- October 14, 2008: Bert le Bruyn (Utrecht)
In this presentation I look at the semantics of determiners that have been claimed to function as
plural indefinite articles (French 'des', Spanish 'unos'). I give a formal foundation of their article-hood and an
account of their cross-linguistic variation. The bulk of this variation will be derived from more general differences
between languages and in particular language-specific constraints on bare plurals. I hope to shed new light on what
articles are and how we can distinguish between (i) bare plurals,
(ii) DPs introduced by indefinite articles and (iii) DPs introduced by other plural indefinite determiners.
- November 4, 2008 (in E1.14): Josefien Sweep (Amsterdam) - Metonymical Object Changes
Some verbs can be combined with several kinds of
direct objects without a real change in meaning. Illustrative
examples are 'The waitress cleared the dishes' versus 'The waitress
cleared the table', 'The boy packed his stuff' versus 'The boy
packed his suitcase' or 'The musician played the song' versus 'The
musician played the guitar'. A special instance of this phenomenon
is so-called logical metonymy, which can be found in verbs that
conceptually need an event as a complement, but syntactically also
appear with a non-eventive NP, e.g. 'The author began writing'
versus 'The author began the book' (Pustejovsky 1991).
In Dutch and German dictionaries combinatorial information as shown
in the above examples is labelled 'metonymisch' (Adelung) or
'objectsverwisseling' and 'Objektsvertauschung' (object change)
respectively (WNT, Grimm). Since this ‘object change’ is
defined as a kind of metonymy (cf. VanDale 14), I will use the term
Metonymical Object Change to cover all these kinds of verb-object
In this talk I will discuss various examples of Metonymical Object
Change in Dutch and German. I will explain how metonymy underlies
these shifts and demonstrate that all these metonymical shifts,
eventive as well as non-eventive ones, work in a similar way.
- December 2, 2008: Chung-chieh Shan (Rutgers, visiting Aarhus) Grammaticalizing mixed quotations
Compared to the acceptable use of mixed quotation in (1), the
sentences (2) and (3) seem bad in two different ways.
(1) Bush is proud of his "eckullectic" reading list.
(2) Bush is proud of his "misunderestimate" reading list.
(3) Bush met the king of France.
I use a modal interface between syntax and semantics to model
how the presupposition failure in (3) might be enshrined as
ungrammaticality in (2).
- December 9, 2008: Jaap van der Does On Wittgenstein's Tractatus and its system
According to Wittgenstein the Tractatus is an
ethical deed. As such the seventy-page booklet has remained unique
and highly original. Large parts of the text present a
logico-semantic system, but with the intention of showing -- in a
near paradoxical way -- that meaning is within the unique logical
space where worlds are realized and disappear, but within which
ethics is absent. Ethics is found in a unification with logical
space that allows one, unhampered by irrelevant linguistic
constructs, to act just in silence.
The Tractatus is written for kindred spirits; others read it as
rather a draft outline of an argument. Although the extreme brevity
of the book is part of its beauty, it also conceals some of its
gems. In this talk I will sketch the philosophical argument of the
book, as I see it, and will highlight the more formal aspects of the
tractarian system that Wittgenstein has passed over in silence. The
formalities all centre around his view on propositions as logical
pictures (models). My talk should make clear where and how the
tractarian system differs from the now current approach to logic and
semantics, which is more in line with the work of Frege.
- December 16, 2008: Jaap Maat (Amsterdam) Logical Form in the Seventeenth Century
In this talk, I sketch the prominent role played by a concept of logical form in 17th-century
theories of language. The concept is central to grammars written in the period (Vossius, Port Royal grammar),
to the construction of artificial languages (Dalgarno, Wilkins), and to the use of (Aristotelian)
logic in the semantics of natural language (Wallis, Jungius, Leibniz).
- February 3, 2009: Jennifer Spenader (Groningen) Contrast in Discourse
Consider the structure of this sentence:
"The Chinese are often credited with inventing the earliest predecessor of modern ice cream, but frozen desserts were enjoyed in ancient times by other civilizations as well."
The first clause suggests that Chinese civilization was the primary inventor of ice cream like desserts, while the second clause contradicts this by adding that other ancient societies had similar treats.
Contrast relations, like are one of the most frequent rhetorical relations in text, but we know very little about them. For example, (1) what inference steps are used in interpreting contrast?
(2) What internal semantic structure helps create the contrastive meaning? (3) What (if any) different types of contrast exist and how are these signaled in text? (4) What is the function of the established contrast relations in discourse?
In this talk I'll present interim results from my NWO funded project "The Contribution of Contrast in Context", giving a tentative answer to each of these questions, and motivate the need for more empirically based research on Contrast, and other discourse relations.
- February 17, 2009: Paul Dekker (Amsterdam) Herakleitos' Logos
Dit praatje beoogt de overgeleverde fragmenten van de Ephesiër Herakleitos met hedendaagse logische
bevinding te lezen. Het voornaamste inzicht is dat er een bepaalde 'logos' is (de eenheid der tegendelen)
die alles vormt of leidt: het zijn, ons doen, en ons denken. Dit blijkt een algemene logische vorm te zijn
zoals ten grondslag ligt aan het logisch-filosofische plan dat is uitgezet in de Abhandlung van Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Volgens Diogenes Laertius zou Socrates tegen Euripides over Herakleitos' werk hebben gezegd:
"Wat ik heb begrepen is voortreffelijk; zo ook, wellicht, wat ik niet heb begrepen; daarvoor is een Delische duiker nodig."
Over de Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung zei Wittgenstein zelf: "Dieses Buch wird vielleicht nur der verstehen, der die Gedanken, die darin ausgedrückt sind (...) schon selbst einmal gedacht hat." Wellicht Herakleitos, meen ik. De logische uitwerking van Herakleitos' gedachtengoed moge van recente datum zijn, en de inschatting ervan anders dan die van Wittgenstein, de heldere ziel blijkt eender, althans, dat hoop ik met dit praatje aannemelijk te maken.
- March 3, 2009: Ton van der Wouden (Leiden) Zinsfinale bijwoorden in het Nederlands, met speciale aandacht voor partikels
Nederlands is een SOV-taal, maar na de werkwoordelijke eindgroep kunnen gemakkelijk bijzinnen en voorzetselgroepen voorkomen. Minder bekend is dat we ook weleens bijwoorden aan het eind van een zin vinden:
En dan ga je juist niet klikken waarschijnlijk.
Er is geen verschil van mening integendeel.
Er was in de wijde omgeving geen kerel te vinden overigens.
Ik ook niet want ik heb nog niks gedaan bijna.
Ik zou weleens willen weten waar dat woord staat trouwens.
Kok is dat debat begonnen gisteren.
Uit deze (CGN-)voorbeelden is al duidelijk dat het om verschillende soorten
bijwoorden moet gaan. In mijn lezing zal ik proberen wat orde in de chaos te
scheppen, waarbij ik zal trachten aan te sluiten bij eerder werk over
- March 17, 2009: Julie Hunter (Austin) Sense uncertainty
My talk concerns the semantics of `now' and `here' in English.
I will start by considering examples of these expressions that suggest that they are not
indexicals, in the sense that the times or locations relevant for their interpretation
need neither contain, nor be identical to, the time or location of the context of
utterance. I will consider two related proposals for the semantics of `now'---one by
Recanati and one by Kamp and Reyle---that suggest that what matters for the semantics of `now' is not the utterance time but a temporal perspective point. While both accounts have something valuable to offer to a semantic account of `now', neither one succeeds in predicting the behavior of `now' in English. I will offer some observations and hypotheses that will hopefully take us closer to understanding the semantics of `now' and to answering the question of whether or not it is an indexical. I will finish by extending this discussion to problematic examples involving `here'.
- April 21, 2009: Jakub Dotlacil (Utrecht) "Different", "same" and their interaction with distributivity
The adjectives "same" and "different" can give rise to two readings shown in (1).
(1) Each boy likes a different girl.
a. deictic reading: there is some contextually salient girl and each boy likes a girl different
from that one
b. internal reading: each boy likes a girl different from the girls that the other boys like.
In my talk I discuss experimental data which study the licensors of the internal reading of "ander", "verschillend" (corresponding ot English "different"), and "hetzelfde" (corresponding to English "same"). Interestingly, the licensors of the internal reading for these expressions differ significantly. For example, while a universal distributive quantifier can license the internal reading of "ander" in (2a), the plural definite cannot (2b). On the other hand, the plural definite and the universal distributive quantifier can license the internal reading of "hetzelfde".
(2a) Iedere jongen heeft een ander boek gelezen.
every boy has a different book read
Every boy read a different book.
(2b) De jongens hebben een ander boek gelezen.
The boys have a different book read
The boys read a different book.
Using the results of a questionnaire that I conducted with Oystein Nilsen, I show that the full generalization is the following: the internal reading of "ander" is licensed by the plural arguments that license distributive readings, the internal reading of "verschillend" is licensed by the plural arguments that do not license distributive readings, and the internal reading of "same" is licensed by both types of plural arguments. I show that this is problematic for recent analyses of "same" and "different", namely, Barker's account (Barker, 2007), and Brasoveanu's account (Brasoveanu, 2008), and offer a novel analysis.
- May 12, 2009: Mai Gehrke (Nijmegen) Relational semantics for substructural logic
Both substructural logic and modal logic have been applied in linguistics. I will give a basic introduction of these logics and their relational or Kripke semantics, and an even more basic idea of their relevance in linguistics. Kripke semantics provide a very powerful tool for modal logics, and generalizing this to the substructural setting is a currently active mathematical problem. As time permits, I will talk about ongoing work with Anna Chernilovskaya on relational semantics for an axiomatic extension of the Lambek-Grishin calculus as studied by Michael Moortgat.
- May 19, 2009 (E2.08): Giorgios Spathas (Utrecht) On the domain of focus and the semantics of pronouns
Sauerland (1999, 2001, 2004) argues on the basis of examples like (1) that bound variable pronouns are bound definite descriptions. Given recent theories of focus licensing (e.g. Schwarzschild 1999) the pronoun in the second clause can only be focused if it contrasts with some antecedent pronoun, i.e. if it differs in meaning from the pronoun in the first clause. If bound pronouns are definite descriptions, this is indeed so, since the teacher differs in meaning from the boy.
(1) Every boy called his mother. Every TEACHER, on the other hand, called HIS mother.
In her response to Sauerland, Jacobson (2000) gives a variable-free account of (1). Both pronouns denote the identity function, but focus is licensed because the two functions have different domains; the set of boys for the first pronoun and the set of teachers for the second. Both Sauerland’s and Jacobson’s accounts are based on the empirical generalization in (2).
(2) Bound pronouns contrast iff the domains of quantification of their binders contrast.
In this talk I show that the distribution of focus on bound pronouns is more restricted than what (2) predicts; contrasting binders do not always license focus on a bound pronoun. It turns out that the availability of focus on a bound pronoun is closely linked to the choice of pressuposition domain. I discuss some consequences of this observation for the semantics of (bound) pronouns.