Semantics U-name-it at Rutgers
Welcome to SURGE! SURGE is our semantics reading group.
What do we usually do?
- attend talks given by invited speakers
- practice presentations if you need to present in a conference or somewhere
- present your work, discuss with other semanticists and get feedbacks
Tatevik Yolyan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ziling Zhu (email@example.com)
Meetings for Fall 2021: TBA
We welcome any requests for practice talks or invited speaker nominations!
Organizers: Ang & Ziling
February 19th, 2021: 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Talk: Angelika Kiss (University of Toronto).
Abstract: According to a prevalent view, rhetorical questions are defined as questions to which the answer is already known or even obvious (Caponigro & Sprouse 2007, a.o.). On this view, rhetorical questions are resolved by contextual knowledge, namely by information present in the common ground, hence they are a pragmatic phenomenon. A rhetorical question like “Who likes salty licorice?” will convey that ‘nobody likes salty licorice’ if it is already common ground that nobody does, and it will convey that ‘John and Mary like salty licorice’ if it is common ground that they do. I argue against this view. The two kinds of rhetorical questions, the ones that suggest an empty set answer (i.e., that nobody likes salty licorice) and the ones that suggest a non-empty answer (that John and Mary like salty licorice), are not equally informative. I propose an inquisitive semantic analysis building on Farkas & Roelofsen’s (2017) model, in which empty-set rhetorical questions are more informative and less inquisitive than the ones that suggest a non-empty answer set. This proposal receives support from recent experiments on the prosody of the two types of rhetorical questions in Mandarin and Cantonese, since both languages show a distinction between them. I conclude that it is not the case that rhetorical questions are interpreted pragmatically alone; their intended meaning is encoded by their form, that is, by their prosodic contour, although to a different extent in both cases.
(For meeting recordings, please contact SURGE organizers.)
March 23rd, 2021 (Tuesday!): 12:00 – 1:00 PM
Talk: Sreekar (Rutgers), Livia (Rutgers PhD), practice talk for FASAL.
Title: Anaphors and Distributed Reduplication.
Abstract:In an influential paper, Balusu (2006) proposes an analysis for reduplicated numerals in Telugu that can be extended to many other South Asian languages. Here, we extend Balusu (2006)’s insight into distributive reduplication to the domain of anaphors in Telugu. We start by observing that Telugu reciprocals and reflexives are reduplicated, much like those of Malayalam, as noted by Balusu & Jayaseelan (2013). We then provide a unified analysis of both phenomena and suggest that much like distributed numerals, reciprocals and reflexives display distributivity by virtue of them being reduplicated. The end result is a step towards a unified analysis of reduplication in the nominal domain in Telugu.
April 2nd, 2021: 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Talk: Iara Mantenuto (California State University Dominguez Hills).
(Joint work with Margit Bowler (University of Manchester) & Octavio León Vázquez (CIESAS).)
Abstract: Conjoined comparatives have traditionally been described as involving two conjoined clauses to associate the target of comparison and the standard of comparison (Stassen 1985), in which the positive form of predicates surface (Kennedy 1999, 2011). During this talk, we provide evidence from San Sebastián del Monte Mixtec (ISO: mks), which forces us to expand our definition of conjoined comparatives to include conjoined comparatives with degrees (Davis & Mellesmoen 2019, Mantenuto 2020). As a result, while we agree with the syntactic, conjoined nature of these comparatives, we argue that the presence of degree morphology requires a reanalysis of the semantics of conjoined comparatives and an expansion of the typology of comparatives more widely.
April 23rd, 2021: 11:30 am – 12:00 pm
Talk: Ang (Rutgers), practice talk for SALT.
Title: Anaphora in comparison: comparing alternatives.
Abstract: This talk investigates the semantics of comparatives without an overt standard phrase (henceforth “anaphoric semantics”). The empirical puzzle, building on the observation in Hardt and Mikkelsen (2015), is the following: sensitivity to the clausal content is observed on certain anaphoric comparatives (e.g. English “same” and “more”/”less” in amount comparatives ), but not on others (e.g. “more”/”different” in “a more interesting”/”different book”). A novel semantics of the comparative is built to explain these data: comparatives always compare two alternatives from the same domain; sensitivity to the clausal level context is (only) observed when the alternatives are construed on the sentential level, in which case they are introduced by Focus; when a comparative can take scope inside a non-definite noun phrase, the alternatives are construed from the existential quantification and the comparison thus shows no sensitivity to the clausal content. Since in this theory the comparative can no longer take the standard phrase as a semantic argument, its impact on comparative semantics needs to be explained. I propose that the standard phrase is syntactically a coordinate and semantically associated with the matrix comparative clause through anaphora.
April 30th, 2021: 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Talk: Yu Cao (Rutgers University).
Abstract: Proper representation of semantics lies at the heart of every discipline that cares about meaning. This talk is an invitation to exploring how graph-based representation formalisms emerging in computational works can be of value to theoretical/empirical research. We will go over the motivation for taking this less trodden (or so it seems) path, consider the graph representation of some essential aspects of natural language semantics, and see how such representations can be constructed at a syntax-semantics interface.
Organizers: Ang & Ziling
October 2nd, 2020: 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Talk: Dorothy Ahn (Rutgers).
Abstract: Expressions such as pronouns, definite descriptions, and demonstratives are interchangeable to some degree when it comes to referring to an entity that is salient and familiar in the discourse. However, these expressions are often discussed as separate semantic elements in the literature. In this talk, I propose a unified semantic account of these anaphoric expressions, where they share the same underlying semantic structure and only differ in the amount of restrictions that they carry. I discuss theoretical and empirical motivations for such an account in both spoken and signed languages. For spoken languages, I show that the analysis allows for a unified account of a number of independently observed phenomena across languages. For signed languages, I show that it greatly simplifies the semantic analysis of pointing that is used for referent tracking.
October 27th (Tuesday!), 2020: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Talk: Patrick Elliott (MIT).
Abstract: In this talk, I develop an update semantics with the resources for dealing with anaphora, negation, epistemic modality, and their interactions. The theory is directly inspired by, and can be thought of as a natural successor to Groenendijk, Stokhof, and Veltman’s (1996) influential theory, but improves upon it in a number of respects: I argue that negation is classical, as in update semantics (Veltman 1996), and consequently that double negation elimination is valid. more ambitiously, the theory marries Veltman’s (1996) test semantics for epistemic modals with an anaphoric treatment of modal subordination by enriching the ontology of discourse referents to include anaphora to a state (i.e., a proposition-assignment pair). novel empirical evidence is presented in the form of examples which i dub possible bathroom sentences, such as “Maybe there is no bathroom, and maybe it’s upstairs”, which, due to the properties of negation in the fragment, and the treatment of modal subordination, fall out naturally.
November 13th, 2020: 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Talk: Morwenna Hoeks (UCSC).
Abstract: In this talk I will look into the relationship between different types of alternatives. Because disjunctive questions involve disjunctive alternatives, question alternatives, and, as I argue, also involve focus alternatives, they form a fertile testing ground for learning more about the division of labor between these. I will argue that the interpretation of these questions crucially come from effects of focus marking, not from the inherent alternatives often assumed for disjunction. To show how this works out, an account of focus and contrastive topic marking in questions is put forward in which f-marking in questions determines what constitutes a possible answer by signaling what the speaker’s QUD looks like. By imposing a congruence condition between f-marked questions and their answers that requires answers to resolve the question itself as well as its signaled QUD, we predict the right answerhood conditions for disjunctive questions.
December 4th, 2020: 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Talk: Paloma Jeretič (NYU).
Title: Scalelessness in grammar.
Abstract: In this talk, I bring together studies from the literature and my own to develop a typology of scaleless quantificational items, and their associated implicatures. This typology — that builds on data from Ecuadorian Siona, Walpiri, Nez Perce, French, Spanish and English — reveals that scalelessness is either an obligatory side effect of the absence of a scalemate in the lexicon, or an arbitrary lexically-specified property. In addition, I argue that implicature can, but need not, be grammaticalized. While the presence/absence of grammaticalization is rather difficult to distinguish for scalar implicatures, it leaves a clear pattern in the case of scaleless implicatures. This work thus offers a new perspective on theories of scalar implicature, that are divided on whether or not implicature should be grammaticalized. It also uncovers new empirical ground on which to test these theories.
Organizers: Ang & Wenyue
January 24th, 2020: 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Talk: Wenyue Hua (Rutgers University). Free Choice Reading of Generic Sentences with Events.
September 6th, 2019: 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Talk: Morgan (Rutgers University). Resolving (non-)exhaustivity in questions with cues to the speaker’s goal.
September 20th, 2019: 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Talk: Augustina (Rutgers University). Anaphoricity Marking in Akan.
October 18th, 2019: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Talk: Natasha (Rutgers University). The Syntax and Semantics of “have gotten”.
October 25th, 2019: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Talk: Peter Alrenga (Rutgers University). On the modal variation inferences of superlative modifiers: Scalar operators and their quantificational subdomains.
Nov 1th, 2019: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Talk: Meg & Kristen (Rutgers University). Investigating the Hypothesis Space for Children’s Interpretations of Comparatives.
Nov 8th, 2019: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Talk: Dr. Masha Esipova (Princeton University). Emotion and Composition.
Nov 19th, 2019: 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Talk: Prof. Floris Roelofsen (Institute of Logic, Language and Information, University of Amsterdam). Interacting alternatives: referential indeterminacy and questions.
Dec 6th, 2019: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Talk: Lydia Newkirk (Rutgers University). Focused investigation of Modality in African Languages.
Dec 12th, 2019: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Talk: Julian Grove (Chicago University). Satisfaction without provisos.
Feb. 8, 2019
Lydia Newkirk: The subjunctive in Italian adjuncts (and elsewhere)
Feb. 22, 2019
Mar. 1, 2019
Portner (1998): The progressive in modal semantics
Mar. 29, 2019
MACSIM Practice talks
Apr. 12, 2019
Apr. 19, 2019
Apr. 26, 2019
May 3, 2019
Chaoyi Chen, Akane Ohtaka