Hi, I'm Curt Anderson. I'm currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Toronto Scarborough in the Department of Language Studies. From 2016 to 2020, I was a postdoctoral researcher with German Science Foundation (DFG) Collaborative Research Center 991 at Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf.
Broadly speaking, my research focuses on the representation of linguistic meaning and its interfaces with syntax, the lexicon, and conceptual structure. Much of my work is focused on the semantics of modifiers. Currently, I'm involved in work examining interactions between the lexical semantics of adjectives and the nouns they modify. Other recent work of mine on attributive adjectives has focused on the representation of relational adjectives, how they differ from property adjectives, and how some relational adjectives have meanings that are related to roles. I'm also interested in the ontology of degrees and constructions involving numerals.
I completed my PhD in Linguistics at Michigan State University in May 2016. In my dissertation I examined intensification and attenuation in English through the lens of exclamatives, approximation, and slack regulation.
- 2020. Indeterminate numerals and their alternatives. In Peter Hallman (ed.), Interactions of Degree and Quantification. Brill. (Draft version here.)
This paper examines the use of English some with numerals, as in twenty-some(thing), drawing parallels to some’s use as an epistemic indefinite. In its regular use as an epistemic indefinite, some signals uncertainty regarding the precise referent who satisfies a description. When modifying numerals, some has an identical flavor, in that it fails to commit the speaker to knowledge of the particular number that satisfies the descriptive claim in the sentence. I show that numerals modified by some in this way have both a lower-bounded interpretation (i.e., twenty-some is interpreted as at least twenty-one) and also an upper-bounded interpretation (no more than twenty-nine). Additionally, some cannot modify all numerals, which I argue is due to the syntax of numerals. The analysis is couched in a semantic framework where alternatives are represented semantically.
- 2019. Specification of methods and the semantics of method-oriented adverbs. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 2019.
Method-oriented adverbs have received comparatively little attention in the semantic literature on adverbs. I shed light on their semantics. These adverbs relate an event from the lexical semantics of their underlying adjective to the matrix event, and do so in a way similar to that of instruments. I use independently motivated event structure decompositions to model the interaction of adverb and verb. This study broadens our understanding of the semantics of adverbs, and how adverbial modifiers interact with the event structure of the verbs they modify.
- 2018. Roles and the compositional semantics of role-denoting relational adjectives. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22 (ZASPiL 60). (with Sebastian Löbner.)
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.
- 2018. Kinds, epistemic indefinites, and some-exclamatives. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21.
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.
- 2017. Contextual factors in children's computation of telicity. Proceedings of BUCLD 41.
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.
- 2015. Numerical approximation using some. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 19.
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.
- 2015. Degrees as kinds. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. (with Marcin Morzycki.) (Pre-publication version here.)
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.
- 2014. Approximation of complex numerals using some. Proceedings of the Western Conference on Linguistics 2013.
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.
- 2014. Portions and sorts in Icelandic: an ERP study. Brain and Language. (with Matthew Whelpton, Drew Trotter, Þórhalla Guðmundsdóttir Beck, Joan Maling, Karthik Durvasula, and Alan Beretta.)
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).
- 2013. Hedging verbs and nouns using an alternative semantics. Proceedings of ConSOLE XXI.
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).
- 2013. Inherent and coerced gradability across categories: manipulating pragmatic halos with sorta. Proceedings of SALT 23.
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.
Conference Presentations and Posters
Papers supercede their presentations, but if you are interested in the presented version, please contact me.
- 2021. Perceivable properties and inference to mental states. Poster presented at the Canadian Linguistic Association Annual Conference. [poster]
- 2021. What is manner modification? Theoretical and Experimental Approaches to Modification. Tübingen. (With Willi Geuder.) [slides]
- 2020. Precisifying and non-precisifying uses of adnominal very. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting 2020. New Orleans. [slides]
- 2019. Enriched meanings and pseudo-incorporated bare singular count nouns in English. Event Semantics Workshop 2019. Berlin. [slides]
- 2019. Thematic role features and predicate-modifier asymmetries. Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 11. Warsaw. [slides]
- 2019. Predicate-modifier asymmetries and the syntax-semantics interface. TbiLLC 2019. Batumi, Georgia. [slides]
- 2019. Predicate-modifier asymmetries and the syntax-semantics interface. RTANJ Linguistics 3. Rtanj, Serbia. [slides available upon request]
- 2019. Enriched meanings and pseudo-incorporated bare singular count nouns in English. Modification of Complex Predicates Workshop. Düsseldorf.
- 2019. Intonation and evaluation with some-exclamatives. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting. New York City. (with Kurt Erbach and Ruben van de Vijver.) [poster]
- 2019. Specification of methods and the semantics of method-oriented adverbs. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting. New York City.
- 2018. Specification of methods and the semantics of method-oriented adverbs. Event Semantics Workshop 2018. Heidelberg.
- 2018. The role of context in disambiguating -er nominalizations. Cognitive Structures 2018 (CoSt18). Düsseldorf. (with Marios Andreou.) [slides]
- 2018. Automatic clustering and the lexical semantics of cooking adjectives. Cognitive Structures 2018 (CoSt18). Düsseldorf. (with Oliver Hellwig and Wiebke Petersen.) [slides]
- 2018. Of old couples and important committees: modification and group member accessibility. 26th European Society for Philosophy and Psychology Conference. Rijeka, Croatia. [slides]
- 2018. Of old couples and important committees: accessing members of groups using modifiers. Bridging Conceptual Semantics and Formal Semantics Workshop (BRIDGE-18). Sofia, Bulgaria. [pre-proceedings paper] [slides]
- 2018. Intonation and evaluative bias in some-exclamatives. 19th Szklarska Poręba Workshop. Szklarska Poręba, Poland. (with Kurt Erbach and Ruben van de Vijver.) [slides]
- 2017. Roles and the compositional semantics of role-denoting relational adjectives. TbiLLC 2017. Lagodekhi, Georgia. (with Sebastian Löbner.)
- 2017. Roles and the compositional semantics of role-denoting relational adjectives. Sinn und Bedeutung 22. Potsdam/Berlin. (with Sebastian Löbner.)
- 2017. The lexical semantics of role-denoting relational adjectives. TABU Dag 38. Groningen.
- 2016. Modification of verbs and deverbal nouns. Event Semantics 2016 Workshop. Düsseldorf. (with Katja Gabrovska.)
- 2016. Contextual factors in children’s computation of telicity. Boston University Conference on Language Development 41. Boston.
- 2016. Kinds, epistemic indefinites, and some-exclamatives. Sinn und Bedeutung 21. Edinburgh, Scotland.
- 2016. An alternatives based account of some-exclamatives. Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting. Washington, DC.
- 2015. "That was some talk!": An account of some-exclamatives. Semantics Workshop of the American Midwest and Prairies. Ann Arbor, MI.
- 2014. Approximation and the epistemic indefinite some. Sinn und Bedeutung 19. Göttingen, Germany.
- 2013. Approximation of complex numerals using some. Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL) 2013. Tempe, AZ.
- 2013. ERP responses to portioning and sorting in Icelandic: contrasting coercion with silent syntax. Meeting for the Society for the Neurobiology of Language. San Diego, CA. (with Drew Trotter, Matthew Whelpton, Þórhalla Guðmundsdóttir Beck, Joan Maling, and Alan Beretta.)
- 2013. Gradability and imprecision across categories. Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 23. Santa Cruz, CA.
- 2013. Verbal gradability and degree arguments in verbs. Penn Linguistics Colloquium (PLC) 37. Philadelphia, PA.
- 2013. A Hamblin semantics for sorta. ConSOLE XXI. Potsdam, Germany.
- 2012. Dimensions of comparison determine telicity in verbal comparatives. PHLINC 1. College Park, MD.
- 2010. Manner modification and like that. Semantics Workshop of the American Midwest and Prairies. Ann Arbor, MI.
- 2016. Intensification and attenuation across categories. Michigan State University PhD thesis.
- 2018. Of old couples and important committees: accessing members of groups using modifiers. Bridging Formal and Conceptual Semantics 2018 (BRIDGE-18) workshop pre-proceedings.
Currently (Winter 2022), I am teaching LINB04 Phonology I and LINB29 Quantitative Methods in Linguistics at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
In the past I've also taught, at various space-time locations:
- LIN 200 Introduction to Language (Michigan State University)
- LIN 401 Introduction to Linguistics (Michigan State University)
- LIN 437 Semantics and Pragmatics (Michigan State University)
- Semantics of Modification (with Katja Gabrovska; Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
- Introduction to the Theory of the Lexicon (with Jens Fleischhauer; Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
- Introduction to Degree Semantics (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
- LINB04 Phonology I (University of Toronto Scarborough)
- LINB06 Syntax I (University of Toronto Scarborough)
- LINB29 Quantitative Methods in Linguistics (University of Toronto Scarborough)
- LIND29 Linguistic Research Methodologies (University of Toronto Scarborough)