Semantics Research Group

Faculty

 Luis Alonso-Ovalle Brendan Gillon  Bernhard Schwarz  Junko Shimoyama   Michael Wagner

Semantics,
Pragmatics,
Spanish.

Semantics,
Pragmatics,
Sanskrit Linguistics,
Chinese
(Mandarin
and Classical).

Semantics,
Pragmatics,
German.

Syntax,
Syntax/Semantics
Interface,
East Asian Languages.

Prosody/Syntax,
Prosody/Semantics,
Phonology,
Language Processing.

Students

Chris Bruno (formal semantics, syntax, pragmatics, computational linguistics, philosophy of language)

September Cowley (semantics, syntax, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, philosophy of language)

Francesco Gentile (semantics, syntax-semantics interface, pragmatics, philosophy of language)

Dan Goodhue (semantics, pragmatics, intonation, experimental linguistics; www.danielgoodhue.com)

Marzieh (Sepideh) Mortazavinia (syntax-semantics, presuppositions, focus-sensitive items, first and second language acquisition)

Liz Smeets (syntax, semantics, language acquisition)

Recent postdocs and visitors

Alex Drummond

Michael Erlewine

Hadas Kotek

Alumni

Brian Buccola, PhD 2016

PhD thesis title: Maximality in the semantics of modified numerals 
http://brianbuccola.com/

Alanah McKillen, PhD 2016

PhD thesis title: On the interpretation of reflexive pronouns

http://people.linguistics.mcgill.ca/~alanah.mckillen/

Walter Pedersen, PhD 2015

PhD thesis title: Inchoative verbs and adverbial modification: Decompositional and scalar approaches

Alexandra (Sasha) Simonenko, PhD 2014

PhD thesis title: Grammatical ingredients of definiteness
http://people.linguistics.mcgill.ca/~alexandra.simonenko/

David-Étienne Bouchard PhD 2013

PhD thesis title: Long-distance degree quantification and the grammar of subjectivity

Jozina vander Klok, PhD 2013

PhD thesis title:  Tense, aspect, and modal markers in Paciran Javanese
https://jozinav.wordpress.com/

Selected Faculty Publications

View as .html

View as .pdf

Selected Student Publications

View as .html

View as .pdf

Selected Publications by Postdocs

View as .html

View as .pdf

Reading Group: Past Meetings

Fall 2016

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Friday September 9 Mayan Aadar (MA McGill '14) on scalar NPIs in embedded questions  

Summer 2016

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Thursday, May 5, from 10am to noon Dan Goodhue on questions Krifka's handbook article on Questions (2011), sections 1-4.
Thursday, May 12nd, from 10am to noon Semantic/pragmatic notions of answerhood. Presenters: Dan, Bernhard Reading: Groenendijk & Stokhof (1984, Part 2, ch. 4)
Thursday, June 2nd, from 10am to noon Presenters: Francesco, Bernhard. Topic: Questions and the Maximal Informativity Presupposition. Reading: Abrusan (2014, ch. 3)
Thursday, June 9th, from 10am to noon Presenters: Michael Wagner. Reading: Büring, D. "Unalternative Semantics".
Thursday, June 16th, from 10am to noon Presenters: Chris Bruno. Reading: Jacobson (2016) on fragment answers.
Thursday, June 23rd, from 10am to noon Presenters: Chris Bruno. Reading: Jacobson (2016) on fragment answers. Part 2.
Thursday, June 30th, from 10am to noon Presenters: Alan Bale. Reading: Hudson (1975

Fall 2015

Date Presentation Background reading(s)

Monday, September 21, 2015 2:30 -4:00 pm

Dan Goodhue on Tue Trinh's paper on biased yes/no questions

Tue Trinh’s paper “How to ask the obvious: A presuppositional account of evidential bias in English yes/no questions” (2014).

Friday, September 25, 2015 2:30 -4:00 pm

Dan Goodhue on Tue Trinh's paper on biased yes/no questions (Part II)

 

Friday, October 2

Schwarz and Simonenko: "We explicate and compare two semantic-pragmatic approaches to so-called factive island effects: the contradiction analysis (Abrus´an 2011, 2014), which excludes factive island questions by virtue of assigning them contradictory presuppositions; and the triviality account (Oshima 2007; Simonenko, in press), under which factive island cases are bad by virtue of lacking informative semantic answers relative to any context where they are otherwise felicitous. We present new evidence to argue that the triviality account is superior to the contradiction account."

Abrusan, Marta. 2011. Presuppositional and negative islands: a semantic account. Natural Language Semantics 19:257--321.

Friday, October 9

Henrison Hsieh on copular sentences.

Subject choice in copular clauses" by Line Mikkelsen

 

 

Fall 2014

Date Presentation Background reading(s)

Friday, November 21, 2014 3:00 -4:30 pm

Hadas Kotek, "Q-particles and the semantics of wh-questions" PART II

Abstract:"In this talk I present the theory of question semantics proposed in my dissertation. The theory builds on Cable's (2007; 2010) syntax of pied-piping, where interrogative movement is driven by Q- particles (silent in English, but visible in e.g. Tlingit), but develops a new semantics for this system. I show that this new semantics is able to  model a range of data not captured at the same time in previous theories, including intricate patterns of pied-piping, superiority effects, the presuppositions of questions, the readings of multiple questions, and focus intervention effects in multiple questions. Time permitting, I will also discuss some possible modifications and expansions of the theory that I have been contemplating recently.

Friday, November 7, 2014 3:00 -4:30 pm

Hadas Kotek, "Q-particles and the semantics of wh-questions"

Abstract:"In this talk I present the theory of question semantics proposed in my dissertation. The theory builds on Cable's (2007; 2010) syntax of pied-piping, where interrogative movement is driven by Q- particles (silent in English, but visible in e.g. Tlingit), but develops a new semantics for this system. I show that this new semantics is able to  model a range of data not captured at the same time in previous theories, including intricate patterns of pied-piping, superiority effects, the presuppositions of questions, the readings of multiple questions, and focus intervention effects in multiple questions. Time permitting, I will also discuss some possible modifications and expansions of the theory that I have been contemplating recently.

Friday, October 10, 2014 3:00 -4:30 pm

David Nicolas, "Plural logic and sensitivity to order" (joint work with Salvatore Florio KSU)

Abstract: 

"Sentences that exhibit sensitivity to order (e.g. John and Mary arrived at school in that order and Mary and John arrived at school in that order) present a challenge for the standard formulation of plural logic. In response, some authors have advocated new versions of plural logic based on more fine-grained notions of plural reference, such as serial reference (Hewitt 2012) and articulated reference (Ben-Yami 2013). The aim of this article is to show that sensitivity to order should be accounted for without altering the standard formulation of plural logic. In particular, sensitivity to order does not call for a more fine-grained notion of plural reference. We point out that the phenomenon in question is quite broad and that current proposals are not equipped to deal with the full range of cases in which order plays a role. Then we develop an alternative, unified account, which locates the phenomenon not in the way in which plural terms can refer, but in the meaning of special expressions such as in that order and respectively."

Summer 2014

Date Presentation Background reading(s)

Friday, August 22, 2014

3:00 -4:30 pm

Alanah McKillen, "Anaphora and Focus."

Sauerland (2013) "Presuppositions and the Alternative Tier" and Heim (2008) "Features on Bound Pronouns"

Friday, July 30, 2014

3:00 -4:30 pm

Alex Drummong, "Condition B and Dahl's paradigm".

 
Friday, June 6, 2014
10:00 - 11:30 am

Shimoyama, Drummond, Schwarz and Wagner, "Dislocation, fragments, and ellipsis"
 

Ott, Dennis and Mark de Vries (2013) Right-dislocation as deletion. Ms. Univ. of Groningen.
Friday, June 20, 2014
3:00 - 4:30 pm

Brian Buccola on Al-Khathib (2013) 'Only' and Association with Negative Antonyms. Ph. Diss. MIT (Part I)

Al-Khatib's dissertation is available here: http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/84414
 
Friday, June 27, 2014
3:00 - 4:30 pm

Brian Buccola on Al-Khathib (2013) 'Only' and Association with Negative Antonyms. Ph. Diss. MIT (Part II)

Winter 2014

Meeting Time

Fridays 3:00-4:30 pm 
Room 117, 1085 Dr. Penfield

The syntax-semantics research group meeting is an informal venue where people interested in syntax, semantics and pragmatics gather to present their work in progress, or discuss articles. Graduate students who work or wish to work in these areas are expected to participate. This is an ideal place to get feedback, so students are particularly encouraged to present articles of their interest, present various stages of their projects for term papers, evaluation papers or dissertations, or try out with practice talks for conferences. Starting this semester, we will have a series of informal tutorials on semantic topics. These mini 'crash courses' do not presuppose any background in semantics. Drop Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Brian Buccola or Alanah McKillen a line if you want to present something.

 

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Friday, February 14, 2014
3:00-4:30 pm
Meg Grant on processing subset comparatives.  
Friday, March  21, 2014
3:00-4:30 pm
David-Étienne Bouchard: "The purpose of this tutorial will be to provide a semantics to sentences containing a degree operator, in particular the comparative morpheme 'more¹. In order to do this we will introduce degrees in our semantic ontology and enrich the denotations of gradable adjectives like tall and heavy. Degree operators will be treated as quantifiers over degrees and shown to have some flexibility in scope, albeit in a limited manner. Kennedy (1999), Projecting the Adjective, chapter 1. Heim (2001). Degree Operators and Scope.
Friday, April 25, 2014
3:00-4:30 pm
David-Étienne Bouchard: Tutorial on degree semantics, part II.  

Fall 2013

Meeting Time

Fridays 3:00-4:30 pm 
Room 117, 1085 Dr. Penfield

The syntax-semantics research group meeting is an informal venue where people interested in syntax, semantics and pragmatics gather to present their work in progress, or discuss articles. Graduate students who work or wish to work in these areas are expected to participate. This is an ideal place to get feedback, so students are particularly encouraged to present articles of their interest, present various stages of their projects for term papers, evaluation papers or dissertations, or try out with practice talks for conferences. Drop Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Brian Buccola or Alanah McKillen a line if you want to present something.

 

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Friday, September 13, 2013
3:00-4:30 pm
Brian Buccola on scalar modifiers.

Elizabeth Coppock and Thomas Brochhagen, Raising and resolving issues with scalar modifiers, Semantics and Pragmatics, 6-3, pp. 1-57

Friday, September 27, 2013
3:00-4:30 pm
Dan Goodhue. "Intonation in English yes/no responses."

Krifka, Manfred. (2013) Response particles as propositional anaphors. SALT 23.

Liberman, M., and Sag, I. (1974). Prosodic form and discourse function. Proceedings of Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS), 10,

Thursday, October 3, 3:00 -4:30pm Alex Drummond and Junko Shimoyama. "QR as an agent of vehicle change."

Bhatt, Rajesh and Shoichi Takahashi. (2011) Reduced and unreduced phrasal comparatives. NLLT 29:581-620.

Thursday, October 10, 2:30 -5:00pm

2:30-3:45 Mats Rooth (Cornell University): TBA (on focus)

3.45pm Refreshments

4.00-5.15pm Dorit Abusch (Cornell University): Anaphoric relations in sequential and conflated pictures 

 

Friday, October 11, 3:00 -4:30pm Brendan Gillon on dative shift.

 

Friday, October 18, 2013
3:00-4:30 pm
Oriana Kilbourn-Cerón. "Almost: scope and covert exhaustification."

Penka, D. (2006) Almost there: the meaning of almost. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung. 

Chierchia, G., Fox, D. & Spector, B. (2011) The grammatical view of scalar implicatures and the relationship between semantics and pragmatics. In Semantics : an international handbook of natural language meaning. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

NOTICE:
11:30-1:00
Leacock 738

Rajesh Bhatt (UMass Amherst). "An Argument for Semantically Contentful Head Movement
(with Stefan Keine)"

In this presentation we develop an argument that head movement may have semantic effects and that it can hence not be a PF phenomenon.The argument is based on novel facts regarding scope in infinitival complementation structures in German. We show that every elementinside the infinitival clause must take scope over the matrix verb ifthe embedded clause is a VP that remains in situ. If, by contrast, theembedded clause is either a vP or a VP that undergoes movement, no such wide scope is possible. We propose that wide scope of embedded elements is the result of syntactic verb cluster formation: The infinitival verb incorporates into the higher verb. To obtain theobserved scope facts, we suggest that the verb cluster is semantically interpreted via Function Composition. Supplemented with standard assumptions about the interpretation of movement, this account derivesthe wide scope of material inside the embedded clause.

Friday, November 8, 2013
3:00-4:30 pm

Room 117

Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University). Tentative title: "Separating Crossover from Cataphora, Experimentally."

Bianchi, Valentina. 2010. A note on backward anaphora
Barker, Chris. 2012. Quantificational binding does not require c-commandLinguistic Inquiry 43: 614-633.
Elbourne, Paul. 2005. Situations and individuals, MIT Press. 
Schlenker, Philippe. 2005. Non-redundancy: Towards a semantic reinterpretation of binding theory. Natural Language Semantics 13:1-92. 

Friday, November 29, 2013
3:00-4:30 pm
Eliot Michaelson (Philosophy. McGill), "Against Salientism". Abstract: Both philosophers of language and linguists commonly appeal to salience in order to fix the meanings of context-sensitive terms in context.  By considering the particular case of demonstratives, I will argue that the claim that salience fixes meaning in context is either trivial and uninformative, or else it is false.  To show this, it will prove necessary to distinguish between four different types of salience: objective, speaker-oriented, listener-oriented, and coordinative.  Objective salience, I argue, is in fact conceptually incoherent.  The other three notions, on the other hand, make bad predictions in a number of cases.  On this basis, I suggest that salience-based theories ought to be dispreferred to the alternative hypothesis ---that speakers' intentions are in fact responsible for fixing meaning in context.

Cancelled

Friday, December 6, 2013 3:00-4:30 pm

Marzieh Mortazavinia on even Crnic, Luka. 2011. Getting even. Ph.D. Dissertation, MIT. (focus on chapter 6)
Rullmann, H. 1997. Even, polarity, and scope. Papers in experimental and theoretical linguistics 4. 40–64.

Friday, December 6, 2013 2:30-4:30 pm

Practice talks for the 19th Amsterdam Colloquium (Alexandra Simonenko, Dan Goodhue, Bernhard Schwarz, Luis Alonso-Ovalle.)