This paper argues that a variety of constructions in a variety of languages suggest a deep connection between kinds, manners, and degrees. We articulate a way of thinking about degrees on which this connection is less surprising, rooted in the idea that degrees are kinds of Davidsonian states. This enables us to provide a cross-categorial compositional semantics for a class of expressions that can serve as anaphors to kinds, manners, and degrees, or introduce clauses that further characterize them. A consequence of this is that equatives emerge as a special case of a more general cross-categorial phenomenon. The analysis is undergirded by independently motivated assumptions about free relatives and type shifting. It provides evidence for a view of degrees on which they are significantly more ontologically complex than is typically thought.
Pre-publication version here.
An ERP study investigated the processing of mass nouns used to convey ‘portions’ vs. ‘sorts’ interpretations in Icelandic. The sorts interpretation requires semantic Coercion to a count noun; the portions interpretation entails extra syntactic processing. Compared to a Neutral condition, Coercion escaped the expected penalty (N400), but the Extra Syntax condition incurred the anticipated costs (anterior negativity followed by P600). Furthermore, we examined the effects of having to revise an initial commitment to head-noun status. When another noun follows the mass noun (creating a compound), the second noun becomes the head-noun. We hypothesized, for Icelandic, there would be no effect for Extra Syntax because the compound should have been built before the second noun was encountered; by contrast, for the Coercion and Neutral conditions, processing costs would be incurred to detect and reconfigure the second noun as the head. These predictions were largely borne out (early and sustained anterior negativities).
The semantics of adjectives related to nominals denoting societal roles, such as presidential (from president), have remained understudied. We examine the semantics of what we call role-denoting relational adjectives, providing a formal analysis using the notion of a frame, a unified representation for lexical knowledge, world knowledge, and context. The frames we propose are based on a constructivist philosophical understanding of social roles, leading us to posit a multi-tiered ontology of events and individuals. Using frames and our ontology, we provide a general semantics for role-denoting relational adjectives and roles.
Although exclamative sentences have garnered much attention over the years, most work has focused on understanding what have been called wh-exclamatives and nominal exclamatives, to the exclusion of other types of exclamative constructions. I focus on what I call some-exclamatives, clausal exclamatives where the predicate uses the determiner some. I provide an analysis of these exclamatives, showing how their existence is motivated by independent properties of exclamative constructions and some.
Previous work on the acquisition of lexical aspect has shown that children often have difficulties in calculating telicity and completion entailments in truth value judgement tasks (van Hout, 1998; Ogiela, 2007), but that children are cued in to additional syntactic and semantic structure, such as numerals and particles, and use them to determine whether a predicate is telic. However, pragmatic factors in children’s understanding of telicity have not been well-studied. In this paper, I examine one such type of pragmatic factor, the prior discourse context, and show that children but not adults are sensitive to this in their calculation of telicity. This is done by explicitly manipulating the order of presentation of stimuli in the experiment, in a similar fashion to Syrett et al. (2010). The experiment also shows that children treat predicates which strongly require maximal completion of an event no different than predicates which do not require maximal completion. This contrasts with adults, who show two separate classes of verbs, based on empirical and theoretical data.
In this paper I investigate a use of the English determiner some with numerals, as in twenty-some. This kind of construction has an approximative interpretation, where it is interpreted as denoting a number within a range. Some cannot modify all numerals, with constraints that depend on the syntactic structure of the numeral. I draw parallels between this construction and epistemic indefinites, and provide an analysis based on existing analyses of Spanish algún.
This squib concentrates on two cases of some used with a numeral, as in some twenty people and thirty some people, what I call the pre-numeral and post-numeral somes. I argue that the post-numeral construction is sensitive to the syntactic structure of numerals, while the pre-numeral construction is not. Both constructions involve selecting from among a set of numerical alternatives, but these alternatives differ in their source; in the pre-numeral case, the alternatives represent Lasersohnian pragmatic halo, but in the post-numeral case, they are conditioned by the syntax of the numeral through merger of a covert wh-word.
In this paper I provide a formal analysis of the English hedge sorta, concentrating on its use with verb phrases. I bring to light new data showing how sorta can hedge the direct object of creation verbs and some intensional verbs without combining with the direct object directly, and that the ability to hedge a direct object from a distance is conditioned by verb type and the type of determiner with the direct object. I build an analysis using Morzycki (2011)'s alternative semantics implementation of the pragmatic halos of Lasersohn (1999).
In this paper I provide an analysis of the English hedges sorta and kinda, which show a cross-categorial distribution and can induce gradability with non- gradable predicates. I analyze sorta and kinda as degree words and provide a formal analysis of their behavior. With gradable predicates, these behavior similar to other degree words such as very, but with non-gradable predicates, a mismatch of logical type forces the predicate to typeshift to a gradable type, making available a degree argument that represents imprecision. The analysis is developed using Morzycki’s (2011) implementation of Lasersohnian pragmatic halos (Lasersohn 1999), and presents a case study in how gradability may be coerced from non-gradable expressions.
Papers supercede their presentations, but if you are interested in the presented version, please contact me.