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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



Ang Li (

Ziling Zhu (


Meetings for this semester:

February 19th, 2021: 1:00 – 2:30 pm

Talk: Angelika Kiss (University of Toronto).

Title: Do rhetorical questions belong to the pragmatic wastebin?

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).

Title: “Mixed” conjoined comparatives in a degreeful language: San Sebastián del Monte Mixtec.

(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: 1:00 – 2:00 pm

Talk: Ang (Rutgers), practice talk for SALT.

Title: TBA.

Abstract: TBA.


April 30th, 2021: 1:00 – 2:30 pm

Talk: Yu Cao (Rutgers University).

Title: TBA.

Abstract: TBA.