03 February 2013

ICESL Workshop

Joe Pater writes:

Mark your calendars for the 3rd Annual ICESL Workshop, Friday April 26th, 3:30 - 6:30. Our speakers will be Lyn Frazier of Linguistics (presenting collaborative work with Chuck Clifton and Brian Dillon) and Gwyneth Rost of Communication Disorders. We'll have a poster session too, which is a great way to get conversations about our research going, so get postering ("old" posters welcome too, of course!).

Ezra Keshet gives a guest lecture in LING 752

Ezra Keshet will give a guest presentation in the Topics in Syntax seminar on Thursday. The talk will begin at 4:00 PM and will be in Machmer W-27 (not the room the seminar is normally scheduled for).

Title: Answering Questions about Coherence and Anaphora"


As I will argue in my general-audience talk (and preview here), discourse coherence relations between sentences can constrain pronoun referents in a way suitable to generate sloppy readings in ellipsis contexts. For instance, sentence (1d), which stands in a RESULT relation to (1c), most easily means that people didn’t vote for Nixon:

 (1)  a. Kennedy looked good on TV.         b. People voted for him.

        c. Nixon looked bad on TV.                 d. People didn’t.

In this talk, I claim that coherence relations are a type of projective meaning (see Tonhauser et al. 2013) that determines a hidden Question Under Discussion (QUD) as defined by Roberts (2012). For instance, (1b) is understood as a response to the (hidden) QUD What resulted from Kennedy looking good on TV? while (1d) is the response to QUD What resulted from Nixon looking bad on TV? (See Kehler 2009) for a previous suggestion along these lines.)

Pronouns in the answers to questions are often quite constrained in their interpretations:

(2) Q: Who does Bill like?  A: He likes Mary. [He must refer to Bill]

I argue that these constraints on pronouns follow from a very small modification to theories of Focus/Givenness such as Rooth (1992) and Schwarzschild (1999). Under Rooth’s system, for instance, a ~ (‘squiggle’) operator effectively ensures that the answer in (2) appears in the Hamblin (1973) denotation of the question. The ~ operator, I argue, can alter the local assignment function to achieve its purpose, setting the referents of pronouns such as he in (2) to properly fit them into the question denotation. With this machinery in place, the pronoun him in (1b) can receive a locally-derived meaning (Kennedy) via the ~ operator but this meaning can have a different extension (Nixon) when picked up by the ellipsis site in (1d).

Next, I extend this analysis to embedded coherence relations, especially in quantified sentences containing a donkey pronoun, such as (3). The “consequent” clause he cries in (3) stands in a RESULT relation to the “antecedent” clause Jill teases a boy. In fact, this consequent stands in several different RESULT relations to the antecedent – one for each situation quantified over by whenever. I argue that the consequent clause is therefore evaluated with respect to a slightly different QUD for each situation quantified over, analogous to the way the phrase his sister in (4) generates a slightly different presupposition for each boy quantified over by every. Since each QUD for the consequent potentially pertains to a different boy, the pronoun he in he cries can end up referring to different boys (but in each situation refers to the boy that Jill teased in that situation).

(3) Whenever Jill teases a boy, he cries.

(4) Every boy loves his sister.

Staubs practices WCCFL on Tuesday

Claire Moore-Cantwell writes:

Robert Stabus will give a practice talk for his upcoming WCCFL talk at Presley's place Tuesday night at 6:30.  Please bring snacks/drinks!

Call for Papers: Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 6

First Call for Papers

Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 6

It is our pleasure to announce the 6th Semantics and Philosophy in Europe Colloquium (SPE6), which this yearwill take place in St Petersburg during the White Nights.

Place: Bobrinsky Palace, Smolny College, St Petersburg
Time: June 10-14, 2013

Barbara Partee (University of Massachusetts, Amherst /Moscow University)
Kjell Johann Saebo (University of Oslo)


[1] The Interface between Linguistic Semantics and Philosophy of Mind
Berit Brogaard (University of Missouri, Saint Louis)
Frances Egan (Rutgers University)
Scott Soames (University of Southern California)
Robert Matthews (Rutgers University)
Friederike Moltmann (CNRS, Paris)

[2] The Status of Semantics in the History of Generative Grammar
John Collins (University of East Anglia)
Wolfram Hinzen (Durham/Barcelona)
Robert May / Adam Sennett (UC Davis)
Howard Lasnik (University of Maryland)

[3] Empirical Methods in the Investigation of Semantics
Erica Cosentino (Calabria/Bochum)
Tatiana Chernigovskaya (St Petersburg)
Natalia Slioussar (Utrecht/ St Petersburg)
Markus Werning (Bochum)

Abstract Submission Details:
Please send an anonymous two-page long abstract to:slioussar@gmail.com
On a separate page please specify whether the submission is for the general session or one of the special sessions andmention title and your name, affiliation, and e-mail address

Abstract Submission Deadline: March 22, 2013
Notification of Acceptance: April 5, 2013

Organizing Committee of SPE6:
Berit Brogaard, Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Wolfram Hinzen,Robert Matthews, Robert May, Friederike Moltmann, Markus Werning, Ede Zimmermann

Conference website: TBA

Ezra Keshet gives department colloquium

Ezra Keshet (University of Michigan) will present "Two Effects of Context on Truth-Conditional Meaning" at the department colloquium this Friday (February 8) at 3:30PM in Machmer E-37. An abstract of his talk follows.

The lexical items and syntactic structure of a sentence play a large role in its interpretation, but other factors often contribute as well, such as the time/place of utterance, other sentences in the same discourse, salient surrounding objects; extralinguistic goals; and more. This talk presents case studies highlighting the semantic effects of two such suprasentential factors:  focus/information structure, and discourse coherence.

The first study involves so-called conditional conjunctions such as (1) whose meanings are quite similar to conditional sentences involving the word if as in (2):

(1) You get there early enough, and you usually find a seat.

(2) If you get there early enough, you usually find a seat.

I will present evidence that such sentences require a particular information structure, namely one where the first clause is Given in the context (or accommodated as Given). I argue that the conditional meaning results from the interaction between a modal quantifier such as usually in (1) and this information structure. A standard if-clause generally serves to restrict a modal quantifier (see Kratzer 1986) and since Given material tends to join the restriction of quantifier as well, this information structure mimics the effect of an if-clause.

The second study examines how discourse coherence can constrain pronoun referents in a way previously thought to require syntactic c-command. Coherence is the name for the unspoken links between clauses in discourse, as shown in (3), which is most easily understood to mean (4):

(3) Ezra flew into Hartford. He’s giving a talk at UMass.

(4) Ezra flew into Hartford because he’s giving a talk at UMass.

Hobbs (1979) noted that the establishment of such coherence relations also constrains pronoun reference, for instance constraining he in (3) to refer to Ezra when the discourse is understood as in (4). Ross (1967) described two readings for pronouns in ellipsis, as shown in (5). Most linguists, following Reinhart (1983), claim that the sloppy reading requires a c-commanding antecedent, such as Bill, which c-commands his in (5). I argue instead that discourse coherence constraints on pronouns can also generate sloppy readings, as shown in (6) and (7).

(5) Bill loves his dog. John does, too.

a. ...John loves Bill’s dog, too. (strict reading)

b. ...John loves John’s dog, too. (sloppy reading)

(6) The man who called Jane asked her out. The man who emailed Vera did ask Vera out, too.

(7) Kennedy looked good on TV. People voted for him.

Nixon looked bad on TV. People didn’t vote for Nixon

Roeper's Roast

On Monday, January 25, there was a congratulatory toast and roast event at the weekly LARC/Language Acquisition Lab meeting for Tom Roeper in celebration of his becoming a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America this September. Tom joins several other UMass faculty ---  Emmon Bach, Barbara Partee, Lisa Selkirk, John McCarthy, Alice Harris and Angelika Kratzer --- on the roster of LSA fellows. 

Congratulations Tom!

Call for papers: Workshop in Memory of Tanya Reinhart

The linguistics department at Tel-Aviv University is proud to announce the 1st graduate student workshop in memory of Professor Tanya Reinhart, which will take place on April 11th, 2013.

MA students and PhD students not having submitted their dissertation in Linguistics by April 2013 are invited to submit abstracts of their research in all areas of theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, or neurolinguistics.

Papers will be allotted 20 minutes for presentation plus 10 minutes for discussion.

Invited Speaker: Idan Landau, Ben Gurion University.

Up to two single spaced A4 pages with 2.5 cm margins, typed in 12-point Times New Roman.

Abstracts must be anonymous and in pdf format.

To submit your abstract, please send it to tau.linguistics.workshop@gmail.com no later than February 1st. Please state your name and affiliation in the body of the message.

Important dates:
Deadline for submission: 1 February 2013

Notification of acceptance: 1 March 2013

Workshop: 16:00 – 19:30, 11 April 2013

Contact info: tau.linguistics.workshop@gmail.com

Spring Colloquium series

Claire Moore-Cantwell writes:

We are pleased to announce the UMass spring Colloquium series.

5 April: Julien Musolino (Rutgers)
19 April: Ryan Bennet (Yale)

There will also be a syntax guru (Eric Potsdam) and a phonology guru 
(Eric Bakovic).  Eric Potsdam will be giving a talk March 29, and Eric 
Bakovic will be giving a talk in April, tentatively set for the 12.