
3)a. John invited only/even [sculptors]F for coffee.
b. *John invited only/even sculptors [for coffee]F
4)a. John invited the most sculptors [for coffee]F.
Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than for any other relevant occasion,
b. [John]F invited the most sculptors for coffee. Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than for any other relevant individual did.
5) John zaprosił najwięcej [rzeźbiarzy]F na kawę. John invited most sculptors for coffee
Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than any other group of people that he invited.
During incremental processing prenominai only and even create a precise expectation for the location of focus, but most allows association with either the object or the adverbial in Polish, which is compatible with our results. Currently, we are extending these findings to meisten in German, which like English most does not allow association with the object, to show that optional associators facilitate the processing of focus structures that are compatible with the semantics resulting from focus association (and that it is not the case that the mere presence of a prenominai modifier increases the salience of the contrast in the replacive ellipsis).
July 6, 2016
Universität des Saarlandes
Projection in Discourse: A data-driven formal semantic analysis
In this talk, I present a unified, data-driven formal semantic analysis of projection phenomena, which include presuppositions, anaphoric expressions, and conventional implicatures (as defined by Potts, 2005). The different contributions made by these phenomena are explained in terms of the notion of information status. Based on this analysis, I present a new semantic formalism called Projective Discourse Representation Theory (PDRT). PDRT is an extension of traditional Discourse Representation Theory (Kamp, 1981; Kamp and Reyle, 1993), which directly implements the anaphoric theory of presuppositions (van der Sandt, 1992) by means of the introduction of projection variables. I show that PDRT captures the differences, as well as the similarities between the contributions made by presuppositions, anaphora and conventional implicatures. In order to illustrate PDRT's representational power, I present a data-driven computational analysis of the information status of referential expressions based on data from the Groningen Meaning Bank; a corpus of semantically annotated texts (Basile et al., 2012). Taken together, the results pave way for a more integrated formal and empirical analysis of different aspects of linguistic meaning.
June 29, 2016
Causal Power and Modality as Stumbling Stones
for a Semantic Analysis of Dispositional Predicates
Attempts to give a semantic analysis of dispositional predicates (like “solubility", “inflammability”, etc.) in terms of (counterfactual) conditionals (for example: “if x were put in water it would dissolve”) saw a plethora of counterexamples: void satisfaction, random coincidences, masks, finks, antidotes, etc. Already on the (semantic/logical) surface the reasons for failure are pretty obvious. Yet, there are also some deeper (metaphysical) reasons – Causal Power and Modality – that can be unearthed. In this talk I will go through all the above.
June 22, 2016
Higher School of Economics, Department of Linguistics, Moscow
A Typology of Falling Events
Falling is a kind of quite standard motion event with Source, Goal and a special manner of motion which is usually reduced to the up-down (vertical) axis. The talk shows that there are other semantic characteristics which build semantic oppositions within the domain of falling and trigger its metaphorical extensions.
June 15, 2016
The PoP approach to vector semantics
The use of vector space models, however, is problematic due to the high dimensionality of these vectors and due to the fact that co-occurrence patterns often follow what is known as heavy-tailed distribution (as exemplified by the Zipfian distribution of words in documents). For instance, while a few words frequently occur in text (thus co-occur with other words, such as the function word “the”), many content words occur rarely. Consequently, as the number of vectors/entities increases, the number of co-occurring context elements (i.e., the dimensionality ofvectors) escalates.
June 8, 2016
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Portions, individuation and measurement
Container nouns (cup) are nouns that denote concrete objects that can be used as receptacles for substances. It has been argued that in constructions with numerals (as in ‘two glasses of water’), container phrases can be interpreted in at least two different ways (Selkirk 1977, Rothstein 2012, Partee and Borschev 2012). Firstly, a container noun can be used to denote actual containers filled with some substance; e.g. ‘glasses of water’ can denote actual glasses filled with some quantity of water (individuation). Secondly, a container noun can be used as the description of a unit of measurement.
Based on the results of a felicity judgment task with children and adults with Brazilian Portuguese, English and Yudja, it will be argued that individuation precedes measure. Second, unlike in English, container phrases in Yudja can be interpreted as locatives or trigger a concrete portion interpretation that is different from measure. Similar results were found for Brazilian Portuguese when the question included a prepositional phrase (Eu bebi dois copos com água ‘I drank two cups with water’) as opposed to pseudopartitive constructions (Eu bebi dois copos de água ‘I drank two cups of water’).
June 1, 2016
Animacy and affectedness (in Germanic languages)
a. Das Mädchen schlug den
Lundquist & Ramchand (2012) argue that inanimate entities are conceived as less affected by processes such as hitting or kicking than animate entities are. de Swart (2014), on the other hand, argues that the alternation marks a difference in sentience. As sentience presupposes animacy, the animacy contrast is merely epiphenomenal. Both analyses have shortcomings: de Swart’s analysis does not rely on affectedness and therefore cannot explain the contrast between (1b) and (2). Lundquist & Ramchand’s analysis is couched in the generative framework and they define affectedness as a binary feature. Their analysis does not give a principal explanation of why it is only a subset of contact verbs that gives rise to the alternation illustrated in (1).
An explanation of them phenomenon requires two things: First, a graded concept of affectedness, like the one proposed by Beavers (2011). Beavers notion of affectedness provides an explanation of why contact verbs show an alternation dependent on affectedness. According to him, these verbs entail potential results and the alternation can be seen as a resolution of this potentiality. If the referent of the second argument is animate, it is conceived as affected. If it is inanimate, it is taken to be non-affected. Second, an explication of the relationship between affectedness and animacy is needed. Lundquist & Ramchand argue that inanimate entities are only affected, if they are physically damaged. Beside physical affectedness, animate beings can also be emotionally/psychologically affected. This allows combining the basis insights of Lundquist & Ramchand’s analysis with the one of de Swart’s.
The aim of the talk is to present a unified analysis of the phenomenon, which combines a gradual notion of affectedness with the notion of sentience. It will be shown that such an approach allows explaining why the alternation arises with this particular set of verbs. Furthermore, the analysis will shed light on the relationship between affectedness and animacy.
May 25, 2016
Karoly Varasdi & Zsofia Gyarmathy
A model of evidence and an
evidence-based analysis of progressive achievements
In our talk, we are going to outline a lattice-theoretic model of evidence and an evidence-based approach to progressive achievements. Our starting point is that an agent is justified in asserting a progressive sentence if the agent has enough evidence supporting the base sentence in that specific scenario. In our framework, evidence for a proposition is that which justifies the speaker in asserting the proposition. We will argue that the set of all potential pieces of evidence ordered by containment form a lattice, and is connected with the lattice of propositions in a specific way based on the notion of (partial) justification. We will show how this evidence-based framework can be used to predict felicitous progressive uses of achievements, such as "Mary is arriving at the station" and still exclude unacceptable progressive achievements like "*Mary is noticing the picture". To this end, we exploit the fact that sentence entailment and evidence containment go in opposite directions in our framework and that achievements that can appear in the progressive are those that describe the right boundaries of extended events.
May 4, 2016
session will include i) a presentation of a theoretical idea about the activity
presupposition of a subclass of Vendler's achievements (called
culminations by Bach 1986), ii) outlining some ideas for three experiments to
test the theoretical assumptions, and iii) an open discussion where I would
be happy to hear comments and feedback especially about the experimental
design. The basic theoretical idea I propose is that culminations like win or arrive have an existential presupposition that is of a
hitherto not recognized kind that I call an extra soft presupposition, which
is cancellable even when the trigger is not embedded under any operators, but
is more similar to presuppositions than implicatures in other respects.
April 27, 2016
Location: Building 24.91. Room 01.22
Must, might, knows, and the rest of the epistemic system
Linguists and philosophers have long been torn between the intuition that must is 'weak' – expressing reduced commitment vis-a-vis the unqualified expression – and the intuition that it expresses some fairly strong epistemic relation, such as knowledge. Recently von Fintel & Gillies (2010) have argued that the latter hunch is correct – must picks out a strong epistemic necessity modal ą la modal logic S5 – and that the intuition of weakness can be explained by reference to a little-noticed evidential meaning component of must. Using corpus and experimental data I'll show that must does not express knowledge, certainty, or anything of this form: speakers routinely use must to mark out a proposition p when they are explicitly uncertain about the truth of p, say that they do not know p, and consider not-p a possibility. The experimental results also illuminate the relationship between might and epistemic possible, which are (contrary to the usual assumption) not synonymous. I'll discuss the implications of these results for a variety of epistemic items, arguing that they problematize Kratzer's (1991) influential proposal as well and favor a theory where epistemic modals are given a semantics built around the probabilistic support of a proposition.
April 21, 2016
Countability and the Diminutive in Bulgarian
This technical report briefly explores the count/mass distinction in Bulgarian. It pays particular attention to diminutive modification and its ability to achieve a mass-to-count shift when applied nouns that describe granular aggregates.
April 14, 2016
National Research University, Moscow
Higher School of Economics
Centre for Fundamental Studies / Laboratory of the Caucasian Languages
Mass and Class:
Number, nominal classes and mass nouns in East Caucasian
In many ways, East Caucasian languages manifest a complex interaction between the categories of grammatical number and gender as nominal classification. One obvious example of such interaction is that the inventory of nominal classes in the singular (usually three to five classes) is reduced to only two classes in the plural – human vs. non-human. Not less important, though probably somewhat less salient, is the treatment of mass nouns as P(luralia) T(antum). Thus, in Dargwa languages, mass nouns show non-human plural agreement. That mass nouns are PT is, of course, by no means typologically unexpected. What is peculiar is that the mass nouns show this agreement though being morphologically singular, while, at least for some of them, morphologically plural forms are also available. Similar but more complex is the situation in Archi, an outlier of the Lezgic branch of the family. In Archi, mass nouns are usually described as fourth class (singular). Incidentally, agreement pattern for this class is identical to non-human plural. Many of these nouns show plural inflectional morphology. This morphology is however not consistent and is coupled with singular agreement on the attributes. I suggest that mismatches between morphology and agreement are explained by a more general morphosyntactic property of East Caucasian languages that do not ascribe agreement pattern to a lexical item as a whole but do this separately to its singular and plural forms, and that the ascription is governed not only by lexicon but is partly driven by semantics of the respective morphologically singular and plural forms.
February 10, 2016
University of Gothenburg
Language, Spatial Perception and Cognition in Type Theory with Records
January 27, 2016
The imperfective in subjunctive conditionals: fake or real aspect?
This talk aims to provide a 'real aspect' approach of the 'fake' imperfective in subjunctive conditionals (SCs) and a new account of the (non)-cancellability of the counterfactual inference in SCs, largely based on Ippolito’s 2013. It is argued that PAST and PRES above MODAL in conditionals compete the same way as in non-modal stative sentences, see Altshuler and Schwarzschild 2012. On this view, the counterfactual inference of SCs, when cancellable, is nothing else than the cessation implicature routinely triggered by past stative sentences.
January 20, 2016
Tel Aviv University and University of Tübingen
Aspects of Event Semantics for Aspect
January 13, 2016
Parentheticality and Discourse
(i) the backgrounded status and projection/scopal properties of implications triggered by slifting parentheticals,
(ii) the often weakened assertion strength of the main clause,
(iii) the requirement that slifting parentheticals create an upward-entailing environment (cf. #*The dean, Susan doubts, flirted with the secretary*).
I will argue against the idea that the main clause is interpreted in the scope of the slifting predicate. Rather, I suggest that the strength of the main clause depends in a quasi-pragmatic way on the slifting parenthetical, as the latter can lower the assertability threshold for the main clause. I will also try to derive the informational properties and the polarity restrictions on slifting parentheticals from their role as providing grounds for the main claim of the sentence.
December 9, 2015
Result States in the Perfect Time Span - Combination of two Theories of the Perfect
The Perfect Time Span approach (PTS) is an
approach which tries to capture perfect meanings by locating the
Reichenbachian Event Time (E) within a time span. I found that in German
certain accomplishment constructions cannot be captured by this approach. In
this thesis I will show a solution to this problem by combining the PTS
approach with the so called Result State approach. My modi
December 3, 2015
Heinrich Heine University
Appositive Projection and Its Exceptions
This paper has two major goals. The first is to offer a comprehensive account of the projection properties of appositive constructions. Appositives posit a challenge to traditional assumptions about form and meaning because they are interpreted in situ with respect to order-dependent phenomena like discourse anaphora but nevertheless escape the scope of entailment-canceling operators like negation or modals. Accounting for this pattern requires an innovative way of looking at propositional operators and how they interact with appositives. The second goal of the paper is to address various claimed exceptions to the otherwise robust projectivity of appositives. I argue that in some cases the construction under consideration is most likely not an appositive at all. In other cases, the observed non-speaker-oriented readings can be derived by pragmatic reasoning or are due to a perspective shift. Although genuine instances of semantically embedded appositives do seem to exist, I point out that such data have a limited empirical scope. I conclude that appositive projection is a pervasive phenomenon and is part and parcel of the semantics of appositives.
November 11, 2015
Heinrich Heine University
Presupposition Blocking by Causal Inference
The talk develops an account of causal inferences in update semantics. A typical case would be the inference of a causal relation in:
When John pushed the button, the bomb exploded.
While cause inferences have many applications, the talk applies it to presupposition projection. It shows that the effects of Karttunen's satisfaction theory are better captured by causal inferences than by the logical satisfaction relation employed by Karttunen. E.g. blocking is not predicted by satisfaction in:
If Marie is French, she has stopped eating snails.
It is after all just false that every French person eats snails. But there is a plausible causal inference that being French can lead to eating snails. In:
If John has grandchildren, his children are happy.
most people infer that John has children, contra the satisfaction theory. And of course, children are the cause of grandchildren and not inversely.The talk also adds a new class of presupposition blocking that is unreducible to the satisfaction theory, based on identity inferences.
November 4, 2015
Heinrich Heine University
Quantification in Frame Semantics with Hybrid Logic