GLiF Seminars

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Information

Time: Thursdays, 12h to 13.30h
(unless indicated otherwise)

Room: 52.701 (UPF-Poblenou)
(unless indicated otherwise)

Location: Universitat Pompeu
Fabra, Carrer Roc Boronat, 138

 

 

If you want to be kept informed
about GLiF activities, please sign
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  • Thursday, May 23rd, 2024: Ivan Lacić (U. Bologna): "Affix rivalry in Italian evaluative morphology: a quantitative  approach"

Abstract: Affix rivalry refers to the dynamic interaction among two or more affixes utilized in deriving words of identical or similar semantic types (Guzmán Naranjo and Bonami, 2023; Huyghe and Varvara, 2023). Aronoff’s theory of morphological competition (Aronoff, 2019, 2023) conceptualizes affix rivalry as akinto the struggle for survival observed in competing species. Similar to biological competition, affix rivalry necessitates resolution, achieved when rival affixes successfully establish their own distributionaldomains. Being a gradient phenomenon, rivalry depends on a multitude of factors (linguistic andextralinguistic) that influence its resolution. While semantics represents a pivotal structural aspect,non-semantic properties such as word class, phonological constraints, and syntactic characteristics can also influence the differentiation between rival affixes. Additionally, stylistic and sociolinguistic factors may contribute.

This study investigates affix rivalry among six Italian evaluative prefixes commonly used in formation of adjectival derivatives: arci-, extra-, iper-, stra-, super-, and ultra-. Although these prefixes are polyfunctional and generate derivatives with diverse meanings, this work primarily examines their intensifying functions.

To address this intricate phenomenon, we propose a series of empirical analyses. Firstly, distributional semantics methods will be employed to explore whether prefixes encode semantic information about these derivational processes. Secondly, affix rivalry will be scrutinized using computational classifiers. Subsequently, prefix productivity will be assessed based on two morphological productivity measures. Finally, we will investigate whether specific linguistic properties of a base influence the selection of a prefix, quantifying their impact. This presentation provides a succinct overview of the theoretical premises behind this work and proposed methodology, as well as a space for discussion on potential alternative approaches.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, May 16th, 2024: Aikaterini Thomopoulou (UPF): "On non-coordinative ke-clauses in Greek"

Abstract: The Greek particle ke ‘and’, besides standard coordination, also features in non-coordinative clauses reported under the term pseudocoordination. Pseudocoordination resembles standard coordination [V1 and V2] on the surface, although it differs significantly in syntactic and semantic aspects (de Vos 2005). Pseudocoordination, contrary to standard coordination, displays single-event reference by V1 and V2, whereby V1 imposes selectional restrictions on the aspect, tense, and subject specifications of V2 (Cardinaletti & Giusti 2001, Lødrup 2002, de Vos 2005, Wiklund 2008). Greek pseudocoordination is understudied. To tackle this, I consider two categories of V1 that participate in pseudocoordination structures: motion and posture verbs. I claim that pseudocoordination is a bi-clausal structure where [V1 and V2] present argument-sharing properties with V1 being a light verb, that merges with a fully inflected finite V2.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, May 9th, 2024: Eser Ördem(Adana Bilim Teknoloji Üniversitesi): "Acquisition of Object Relative Clauses by Turkish Adult Learners of English"

Abstract: The acquisition of complex sentences plays an important role in first and second language studies because evidence of complex sentences in the field of theoretical and applied language is still evolving. 40 sophomore and junior students majoring in Translation and Interpreting were involved in the study. Participants first took a standard test, the Michigan test. The aim of this test was to provide homogeneity in the study. The participants then
received 5 different data collection tools. First of all, grammaticality judgment test was given to the participants to check to what extent they provided the accuracy of the sentences. Then the participants were asked to make sentences about object relative clauses In the third stage, the participants were asked to produce at least 20 different pictures and sentences. In the fourth stage, they were told to repeat the object relative clause constructions. In the final stage, the participants were given Turkish sentences and be translated into English. At the end of the study, important data about the acquisition of
adjective clauses in object position were reached. The results of the study show that most of the participants tended to avoid using ablative prepositions possible due to the effect of first language that uses only one suffix, while they performed far better in accusative case.

At 12:00, room 52.105, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, May 2nd, 2024: Diane Stoianov (UCL): "Watching language leave the body: the emergence of agreement in a young sign language"

Abstract: Verbs in signed languages often begin their lives anchored to the body, produced from the first-person perspective regardless of intended grammatical person. How do sign languages go from this ‘body as subject’ mapping (Meir et al., 2007) to a fully productive system of agreement? Data from emerging sign languages is key in teasing apart the steps a language goes through in leaving the body. My talk presents data from Cena, a young village sign language used in a rural community in Brazil, to illustrate how signers incrementally reanalyse locations on the body and in space over time to develop agreement morphology. Data from multiple Cena cohorts shows that object agreement emerges before subject agreement. Observing this process diachronically reveals clues behind striking typological differences between signed and spoken languages, such as the precedence of object-marking over subject-marking.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, April 25th, 2024: Cecilia Fernández-Altonaga (UPV/EHU): "A look into modification through Basque"

Abstract: In this talk, I intend to present a first attempt at a unified morphosyntactic analysis for various modifiers in Basque, which, up to now, have been classed within the very ill defined category of adverb. In order to do so, I will first present some data from Basque showing that these non-nominal modifiers present huge overlaps with elements that have been ascribed to other categories. I will be particularly interested in those elements that are formed through the suffix -ki, analogous in some aspects to the English suffix -ly or Romance -ment(e). The fact that the suffix -ki apparently combines with elements from various categories will lead me into thinking that this suffix is not derivative but a marker for a functional category specialised in generating modifiers, which following Rubin (1994) I will identify as ModP. In line with Rubin (1994, 2003) and Scontras and Nicolae (2014), I will
argue in favour of an approach where all modifiers are identified with this functional category and I will argue that this enables a more perspicuous analysis for many Basque modifiers which have traditionally been treated separately.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, March 7th, 2024: Xavier Villalba (UAB): "Mirative markers in Romance exclamative sentences"

Abstract: In this presentation I will analyze the set of particles that have been associated with exclamative sentence-type and exclamations in Romance, like Catalanma, mira, que, and si, Italian guarda and che, or Spanishmira, que, si, and vaya. The hypothesis I will defend is that the meaning encoded by each of these particles contributes to create an exclamation speech act. I will show that we must first distinguish mirative markers likema, mira or guarda, which encode the surprise attitude of the speaker towards a proposition. A second class of elements are degree operators, likesi, which create the necessary domain extension on which the attitude of the speaker is built. Finally, I will show thatque/che is a marker of exclamative sentence-type. In the second part of the presentation I will show that these pragmatic differences have a transparent reflex in syntax: mirative markers occupy the Judgment Phrase position in Krifka's Speech Act Layer, above ForceP and (low) vocatives, so they may combine with different sentence-types, besides exclamatives. In ForceP we find degree operators (and exclamativewh-phrases) in its specifier, and the sentence-type marker que/che in its head. All in all, the paper aims at showing that a compositional approach to exclamativity can deal with the rich set of pragmatic and syntactic properties of exclamative particles in Romance.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, March 7th, 2024: Nuo Xu (UPF): "Verb Copying Construction in Mandarin Chinese"

Abstract: This talk is about the verb copying construction in Mandarin Chinese, in which there are two occurrences of the same verb, in the presence of a postverbal complement and a predicate-level modifier. One relevant example is given below:

(1) ta    kai     che    kai-le       liang-ge    xiaoshi
     he   drive   car   drive-PRF two- CL.     hour
‘He drove for two hours.’
(2) *ta kai-le          che    liang-ge   xiaoshi
      he drive- PRF car      two- CL    hour
Intended: ‘He drove for two hours.’

The contrast between (1) and (2) shows that the verb must be copied before a postverbal duration phrase, in the presence of the non-referential bare noun che ‘car’. This construction displays some peculiar properties: (i) the constituency of ‘V+Obj’; (ii) only the second verb is allowed for aspect marking; (iii) the relative order of Obj and predicate-level modifiers are fixed; (iv) in most cases verb copying is obligatory, while in some cases it is optional. I re-examine some of these properties and assume that the second verb is the main verb.
 
At 12:00, room 55.410, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, Feb 29th, 2024: Matthew Galbraith (UPF): "Enhancing User Satisfaction in Conversational User Interfaces: A Modular Approach Using Interactional Language and Large Language Models"

Abstract: Conversational user interfaces (CUIs) have become increasingly popular as voice-based assistants continue to increase in ubiquity. However, many of the most popular systems (including Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Assistant) have proprietary internal structures that are obfuscated, meaning researchers can only test and assess the output that they generate, hindering in-depth research done by external teams. Even today, these systems prominently rely on traditional, yet reliable, rule-based approaches like form-based techniques which provide a structured and deterministic way of managing dialogues. Despite their tried-and-true nature, the efficacy of rule-based dialogue management to produce truly human-like results has been questioned. Systems that utilize probabilistic models (such as large language models like OpenAI’s GPT) generate more natural and fluid conversations by allowing flexibility in user inputs, even when user intent is incomplete or ambiguous. Even with the significant research done on both techniques, current systems neglect the inclusion of interactional language (i-language), which encompasses the nuances of social interactions (such as dialogue repair techniques) that create a sense of natural communication. By augmenting form-filling
techniques with probabilistic models, CUIs have the potential to enrich their conversational capabilities, leading to a more human-like interaction and possibly improving user satisfaction. As such, this research aims to incorporate i-language data into large language models that are integrated into traditional CUIs’ dialogue processing pipelines, with the goal of creating more human-like interactions and improving the systems’ ability to satisfy the user preferences.

At 12:00, room 52.209, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, Feb 15th, 2024: Zi Huang (UPF): "Gerunds as ad hoc event kinds"

Abstract: This talk extends the notion of ad hoc kinds from the nominal domain (Mendia 2019) to the event domain, and proposes that POSS-ing gerunds in English such as John’s visiting Mary are a consistent way of forming ad hoc event kinds.

POSS-ing is an -ing form that takes direct complements and a preceding possessor interpreted always as the subject and is analyzed as event kind descriptions by Grimm & McNally (2015). Such expressions lack reference to event tokens, being incompatible with eventive predicates and adjectives that assign properties to events (“narrow containers” in Vendler 1967):

(1) *John’s drawing the picture {happened/took place} yesterday/was {slow/fast}.
 
I argue that POSS-ing denotes ad hoc kinds, which are different from well-established event kinds. First, they can be formed in an unrestricted manner. Second, instead of partitioning a (super)kind, these ad hoc event kinds are constructed by generalizing over one (or some) event tokens. The token event that the kind is built upon is sometimes present in the discourse or, as is usually the case, presupposed to exist. It can be argued that POSS-ing is a referential expression. With the event token in mind as an instantiation, the kind is constructed with descriptive content to identify it.

This analysis will shed new light on the contrast between narrow containers (1) and predicates that accept POSS-ing as an argument (“loose containers”, e.g. surprised me). The traditional view is that narrow containers only select for event tokens. With the POSS-ing in the subject position denoting a kind, I argue that the sentence must express a generalization which holds in virtue of the subject’s descriptive content, also accounting for POSS-ing’s opacity.
 
At 12:00, room 52.209, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, February 8, 2024: Elena Castroviejo (UPV) i Laia Mayol (UPF): Two Catalan confirmationals make different confirmation requests: An empirical study on eh? and oi?

Abstract: While Catalan confirmationals eh? and oi? seem interchangeable in certain positions, their contribution to discourse is not equivalent. With oi?, the speaker S1 presents the tentative commitment p (corresponding to the denotation of the sentence anchor preceding the tag)  to their interlocutor S2, expecting that S2 also commits to p as the true answer to ?p. With eh?, S1 expresses that she’s quite confident that p is S2’s private commitment, and she tries to turn it into a public commitment. We present two experiments and a corpus study that tests the predictions of this analysis, and discuss how the results inform our initial proposal.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, January 18, 2024: Sebastian Buchczyk (U. Pompeu Fabra) and Josep Ausensi (U. d'Alacant)

Abstract: We provide a preliminary descriptive account of what we call post-imperatives, a use of imperatives which appears to have gone unnoticed in previous literature as far as we are concerned. Post-imperatives are illustrated below in (1) for Catalan.

(1) You are walking together with Joe, your friend, who accidentally steps on your foot without realizing it as he is talking on the phone. To make him aware of it, you go and say to him ...
Vinga, trepitja’m! (= Step on me, why don’t you!)

We tentatively contend that post-imperatives are critically different from run-of-the-mill imperatives in two main respects. On the one hand, the utterance time of post-imperatives needs to be after event time, in contrast to imperatives, where utterance time needs to be prior to event time. On the other hand, we observe that post-imperatives require the prior event to be accidental, which again contrasts with run-of-the-mill imperatives as these require agentivity/intentionality. We finish off with some thoughts on how post-imperatives could be formally analyzed.

At 12:00, room 52.701, Campus Poblenou.

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  • Thursday, January 18, 2024: Fabio del Prete (CLLE, Toulouse): "Complex event predications"

Abstract: This talk is about a complex verbal construction in Sicilian, known from the previous literature as (Doubly) Inflected Construction (Cardinaletti and Giusti 2001, 2003; Cruschina 2013; Di Caro 2018), exemplified in (1):

(1)  Vaju        a  accattu    a    cicoria.
       go[1SG] a  buy[1SG] the chicory
       ‘I go buy chicory.’

The construction allows for a restricted class of motion verbs as V1 and an eventive verb as V2, V1 and V2 being inflected for the same person and tense features. It has been told apart from the Hypotactic Construction, exemplified in (2), in which V1 is inflected and V2 occurs in an infinitival clause:

(2)  Vaju        a         accattari  a    cicoria.
       go[1SG] PREP buy[INF]  the chicory
       ‘I go to buy chicory.’

Del Prete and Todaro (2020) have proposed a compositional semantic analysis that captures the single-event property and extensionality of (1) in terms of an operation of event-concatenation between spatio-temporally contiguous events, contrasting with the bi-clausal structure and intensionality of (2). The talk discusses their proposal in the context of general typological considerations about the structure of complex event predications (Aikhenvald 2006) and pseudo-coordinative constructions (Giusti, Di Caro and Ross 2022).
 
REFERENCES
Aikhenvald, A. Y. 2006. Serial Verb Constructions in a Typological Perspective. In A. Y. Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon (eds.), Serial verb constructions: a cross-linguistic typology. Oxford University Press, pp 1-87.
Cardinaletti, A. and G. Giusti 2001. ‘Semi-lexical’ motion verbs in Romance and Germanic. In N. Corver & H. van Riemsdijk (eds.), Semi-lexical Categories: the function of content words and the content of function words. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp 371-414.
Cardinaletti, A. and G. Giusti. 2003. Motion verbs as functional heads. In C. Tortora (ed.), The Syntax of Italian Dialects. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 31-49.
Cruschina, S. 2013. Beyond the stem and inflectional morphology: An irregular pattern at the level of periphrasis. In S. Cruschina, M. Maiden & J. C. Smith (eds.), The Boundaries of Pure Morphology: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 262-283.
Del Prete, F. and G. Todaro. 2020. Building complex events: the case of Sicilian Doubly Inflected Construction. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 38 (1), pp.1-41.
Di Caro, V. 2018. Multiple Agreement Constructions in Southern Italo-Romance. PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
Giusti, G., V. Di Caro and D. Ross. 2022. Pseudo-Coordination and Multiple Agreement Constructions: An Overview. In G. Giusti, V. Di Caro & D. Ross (eds.), Pseudo-Coordination and Multiple Agreement Constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 1-32.
 
At 10:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, January 11, 2024: Melania S. Masià (Universitatde les Illes Balears): "Choice of referential expressions in narratives of autistic and typically-developing children"

Abstract: Referring expressions are necessary for discourse cohesion. The choice between a full DP, an overt pronoun or a null pronoun depends on the articulation of the new and old information in a sentence. In a Romance null-subject language like Spanish, there is a division of labor between null pronouns, which prefer antecedents in prominent (subject) positions, and overt pronouns, which do not have a clear preference for an antecedent in a specific position (Alonso-Ovalle et al., 2002; for Catalan, Mayol & Clark, 2010; for Italian, Carminati, 2002). Regarding discourse structure, null pronouns in subject position tend to express topic continuity, while overt pronouns in the same position tend to mark a topic shift (Givón, 1983; Rigau, 1989). In this study, we investigate the developmental patterns in the distribution of the different referential expressions in Spanish in subject position by typically-developing children and autistic children (ages 6-12 years). Most of the studies on the selection of referring expressions have been based on questionnaires and self-paced reading tasks. In this study we take a more naturalistic approach and analyze semi-spontaneous discourse (see Bel et al., 2010; Bel & Albert, 2016). In particular, we look at four constraints that may affect the choice of the anaphoric expression in narratives: (i) the salience (syntactic position and discourse function) of their antecedent, (ii) the accessibility and distance of their antecedent, (iii) their discourse function and (iv) the rhetorical relation between the clauses.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, December 14, 2023: Jenia Khristoforova (University of Amsterdam): "Implicational Complementation Hierarchy and size restructuring in sign languages: evidence from control clauses in Sign Language of the Netherlands"

Abstract:  Complementation strategies, i.e., ways in which clauses can function as an argument of the main clause, are subject to cross-linguistic variation. Typological research reveals that, although languages differ in terms of how they differentiate complementation types, the semantic classes of predicates selecting for the same types of complements remain fixed. This observation has recently been captured by the Implication Complementation Hierarchy (ICH) (Wurmbrand & Lohninger 2019), distinguishing three broad semantic complements classes: Events, Situations and Propositions, where control clauses fall under Events/Situations, while attitude predicates introduce Propositions. Event and Situation complements are cross-linguistically more syntactically and semantically integrated in the matrix clause than Propositions, while also being more transparent for extraction. The ICH explains this by suggesting a hierarchical relationship between complement types. While existing typological research on spoken languages supports the claim, it has not yet been examined for sign languages (SLs).

The aim of this study is to enrich the typology of SL complementation by adding data from the SL of the Netherlands (NGT) and testing the ICH on it. In doing so, acceptability judgment experiment involving, in total, 13 native NGT was conducted to investigate different word order patterns in control clauses vs. propositional complements. The results revealed that NGT control clause can feature center-embedding or object scrambling, while propositional complements are strictly sentence-final. NGT thus patterns together with such SLs as Italian and Turkish SLs in differentiating Events/Situations from Propositions but differs from them by featuring a greater variety of word order patterns in control clauses.

At 13:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou).

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  • Thursday, Novembre 30, 2023: Evripidis Tsiakmakis (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): "How to (not) bias a Greek Negative Polar Question"
Abstract: A distinction between High Negation Polar Questions (HNPQs) and Low Negation Polar Questions (LNPQs), initially motivated with reference to English data (Pope 1976; Ladd 1981, a. o.), has been reported as relevant also for Greek (Romero & Han 2004):
(1) a. Dhen ipie    o    Yanis kafe?             HNPQ
          neg   drank the Yanis coffee
          ‘Didn’t Yanis drink coffee?’
      b. O   Yanis dhen ipie    kafe?              LNPQ
          the Yanis neg  drank coffee
          ‘Did Yanis not drink coffee?’
                                                                  (adapted from Romero & Han 2004: 614, ex. (14))
 
In the first part of this presentation, I apply a battery of tests (context, NPI-licensing, again-test, as-parentheticals, until-modification, response patterns, alternative questions) that the previous literature has used to establish this distinction (Ladd 1981; Krifka 2013; Sailor 2013; Goodhue 2022) and show that Romero & Han's (2004) claim regarding Greek receives no empirical support. In the second part, I propose that a subset of the conversational uses attributed to English HNPQs (Ladd 1981; Romero & Han 2004, a. o.) is taken over in Greek by polar questions of negative polarity involving focus-fronting:
(2) a. O YANIS dhen ipie kafe?
         the Yanis neg drank coffee
         'Wasn't it Yanis that drank coffee?'
 
I explore the possibility that the HNPQ-flavor of Greek questions such as (2) is derived from the interaction of the contextual restrictions imposed by focus with the contextual restrictions imposed by the negative polarity of the question.
 
References:
Goodhue, Daniel. 2022a. Isn’t there more than one way to bias a polar question? Natural Language Semantics 30. 379–413. 
Krifka, Manfred. 2013. Response particles as propositional anaphors. In Todd Snider (ed.), Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 23, 1–18.

Ladd, D. Robert. 1981. A first look at the semantics and pragmatics of negative questions and tag questions. In Robert A. Hendrick, Carrie S. Masek & Mary Frances Miller (eds.), Proceedings of Chicago Linguistic Society 17, 164–171.

Pope, Emily. 1976. Questions and Answers in English. The Hague: Mouton.
Romero, Maribel & Chung-hye Han. 2004. On negative yes/no questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 27(5). 609–658.
Sailor, Craig. 2013. Questionable negation. Handout from the LSA annual meeting. Boston, MA.
 
At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou).

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  • Thursday, Novembre 02, 2023: Preeti Kumari (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): "Politeness in Pronouns: the Honorificity Feature"

Abstract: The socio-pragmatic notion of politeness is encoded on pronouns as honorificity/formality. As opposed to the formal features of the pronouns, honorificity has often been relegated to a purely pragmatic domain outside the purview of syntax (Kim and Sells, 2007). However, recent literature challenges this purely pragmatic view and advocates that honorificity is a formal feature in some languages (Portner et al. 2019, Alok 2020, Alok and Baker 2022, Kaur 2020). This talk presents novel evidence supporting the syntactic view of honorificity. The empirical domain of this study is
an Eastern Indo-Aryan language, Maithili, that exhibits complex patterns of honorificity agreement, such as subject, object, possessor and allocutive agreement. These agreement patterns show that honorificity is on par with other formal features in Maithili syntax.


The syntactic status of honorificity in Maithili comes to further light when compared with honorificity in languages like French/German and Japanese/Korean, where it is not a feature. This comparison presents the mechanism through which politeness is formalised as honorificity in some
languages but not in others.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou).

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  • Thursday, October 26, 2023: Shahani Singh Shrestha (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): "Egophoricity and Formality in Kathmandu Newār"

Abstract: This talk will introduce the audience to ‘Egophoricity’, a grammatical phenomenon discussed in Kathmandu Newār since the 1970s. Egophoricity has been documented recently in a number of indigenous languages around the world including languages of Western China, the Andean region of South America, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere.

The speaker will discuss the outcomes of previous literature on the subject and will propose a new feature that functions as a pattern breaker in canonical examples of the egophoric clause. Employing a native speaker’s perspective, she will present data that indicates a relationship between egophoricity and formality, and demonstrate that current frameworks of analyzing the syntax of formality fall short for data on nuanced expressions of formality in Kathmandu Newār.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou).

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  • Thursday, October 5th, 2023: Ana Clara Polakof (Universidad de la República): Vendler’s Imperfect Nominals in Spanish

Abstract: In a recent work, Grimm and McNally (2022) have brought back the attention to Vendler’s imperfect nominals (IN), and have defended that, post-Vendler, most agree in that (a) we need events and propositions, (b) that Vendler’s Perfect Nominals denote events, and (c) that that-clauses designate propositions. There is, however, no agreement on what Vendler’s IN denote [(1) and (2) for English, (3) and (4) for Spanish]:

  1. I deny ever having seen her (Vendler, 1967, 125)

  2. John’s being able to walk is the result of an operation (Vendler, 1967, 125)

  3. Niego haberla visto alguna vez.

  4. El ser capaz de caminar Juan es el resultado de una operación.

In this presentation, we want to pursue a semantic explanation of the role Vendler’s IN in Spanish play when they appear in argument positions. Specifically, we will focus on the role of the Spanish infinitive as an IN, which may always appear with the definite article (though it is optional, see Kornfeld 2004). We will argue, somewhat inspired by Portner (1992), that the Spanish infinitive IN denotes a function that temporally relates the event properties denoted by the IN with the event properties denoted by the verb in the main clause. The temporal relation establishes that, once the entire clause is existentially closed, the event denoted by the IN will be anterior to the event denoted by the main clause

References: Grimm, S. and McNally, L. (2022). Nominalization and natural language ontology. Annual Review of Linguistics, 8(1):257–277./ Kornfeld, L. (2004) Formación de palabras en la sintaxis desde la perspectiva de la Morfología Distribuida, Phd Dissertation, December 2004, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina /Portner P. (1992). Situation theory and the semantics of propositional expressions. PhD Thesis, Univ. Mass., Amherst /Vendler, Z. 1967. Facts and events. In Vendler, Z. 1967 Linguistics and Philosophy, pp.122-146

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, June 8, 2023: Jon Ander Mendia Aldama (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona): "A family of degrees"

Abstract: Degrees have traditionally been conceived in one of two ways: either as primitives, i.e. as abstract representations of measurement (see e.g. von Stechow 1984, Heim 2001, Kennedy 2007), or as equivalence classes, i.e. as sets of objects sharing an "exactly as P as" relation to each other (Cresswell 1976, Bierwisch 1989, Bale 2011, Lassiter 2017). Independently from this two-way distinction, degrees have also been construed as degrees as a particular species of kinds (Landman & Morzicky 2003, Moltmann 2007, Anderson & Morzicky 2015, Scontras 2017). My goal in this talk is to leverage the different arguments for and againts each of these views. I will conclude that there is a place in the grammar for the degrees-as-equivalence-classes view, and that it can be connected with the degrees-as-kinds view, but neither of these provides a proper linguistic substitute for primitive degrees.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, May 4, 2023: Francesca Franzon (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) The role of semantic and functional aspects in shaping morphological systems. An experimental study.

Abstract: Natural languages consistently convey through grammatical features a small set of semantic attributes concerning the referential world. For example, morphological gender and number can encode the animacy, sex, and numerosity of the referents. It has been suggested that the grammaticalization of such salient attributes has evolved to ensure their prompt communication (Strickland, 2017; Franzon, Zanini et al. 2019). However, morphological systems rarely display consistently one-to-one correspondences between the semantic attributes and the grammatical feature values. For instance, in Indo-European languages, singulars do not only encode numerosities equals to one, as in phrases denoting kinds or mass references; similarly, morphological masculines can denote non-male entities.Some reasons of this apparently suboptimal encoding can be sought in the functional role of inflectional features in tracing agreement patterns and in sustaining prediction processes during language comprehension. I will discuss how the semantic and the functional aspects compete and cooperate in shaping morphological systems, presenting quantitative analyses and experimental data on the processing of underspecified features.

 

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, April 27, 2023: Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) & Isidora Stojanovic (CNRS) - Are moral predicates subjective? A corpus study

Abstract: The nature of moral judgments, and, more specifically, the question of how they relate, on the one hand, to objective reality and, on the other, to subjective experience, are issues that have been central to metaethics from its very beginnings. While these complex and challenging issues have been debated by analytic philosophers for over a century, it is only relatively recently that more interdisciplinary and empirically-oriented approaches to such issues have begun to see light. This talk aims to make a contribution of that kind. We will present the results of an empirical – specifically, corpus linguistic – study that offers evidence that moral predicates exhibit hallmarks of subjectivity at the linguistic level, but also that they differ significantly from paradigmatically subjective predicates.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, April 13, 2023: Antonio Machicao y Priemer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin): On the structure of NPs: A local account for German and Mandarin Chinese

Abstract: In this talk, we will compare current analyses of nominal complexes (NPs or DPs) in German – normally based on a DP analysis following Abney (1987) – with a local NP analysis (Machicao y Priemer & Müller 2021), focusing on the realisation of arguments within the nominal complex.

While in DP analyses, postnominal arguments can get case and theta-role locally, i.e. inside the nominal complex, prenominal arguments are normally assumed to be in either D or SpecDP. This, however, presents difficulties for the locality of theta-role and case assignment (cf. Olsen 1991; Hartmann & Zimmermann 2003; Sternefeld 2015; Chomsky et al. 2019). We propose an NP analysis in accordance with Strict Locality (Sag 2012) in the framework of HPSG (Pollard & Sag 1994; Müller & Machicao y Priemer 2019) in which a prenominal genitive is realised as specifier of the head noun, hence, showing its dependency from the noun and getting theta-role and case assigned by it.

This talk aims to provide answers to the following questions:

• Which case (morphosyntactic genitive, semantic genitive, . . .) is licensed for the arguments of nouns?
• What are the regularities w.r.t. the distribution of arguments within nominal complexes?
• What is the syntactic position of a prenominal genitive?
• What does the assumption of (strict) locality mean for the structure of nominal complexes?
• Are there other German structures supporting the new analysis?

This approach deals (i) with the pre- and postnominal asymmetries within German nominal complexes (cf. (1)), taking also into account possessive determiners; and (ii) with controversially discussed complex and recursive prenominal arguments (cf. (2)). Furthermore, it contributes to the NP vs. DP debate, providing more evidence and a theoretical reasoning in favour of an NP analysis (cf. too Chomsky 2007; Bruening 2009, 2020; Georgi & Müller 2010; Van Eynde 2006, 2020).

On a further step, we discuss and provide a tentative NP analysis for Mandarin Chinese (MC). Besides other difficulties, nominal complexes in MC show a wide range of flexibility w.r.t. distribution and interpretation of nominal modifiers (cf. (3)). We will show how the distribution of NP-modiers gives us some clues about the constituent structure of nominal complexes. In contrast to other approaches (Cheng & Sybesma 1999, 2012), we propose that the Classier Phrase is inside of the NP and acts as a functor to the head noun, in a similar way as modifiers do (following Van Eynde 2021).

 

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, March 30, 2023: Berit Gehrke (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Radek Šimík (Charles University in Prague), Marcin Wągiel (Masaryk University in Brno & University of Wrocław) - Non-conservative construals with proportional quantifiers: theoretical and experimental considerations.

Abstract: Recently it has been observed that proportional quantifiers give rise to both conservative (C) (1-a) and non conservative readings (NC) (1-b) (Ahn & Sauerland 2015, 2017, Pasternak & Sauerland 2022; henceforth, S&Co). 

(1)
a. MIT hired 30% of the women last year.    C
b. MIT hired 30% womenF last year.             NC
    (∼ 30% of the people that MIT hired were women.) 

S&Co’s analysis of the NC reading crucially builds on the claim that NC quantifiers are focus-sensitive (as indicated with F): 30% in (1-b) forms a constituent with a contextually determined element providing a set of focus alternatives and the NC reading arises as a result of an obligatory movement of that constituent to take clausal scope. 

An alternative account is proposed in Gehrke & W ˛agiel (2023) (henceforth G&W). Based on German and Slavic data, G&W argue that what plays a crucial role in distinguishing between the two readings is word order, with focus playing merely a derivative role. Under G&W’s account, NC readings involve semantic incorporation and, for intransitives, additionally an existential-like construction; the percentage expression operates on the VP and therefore has to stay within the VP. 

In this talk, we present the results of three experiments we conducted on Czech to test different predictions that the two accounts make, using auditory stimuli in a sentence-picture matching paradigm. The first experiment deals with the role of word order, for which G&W predict that clause-initial quantifiers should rule out NC readings. The second experiment employed modified NPs (e.g. French students, students from France) and manipulated focus (on the N or the modifier) to test whether focus on a subpart of the NP affect the domain of NC quantification, as predicted by S&Co. The third experiment tests whether the NC reading is available in broad focus settings, for which S&Co predict that it is not whereas G%W do not make this prediction. If you are interested in the results of these experiments, come to our talk.


Selected references AHN & SAUERLAND (2015) The grammar of relative measurement. SALT 25 ● AHN & SAUERLAND (2017) Measure constructions with relative measures. The Linguistic Review ● Gehrke & W˛agiel (2023) On word order and non-conservative percentage quantification in Slavic and German Glossa ● PASTERNAK & SAUERLAND (2022) German measurement structures. The Journal of Comparative Ger manic Linguistics

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  • Thursday, March 23, 2023: Nuria Sagarra (Rutgers University): Looking ahead: Eye-tracking reveals language experience rather than AoA effects on bilingual lexical and morphosyntactic predictions

Abstract: Humans have an exquisite ability to recognize language patterns, generalize them to new instances, and predict what an interlocutor will say next. I have investigated language and cognitive factors affecting monolinguals’ and bilinguals’ ability to recognize auditory associations. I have examined the role of prosody (lexical stress; syllabic structure), language experience (L1 transfer; language proficiency; language use), age of acquisition (early vs. late bilinguals), anticipatory experience (non-interpreter vs. interpreter learners), and cognitive individual differences (working memory). I have examined these factors in semantic associations (semantically related/unrelated words: papa ‘potato’ - papá ‘dad’), morphological associations (present-past tense suffixes based on a stressed/unstressed initial syllable: firma ‘‘(s)he signs’ - firmó ‘(s)he signed’), and morphosyntactic associations (grammatical gender agreement: el/su libro/camión viejo/*vieja ‘the/his-her bookMASC/truck oldMASC/old*FEM). Participants looked at two words on the screen while listening to a sentence and clicked on the word they heard. Eye-tracking data revealed that monolinguals, heritage speakers, and advanced—but not beginning---learners looked at target words above chance before hearing the ending. Monolinguals fixated on targets more and earlier than heritage speakers and L2 learners. Bilinguals predictions benefited from higher language proficiency, higher language use, extensive anticipatory experience acquired through simultaneous interpretation, lower cognitive load (less lexical competitors), and higher working memory, but not from earlier AoA or L1-L2 similarity. We discuss these findings considering linguistic, processing, prediction, and neurocognitive language models.

At 12:00 in room 55.309 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, March 16, 2023: Diego Feinmann (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): Predicate connection and informational oddness

Abstract: In this talk, I’ll discuss a set of minimal pairs that call into question all current theories of redundancy and contradictoriness. In addition, I’ll present two generalisations—grounded in the novel notion of predicate connection (Feinmann 2022)—that provide a fresh perspective on these phenomena.

Background reading: https://lingbuzz.net/lingbuzz/006989

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, March 9, 2023: Martina Dal Cin (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia) and Sílvia Perpiñán (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): Crosslinguistic Influence in Bimodal Bilingualism. A Study on the Production of Syntactic Non-Manual Markers of LIS in Spoken Italian

Abstract: In this study, we investigate the potential suprasegmental linguistic influence of Italian Sign Language (LIS) on Spoken Italian in bimodal bilinguals. In sign languages, Non-Manual Markers (NMMs) are grammatical expressions that involve the face, the body, the movements of the lips, and the emissions of sounds that accompany the production of manual signs (Bertone, 2011). These provide grammatical information and are obligatory.

Three types of participants completed six experimental oral tasks that elicited wh-questions, conditional sentences, and polar questions in Spoken Italian: 1- A group of CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) bimodal bilinguals (n = 10); 2- A group of bimodal bilingual individuals who acquired LIS as adults and use it on daily basis (n = 10); 3- A group of Italian monolingual individuals who were not familiar with LIS (n = 10).

Results showed a significant higher level of expressiveness and a higher percentage of production of non-verbal expressions that can be considered NMMs in the bilingual groups (46.6%) compared to the monolingual group (4.5%), in all three linguistic structures. We also found a higher influence of LIS over spoken language in conditional sentences, as compared to wh-questions and polar structures, similar to Pyers & Emmorey (2008). In turn, adult bilinguals produced more NMMs in spoken Italian (55.5%) than CODA bilinguals (37.6%), which we interpret as a result of the shorter bilingual experience of the former, and hence less practice inhibiting the other language. Summarizing, our results clearly show LIS linguistic influence over spoken Italian in both types of bimodal bilinguals. This study is further evidence of the permeability of previous linguistic knowledge and the interaction of the languages in the bilingual mind, independently of modality.

At 12:00 in room 55.309 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, February 16, 2023: Elin McCready (Aoyama Gakuin University): Aesthetic Interpretation

Abstract: This talk considers the interpretation of literary texts. Semantic work on literature has concentrated on how text-internal mechanisms work to construct fictional worlds, an application of tools used for truth-conducive communication more generally. But little attention has been given to the effects and aims of literary texts: the way in which they affect readers and how this interfaces with literary interpretation. I propose a framework which understands such texts in terms of the responses they produce and the kinds of symbolic structures that can be derived from them, and then turn to questions of trust and sincerity in literary production and interpretation.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, February 9, 2023:  Neri Marsili (Universitat de Barcelona): Commitment, saying, and deniability

Abstract: In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in the responsibilities arising from the performance of illocutionary acts. Much of the contemporary literature on communicative commitments focuses on commitments that are acquired directly– for instance, by explicitly asserting that something is the case (e.g. MacFarlane 2003; Tanesini 2019). However, commitments can also be acquired indirectly– for instance, by implying (or presupposing) that something is the case (Mazzarella et al. 2018). The distinction between directly and indirectly acquired commitments is often thought to be linguistically significant. For instance, it has been suggested that indirectly acquired commitments cannot be truly assertoric (Stainton 2016, 201), and do not qualify as lying if insincere (Viebahn 2021).

This talk will explore the distinction between directly and indirectly acquired commitments in better in detail. I will consider whether the distinction is reducible to other familiar oppositions: the opposition between what is said and what is implicated, between deniable and undeniable communicative intentions, and between additive and non-additive implicatures. After finding each of these views wanting, I will propose an alternative model, which acknowledges that different parameters contribute to determining the strength and quality of the commitments undertaken by communicators.

References
MacFarlane, John. 2003. «Epistemic modalities and relative truth» (unpublished manuscript).
Mazzarella, Diana, Robert Reinecke, Ira Noveck, and Hugo Mercier. 2018. «Saying, presupposing and implicating: How pragmatics modulates commitment». Journal of Pragmatics 133: 15-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.05.009.
Stainton, Robert J. 2016. «Full-On Stating». Mind and Language 31 (4): 395-413. https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12112.
Tanesini, Alessandra. 2019. «Silencing and Assertion». In The Oxford Handbook of Assertion, edited by Sanford Goldberg. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190675233.013.31.
Viebahn, Emanuel. 2021. «The lying/misleading distinction: a commitment-based approach». Journal of Philosophy CXVIII (6).

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, January 26, 2023:  Bernat Bardagil (Ghent University): Relational alternations in southern Amazonia

Abstract: Some indigenous languages spoken in Amazonia, especially Tupian and Macro-Jê, present a morphological alternation in a subclass of words between so-called contiguous and non-contiguous syntactic contexts (Schleicher 1998, Rodrigues 1990, 1999). This alternation usually goes hand in hand with the presence of two morphological classes, with one class presenting a prefix that indicates contiguity—a relational prefix. However, the analytical foundation of relational prefixes in Amazonian languages has been called into question, arguing that said alternation is an illusion caused by the interaction of obligatory person marking for a class of inflectional words and the phonological restrictions on onset clusters (Salanova 2011, Singerman 2021). In this talk I will draw from my own fieldwork on Panará (Macro-Jê) and Mỹky (isolated), two languages spoken in southern Amazonia (Mato Grosso, Brazil) that present theme-initial alternations akin to relational prefixes, to evaluate the predictive power of the competing approaches in the literature.

References:
Rodrigues, Aryon. 1990. Comments on Greenberg’s Language in the Americas from a South American angle. University of Brasília ms.
Rodrigues, Aryon. 1999. Macro-Jê. Em Amazonian languages, ed. R. M. W. Dixon and A. Aikhenvald. Cambridge University Press.
Salanova, Andrés Pablo. 2011. A flexão de terceira pessoa nas línguas Jê. LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas, Campinas, SP, v. 11, n. 1, p. 75–114.
Schleicher, Charles Owen. 1998. Comparative and internal reconstruction of the Tupi-Guarani language family. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.
Singerman, Adam. 2021. ‘There are no “relational prefixes” in the Tuparí language: synchronic and diachronic consequences.’ Talk given at the Harvard GSAS Indo-European and Historical Lin- guistics Workshop.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, November 17, 2022:  Gemma Boleda (ICREA/Universitat Pompeu Fabra): How word meaning and word use shape language

Abstract: A lot about language can be traced back to two basic human needs. First, the need to generalize, creating concepts that inform behavior in new situations. For instance, if we deem a particular lion dangerous today, it will be useful to recognize a different lion as the same kind of thing --thus, dangerous-- tomorrow. Language taps into our conceptual structure, a.o., via the connection between words and their meanings, since meanings are closely related to concepts.

The second need involves individuation. For instance, it may be important to distinguish two identical-looking mugs if we know that someone with Covid drank from one of them. The need to individuate is present in specific situations; in those situations, we typically use words to refer to specific entities, attributes, events, and so on.

Generic (conceptual) and specific (referential) aspects of meaning interact, in a kind of dance, such that one influences the other and viceversa. In this talk, I will discuss how this dance shapes natural languages, with a special emphasis on the lexicon, in four areas: semantic composition, semantic change, lexical ambiguity, and meaning extension processes in children and adults.

The talk is partially based on the following papers:

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105179
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/N19-1210.pdf
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-45977-6_10.pdf

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, November 10, 2022:  Sebastian Buchczyk (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): What affects mood variability? The case of decir.

Abstract: Speech act verbs such as decir in their non-directive interpretation allow for two distinctive mood choices in Spanish when under negation, namely indicative (1a), or subjunctive (1b):

(1) a. Ángel no dijo [que Elia había rechazado la oferta].
‘Ángel didn’t say that Elia had(-IND) rejected the offer.’

b. Ángel no dijo [que Elia hubiera rechazado la oferta].
‘Ángel didn’t say that Elia had(-SBJV) rejected the offer.’

I will call this occurrence of different mood choice in the same grammatical environment mood variability. Mood variability is not free but distinctive, showing clear alternations with respect to their interpretation. Thus, the paraphrase of (1a) in the indicative is that Elia indeed refused the offer, something that is known, but Ángel didn’t say it because he omitted to say so. The paraphrase of (1b) in the subjunctive, on the other hand, is that Ángel did not say that Elia refused the offer, and we do not really know whether she did. The aim of this talk is to walk through some possible explanations of mood variability in such negated embeddings with decir while mainly looking at notions such as Common Ground, commitment, and projection.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, November 3, 2022:  Martina Wiltschko (ICREA/Universitat Pompeu Fabra): The role of interactional language in human-machine interactions. What can we learn from mindless interactants?

Abstract: Traditionally, formal linguistics has been concerned with describing languages and theorizing about their commonalities with the aim to reveal core properties of the human language faculty. In this tradition, much emphasis has been placed on the sentence as the maximal unit of analysis, which in turn fares well with a common view of language as a vehicle for thought. However, there are also approaches which put linguistic interaction at center stage. On such views, the unit of analysis is a conversational sequence, and they subscribe to the view that the function of language is communication. Over the past few decades, the divide between these views has blurred: a growing number of linguists of the formal tradition explore aspects of language that belong to interaction. My work lies squarely within this endeavour: I have explored the properties of interactional language, including confirmationals, response markers, interjections, vocatives, etc.

The goal of this project is to explore if and how interactional language is used in Human Machine Interaction (HMI). Or to put it more pointedly: “Does the use of ‘huh?’ serve as a Turing Test?”. In addition to exploring the limits of a machine’s capacity for interactional language, I am also interested in how human interactants navigate interaction when they have to cross the ontological boundary between human and machine. Specifically, we know that interactional language is sensitive to the identity of the interlocutors, their social relation as well as the common ground they share. In light of this, it is not immediately clear what to expect when talking to a mindless machine. Thus, HMI presents us with a novel testing ground for our theories of the language faculty and the role of interactional language.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, October 27, 2022:  Sílvia Gabarró (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): How are locations established in space in a tactile sign language?

Abstract: The functions of space in visual sign languages can be syntactic, i.e. referent-location associations are used to identify the arguments of the verb, or topographic, i.e. referent-location associations, are used to express spatial relations. These two functions are not mutually exclusive and can be combined in a given situation. In visual sign languages, manual and nonmanual articulators are used simultaneously to express elements associated with different perspectives. The gaze direction is used to establish shared referents between a signer and her addressee in space. However, the means of establishing referents in tactile sign languages are different. Nonmanuals such as the gaze do not have this prominent role in the construction of discourse because deafblind signers cannot perceive them. In this talk, I will describe some joint work in progress about how locations are established in the topographic space in Tactile Swedish Sign Language (TSTS). I will also address some differences that can be observed between TSTS and its visual counterpart, i.e. STS. For this purpose, dialogues between TSTS deafblind signers in which participants touch a dollhouse placed beside them and its furniture and describe it to the other participant were analysed. A control group of three deaf signers was also included. Some differences were found in the use of signing space, pointing and in how locations are established between the visual and the tactile modality. Preliminary findings indicate that the perception of present objects, pronounced movements of the signs and sign holds are essential features for the description of location in topographic space. These three strategies are followed by a backchanneling cue, namely the addressee tapping on the sender’s leg, to ensure joint attention. If the receiver does not understand what the sender said, she asks for a reformulation. Likewise, the sender also reformulates the chunk of discourse spontaneously if no backchanneling cue has been produced. Therefore, the role of gaze to establish locations in space in tactile dialogues is replaced by phonological, lexical and interactive means.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, October 20, 2022:  Zi Huang (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): What is ACC-ing and what isn't

Abstract: ACC-ing, such as Clay/him winning the game, is a gerund construction that has clausal properties (Clay unfortunately having lost the game) and has the distribution of an NP, and is generally studied as a nominalization. I'm faced with a difficulty while looking into ACC-ing using corpus data: many NP + gerund sequences appear in syntactically heterogeneous contexts that are not typically considered as taking ACC-ing, such as complements of different verbs (Hannah saw/heard/had/got/caught/found Clay playing the game) and absolutes (With/without Clay playing the game, Hannah had to stay). At the same time, some typical ACC-ing contexts have also been analyzed as taking small clauses. In this presentation I will share my doubts about the necessity and possibility to draw a clear line between ACC-ing and similar structures.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, October 13, 2022:  Ryan Nefdt (University of Cape Town): What is a Possible Human Language?

Abstract: In this talk, I plan to ask the titular question by means of some good ol' fashioned conceptual analysis. We'll start backwards, first determining what a 'language' is. Then we'll ask what makes a language (whatever that is) 'human'. Finally, we'll do a bit of modal metaphysics by adding a proposal for linguistic possibility to the mix. In the course of the discussion, I draw from some recent neuroscientific results on impossible languages and also attempt to marry a usage-based theory to a general biolinguistic approach.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, October 6, 2022:  Robert Truswell (University of Edinburgh): Syntactic and semantic conditioning of extraction from adjuncts

Abstract: Joint work with Daniel Altshuler (on coordination), Kenyon Branan, Elise Newman, and Hedde Zeijlstra (in progress, on everything else).

This talk motivates a hybrid syntactic/semantic constraint on A’-extraction from adjuncts is possible. I will present six cases of extraction from adjuncts which instantiate the following configuration:

1) Wh_j ... X_i ... [Adjunct ... Y_i ... t_j ...]

(where X_i binds a variable introduced by Y_i, and where t_j is the trace of Wh_j)

The variable in question can range over several types, including individuals, events, times, and worlds. Extraction of Wh is degraded in the absence of the antecedent relation between X and Y.

Here are two examples of this pattern:

A) Extraction is possible out of adjuncts exhibiting Obligatory, but not Nonobligatory, Control (Chomsky 1982, Branan & Newman 2022)

2a) What is the flower_i open [PRO_i to attract __]?

2b) *What is the door open [PRO_arb to listen to __]? (Branan & Newman 2022)

In this case, X in (2a) is "the flower" and Y is PRO; in the absence of a parallel relation in (2b), the extraction is ungrammatical.

B) Extraction from noninitial conjuncts (Altshuler & Truswell 2022) requires a Narration relation to hold between the discourse units realized in the matrix and the adjunct.

3) This is the whisky that I [[went to the store] and [bought __]] (Ross 1967)

This can be seen as an instance of (1) with X as the matrix verb (or perhaps some higher functional element) and Y as the event variable introduced by "bought", under an adjunction analysis of coordination (Munn 1993, Postal 1998).

This is informative about the syntax-semantics interface in this empirical area: it is not enough to have any old binding relationship crossing the adjunct boundary; the specific syntactic configuration in (1) is essential. Although we are still figuring out how this configuration is implicated in A'-extraction, I will conclude by laying out what we've figured out so far about these patterns, and where we think we're going.

At 12:00 in room 52.701 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, June 16, 2022:  Nelli Kerezova (Goethe Universität): Factors for null object resolution in European Portuguese

Abstract: A null object is an object of a transitive verb that has been omitted. The sentence in (1) would be grammatical if the direct object is recoverable from the linguistic or pragmatic context (Raposo, 1986).

(1) European Portuguese (Raposo, 1986, 373)


A    Joana  viu                    e  na        TV ontem.
def Joana  watch.perf.1sg        on.def  TV yesterday
“Joana watched it yesterday on TV.”

For European Portuguese, it has been argued that animacy, definiteness and specificity are important for the (overt and null) pronominal realization of objects. Inanimate, indefinite, and non-specific entities tend to be omitted, while animate, definite, and specific ones have to be realized as clitics (Schwenter, 2014). The matter of how other types of factors might influence null pronoun resolution has received less attention. In this talk, I will present and discuss various semantic, discourse-pragmatic, and grammatical factors relevant for the anaphoric resolution of null objects based on the literature that is mainly concentrated on null subjects or full pronouns.

At 12:00 online (e-mail the GLiF organizers for the link)

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  • Thursday, June 9, 2022:  Silvio Cruschina (University of Helsinki) & Laia Mayol (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): The realization of information focus in Catalan and in Spanish

Abstract: The realization of information focus in Catalan and Spanish has been the object of considerable debate in the literature. While, based on introspection, most scholars claim that information focus, including subjects, must appear at the end of the sentence, others have questioned this claim on the basis of experimental data, arguing that information focus can occur preverbally, especially in the case of focal subjects. These experimental studies, however, are not free from criticism, in that the adopted elicitation technique often forces participants to produce a full sentence as an answer to a question in a context in which the most natural answer would have been a focal fragment. In this talk, we will present two experiments (a production task and an acceptability judgment task) in which the stimuli were designed so that participants would spontaneously utter a full sentence instead of a fragment, without being explicitly instructed to do so. In the production task, participants in both the Catalan and Spanish versions of the experiment overwhelmingly produced postverbal foci both with subjects and with objects, along with a marginal number of preverbal and clefted foci. The acceptability judgment task confirmed that postverbal focus is always preferred over preverbal focus. However, a focal interpretation of preverbal subjects cannot be totally excluded, particularly in Spanish. We interpret this cross-linguistic difference in the light of the hypothesis formulated in Leonetti (2017), according to which Catalan is more restrictive than Spanish with respect to the mapping between syntax and information structure.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, June 2, 2022:  Dan Lassiter (University of Edinburgh): Conditional semantics and discourse models

Abstract: There is a lot of work on the formal semantics of conditionals across several fields, but much less consideration of how and why we use conditionals and how they relate to other phenomena in discourse. In this talk I will argue that a discourse-oriented theory can resolve a number of problems in the semantics and pragmatics of conditionals while also broadening coverage and simplifying the semantics relative to other proposals. These include the default inference of relevance between conditional antecedent and consequent, conditional restriction of modals and other operators, the meanings of conditional operators other than if, and the connection between probabilities of conditionals and conditional probabilities.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, May 26, 2022:  Paola Fritz-Huechante (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin): Spanish change of state verbs: Focus on psychological verbs and their scalar structure

Abstract: The scalar analysis of transitive causative change of state (TCoS) verbs has classified them according to their scalar readings into: (i) upper-bounded verbs (e.g. Spanish secar ‘dry’), which denote a culminating change of state, and (ii) lower-bounded verbs (e.g. Spanish arrugar ‘wrinkle’), denoting a change from a zero to a non-zero value in relation to the property described by the semantic core of the verb (cf. Hay et al. 1999; Kennedy & McNally 2005; Kennedy & Levin 2008). This talk shows that Spanish transitive experiencer object (TEO) verbs, in their eventive reading, are also able to denote causative eventualities yielding scalar inferences. We proposed two types of TEO verbs (parallel to the TCoS classification): (i) lower-bounded TEO verbs, setting a minimum degree in their scale structure that the experiencer needs to fulfill (e.g. deleitar ‘delight’, alegrar ‘make happy’), and (ii) upper-bounded TEO verbs, setting a maximum degree which the experiencer needs to reach (e.g. serenar ‘calm down’, despreocupar ‘make free of worries’). In a forced-choice selection test, the availability of lower- and upper-bounded scale readings was tested for the two classes of verbs (TEO, TCoS). Results showed that the factor bound was significant to the extent that both lower-bounded TEO and TCoS predicates yielded a response compatible with a lower-bounded reading significantly more often than predicates that possess an upper bound, supporting the aforementioned distinction. Results also showed a significant effect of verb type, differentiating a change of state on the mental (TEO) vs. the physical (TCoS) levels.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, April 21, 2022:  Paula Rubio-Fernandez (University of Oslo): The psychophysics of referential communication: Discriminability vs informativity

Abstract: In this talk, I will present a pragmatic account of referential communication that stands in contrast with traditional accounts in the Gricean tradition by focusing on perceptual discriminability rather than informativity. According to this new account, referential over-specification can result in efficient speaker-hearer coordination, rather than being pragmatically infelicitous. The results of a series of language-production experiments support the view that speakers are efficient when producing redundant size and colour adjectives, doing so more often when modification could facilitate the hearer's search for the referent in the visual display. English speakers also used redundant colour adjectives more often than Spanish speakers, supporting the hypothesis that redundant adjectives are more efficient in prenominal than in postnominal position. Regarding comprehension, a series of cross-linguistic eye tracking studies confirm that redundant modification can facilitate target identification. Finally, I will present a probabilistic model of referential communication and contrastive inferences. Overall, the results of these studies confirm that redundancy helps efficient referential communication.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, April 7, 2022:  Salvatore Pistoia-Reda (Università degli Studi di Siena): Language, logicality, and pragmatics

Abstract: In this talk, I will focus on the logicality of language, i.e. the idea that the language system contains a deductive device to exclude trivialities. Puzzling evidence for logicality comes from acceptable contradictions and tautologies. The standard response in the literature involves assuming that the language system is interfaced with a natural logic which cannot access acceptable trivialities. In this talk, I will discuss evidence supporting an alternative response, which rejects the stipulation of a natural logic and assumes instead the pragmatic modulation of nonlogical terms.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, March 10, 2022:  Masha Esipova (University of Oslo): Performative expression of meaning and the architecture of grammar

Abstract: Performative expression of meaning hinges on the act of producing a certain form itself. For instance, when we want to let out our anger or frustration by swearing, the act of swearing itself is crucial for achieving our expressive goals. Performative expression of meaning is an important part of our linguistic and near-linguistic behavior and can involve meaning-form mappings of varied conventionalization and arbitrariness status as well as forms produced by a variety of articulators. For example, we can performatively express our immediate emotions by producing fully regularized and arbitrary forms like 'damn' or 'ouch', less regularized and less arbitrary vocalizations like grunts or huffs, different types of gesture (facial, manual, full body, etc.) or prosodic modulations, etc. We can also performatively produce various types of forms to build rapport with someone or, conversely, to insult them, to express aspects of our identity or our allegiance to a group or a cause, to perform a ritual of some sort, etc. In this talk, I will discuss the following issues pertaining to performative expression of meaning: (i) architectural distinctions between performatively expressed meaning and truth-conditional meaning (as glimpsed through recoverability in ellipsis/anaphora and compositionality); (ii) how these distinctions should inform our formal modeling of performatively expressed meaning; (iii) the mechanism of going from performative expression of meaning to demonstrations of such expression within truth-conditional content.

At 12:00 online. Please contact sara[dot]amido[at]upf[dot]edu for the zoom link.

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  • Thursday, March 3, 2022:  Sara Amido (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Sebastian Buchczyk (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): VERUM in inversion exclamatives: evidence from European Portuguese

Abstract: Zanuttini and Portner (2003), and Rett (2012) say that exclamatives are not suitable as answers to questions since they only denote a degree property and thus do not denote and assert propositional content (A: How tall is Tony’s child? B: *How very tall he is!). However, data from European Portuguese (EP) suggests that a particular type of exclamatives seem to be able to do so. We show that they fit Rett’s (2011) classification of inversion exclamatives, and we dub them se-exclamatives. When a se-exclamative is uttered after a polar question whether p (p or ~p?), the question is resolved with p. The phenomenon extends to British English inversion exclamatives (A: Can Adam cook steak? B: (Boy,) CAN he (cook steak)!). Even though Rett defends that exclamatives do not assert content, she speculates that they have a “verum interpretation” or an “adverbial interpretation” (2012: 420 f.). We show that in contexts in which whether p? is placed on the Table (Farkas & Bruce 2009), inversion exclamatives as follow-up moves to such questions, are indeed a verum strategy as per Gutzmann & Castroviejo Miró (2011). A verum operator within these exclamatives requires a proposition p, which we propose must either be presupposed by the exclamative or silently asserted before it, as evidenced by data from EP.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, February 24, 2022:  Dan Dediu (ICREA/Universitat de Barcelona): Languages change all the time, but not all things change equally fast or in the same ways -- (in)stability meets quantitative methods

Abstract: That languages change continuously is yesterday's news for linguists (and most people, really) and, with the exception of some purists, it is seen as a natural consequence of what language is. However, it is also old news that not all languages seem to change equally fast, and that even various components/aspects/levels of language seem to change at different speeds and in different manners. Likewise, the detailed causes of these changes are extremely varied, ranging from language-internal processes, to socio-political and (arguably) environmental and (possibly) biological. Here I will try to make two cases. First, that we need to approach these questions in an empirical, data-driven and quantitative manner, not being shy to borrow ideas and methods from other fields (in particular, evolutionary biology and psychology) and to be bold enough to adapt them to fit the specificities of language. Second, we must move away from a language-only view of language, and instead see it as a complex system that is continuously evolving in a wider environment composed not only of the climate, ecology, physics and chemistry in which the language users live and communicate, but also by their wider socio-cultural system and even their own biology.

At 12:00 in room 55.309 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Thursday, February 17, 2022:  Martina Wiltschko (ICREA/Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Elizabeth Ritter (University of Calgary): Beyond pronouns

Abstract: Greenberg’s universal 42 states that all languages have pronominal categories involving at least three persons and two numbers. However, this characterization fails to capture the properties of so-called pronouns in languages that the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures characterizes as “avoiding pronouns for reasons of politeness”, such as Japanese. We propose that these languages have a distinct category of nominals, which we call paranouns. Paranouns are unlike pronouns because they are not bundles of phi-features, and they are unlike nouns because their content is interactional in nature; that is to say, it consists of socio-linguistic information about the interactants and the relations between them. We show that the lack of phi features and interactional content follow from the proposal that paranouns associate with the interactional structure, a set of categories dominating the functional structure (i.e, the DP layer). We then extend this proposal to develop a novel analysis of formality distinctions in languages with pronouns. More specifically, we argue that the content of formal pronouns is first associated with functional structure, but then recycled in the interactional structure.  This derivation ensures that the pronoun receives a marked interpretation with socio-linguistic consequences, while retaining its original phi feature specification.

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou)

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  • Tuesday, February 1, 2022: Chenjie Yuan's PhD defense: Reasoning in Dialogue. Exploring the Inferential Articulation of Speech Acts. Directors: Laia Mayol Toll (UPF) and Enric Vallduví Botet (UPF). 

Committee: Stergios Chatzikyriakidis (Crete University), Louise McNally Seifert (UPF), Julie Hunter (Linagora Labs). 

At 11:00 online.

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  • Thursday, January 13, 2022: Alexandra Navarrete González' PhD defense: Focus and contrast in Catalan Sign Language (LSC): Form and interpretation. Directors: Gemma Barberà Altimira (UPF) and Josep Quer Villanueva (UPF). 

Committee: Carlo Cecchetto (CNRS- Université Paris 8), Laia Mayol (UPF), Vadim Kimmelman (Bergen University). 

At 10:00 online.

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  • Friday, January 14, 2022: Raquel Veiga Busto's PhD defense: Person and Number in Catalan Sign Language Pronouns (LSC). Director: Josep Quer Villanueva (UPF). 

Committee: Markus Steinbach (Gottingen University), Gemma Barberà Altimira (UPF), Patricia Cabredo-Hofherr (CNRS- France 8). 

At 11:00 online.

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  • Monday, December 13, 2021: Gemma Barberà Altimira's tenure talk: Anaphoric reference in Catalan Sign Language (LSC) discourse. Analysing role shift features and signing space from a microdiachronic perspective

At 11:00 in room 55.309 (UPF-Poblenou).

This is a hybrid event. Please contact sebastian[dot]buchczyk[at]upf[dot]edu for the Zoom link.

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  • Thursday, December 9, 2021:  Evelina Leivada (Universitat Rovira i Virgili): Cognitive adaptations to bilingualism: Where, why, and how

Abstract: It has been repeatedly argued that bi-/multilingualism confers certain effects: from better preservation of specific brain structures to enhanced performance in tasks that tap into a range of executive function measures. The effects observed on the behavioral front are the topic of an intense debate. Some scholars have found evidence in favor of a robust bilingual advantage, according to which bilinguals outperform monolinguals in certain tasks. A second line of research has produced equally strong results that reveal a disadvantage in bilingual populations. A third line of research has found evidence for a null, ‘neither advantage, nor disadvantage’ outcome, putting forth the conclusion that the advantage-hypothesis lacks the status of a robust phenomenon. To put this variety of findings in perspective, the situation is so complex that it has been argued that asking when and where the advantages occur amounts to treasure hunting by randomly digging holes in uninhabited islands. Against this background, I am going to present my recent and ongoing work that deals with three pivotal, interrelated questions that often stay in the margins: 1) What factors drive the observed effects? 2) Where are the effects expected to be found? 3) Why do the effects have the distribution they have? To address these questions, I will present results from a recent experiment, and then I will sketch out the early workings of a new theory of cognitive adaptations to bilingualism.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, November 25, 2021:  Teodora Mihoc (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & Canonical, Juju Team): Aspectual operators: Temporality, evaluativity, and polarity sensitivity

Abstract: The aspectual operator still features interesting properties related to temporality, evaluativity, and polarity sensitivity. This is not unique to still but rather true of aspectual operators more generally—very similar properties can be found in already, anymore, and yet. And it is not unique to aspectual operators either—very similar facts have been reported for disjunction, indefinites, minimizers, or numerals. This paper starts from Beck (2020)’s proposal for temporality in still; generalizes it to already, anymore, and yet; and then generalizes it even further to capture evaluativity and, partially, polarity sensitivity also, drawing on Mihoc (2021)’s proposal for similar properties in superlative-modified numerals, which in turn draws on previous insights about disjunction, indefinites, minimizers, and other numerals. The result is a new solution to temporality, evaluativity and, partially, polarity sensitivity in still that unifies it not just with other aspectual operators but also with disjunction, indefinites, minimizers, and numerals.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, November 11, 2021:  Agustín Vicente (Ikerbasque & Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko): "Thinking for speaking" revisited: a case against semantic representations.

Abstract: This talk is (mostly) about the problem of moving from concepts to language. It is a problem that has gone unnoticed, possibly because the problem is less obvious when we posit an intermediate representational system adapted to the expressive needs and constraints of language, which is what has been done (a) in order to account for relativity effects, and (b) in order to explain speech production. Slobin (1996) referred to such level as "thinking for speaking", and Levinson (2003) has called it "semantic representations". However, I explain that, far from solving the mapping problem, positing this intermediate system makes the problem even harder. Consequently, I try to account for attested relativity effects as well as to sketch a model of speech production without resorting to "thinking for speaking".

At 12:00 in room 52.737 (Campus del Poblenou).

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  • Wednesday, October 6, 2021: Josep Ausensi Jiménez' PhD defense: The Contribution of Roots: The Division of Labor between Grammar and the Lexicon in Meaning Composition. Director: Josep Maria Fontana Méndez (UPF). 

Committee: Rafael Marín Gálvez (Université de Lille), Jaume Mateu Fontanals (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Alexandra Spalek (Universitetet i Oslo). 

At 12:00 in room 55.309 (UPF-Poblenou).

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  • Thursday, June 17, 2021:  Peter Sutton (UPF): The Problem of the Many and the semantics of countability

Abstract: The problem of the many (Geach 1962/1980; Lewis 1993/1999; and Unger 1980) relates to a paradox-generating line of reasoning. The problem is usually formulated in terms of nouns such as cloud and mountain:  

There are entities that can clearly be truly described as one mountain or one cloud, but it is less clear what is in the extension of singular count expressions such as mountain and cloud even in situations in which it is clear that there is one mountain or one cloud.  Take mountain, suppose we select some region of land that is a good candidate to demarcate the boundaries of the mountain. A problem arises, because there are many other marginally different, but equally valid ways of drawing the boundary. Since these competing extensions are genuinely as good as one another, then either all of these extensions count as one mountain or none of them do. Either way, we do not have one mountain, contrary to what we know to be true.


The problem of the many is most frequently discussed in the context of philosophical metaphysics. However, in this talk, I argue that the problem is directly relevant to semantic, mereological analyses of countability and numerals. First, I argue that vagueness is orthogonal to the problem of the many, since the problem arises for nouns that are not vague in the way that cloud and mountain are. Second, I claim that problem-of-the-many cases are genuinely problematic for the leading mereological theories of count nouns (e.g., Chierchia 2015; Landman 2016, Rothstein 2017), all of which, I argue, falsely predict either that count nouns such as mountain are not count, or that there are many mountains in situations such as the one above.

To address this challenge to theories of countability, I propose that we should opt for a logically weaker mereological criterion than proposed in the above theories. The criterion I propose is weak quantization. A predicate P is weakly quantized iff at most one of any two non-overlapping parts of a P is a P. Count nouns denote weakly quantized sets relative to a world and a context.

The wider relevance of this proposal is what it implies for the formal underpinnings of counting and individuation in natural languages. In particular, it suggests that counting based on extensional non-identity, as formalised in the cardinality function of classical, extensional set theory (in which | X | is the number of unique members of X), only approximates the cardinality function encoded by natural language grammars.

When we carry these considerations through into the semantics of numerals, we arrive at a semantic solution to the problem of the many. In natural languages, provided that the set of entities being counted is weakly quantized, multiple entities that are not identical to one another, such as those aligned with the different ways of drawing the boundary of a mountain, can still count as one.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, June 10, 2021:  Martina Wiltschko (UPF/ICREA): Why do we talk? A syntactician’s point of view.

Abstract: The question regarding the origins and nature of human language has long occupied scholars in various fields. A common view within the generative enterprise is that human language is comprised of “recursive mechanisms for discrete infinity along with mappings to the interfaces with the conceptual-intentional and sensory-motor systems” (Hauser et al. 2014). While modern in its cognitive outlook, this view still follows traditional views of grammar in its conceptualization of language: the unit of analysis of a generative syntactician is typically the sentence. Sentences appear to have a particular form (however language-specific) and a particular function (e.g., to express a thought). The task of a syntactician is to explore how sentences are generated and how their form relates to their meaning, and how language variation comes about and is restricted. This roughly defines the sub-disciplines of linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics), which have for a long time defined the field.

In this talk I wish to make the case for exploring the question regarding the nature of language from a different angle, namely from the point of view of talking. That is, when people talk to each other language takes on a specific form and function: on the one hand speakers do not always communicate with full sentences, and on the other hand, utterances are enriched with elements that do not contribute to expressing thought, but instead are used to regulate the interaction itself. Moreover, the forms used to communicate do not only consist of sound-meaning bundles of the Saussurian type (morphemes or words) but instead, in face-to face interaction, language is enriched with embodied forms such as eye-gaze, facial expressions, gestures, and posture. And language is not only used to communicate what we think and know about the world, but also to convey our attitudes and emotions, for example. These aspects of language have traditionally been ignored within the generative enterprise; they have been relegated to performance phenomena and hence not to be considered in our exploration of language competence. This is despite the fact that within scholarly traditions that explore language in interaction, it has long been shown that there is systematicity in the language of interaction. For example, eye-gaze is systematically correlated with particular aspects of the human language faculty such as turn-taking and deixis. Similarly, gestures have been recently argued to be integrated into utterances and that syntax and semantics are modality blind. Thus, forms beyond words and functions beyond expressing thoughts are no less part of our human-specific competence for communication as is language in the narrow sense.

Given these facts about talking the traditional model according to which the computational system interfaces with the cognitive-intentional system (roughly thought) and the articulatory-perceptual system (roughly sound) should be revised. Rather, I conclude that the computational system which derives sentences also has to interface with systems that regulate embodied forms of language as well as non-epistemic functions of language. This leaves us with a practical question: how do we explore these non-traditional form-function pairings in order to draw conclusions about the computational system and its place in human cognition?

In this talk, I show how the interactional spine hypothesis in the sense of Wiltschko 2021 can serve as a heuristic for discovery and comparison of the forms and functions of talking. I present two case studies: one relating to the form and function of eye-gaze and the other relating to the expression of emotions in language in interaction.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, June 3, 2021:  Julia Kolkmann (University of York) & Ingrid Lossius Falkum (University of Oslo): The pragmatics of possession

Abstract: English pre-nominal possessives (N’s N) express a relation between two nominals, e.g. kinship (John’s sister), time (yesterday’s newspaper), control (John’s car) and many others given that this relation is contingent upon context. However, the degree to which the linguistic context overtly explicates this relation varies from utterance to utterance, ranging from low-information contexts (e.g. John walked into the pub. His coat was white from the snow.) to contexts which are far more telling (e.g. John is a first-time author. His book has been a great success). Given that possessive interpretation is a non-issue from a communicative point of view, the question arises where the possessive relation originates from: is it provided by the (linguistic or extra-linguistic) context, does it come from the semantics of the head noun, or do we need to appeal to both? The locus of the possessive relation has been a matter of contention among formal semanticists on the one hand (e.g. Barker 1995, Vikner & Jensen 2002) and cognitively-oriented pragmaticists (e.g. Sperber & Wilson 1986/1995, Blakemore 2002, Aitken 2009) on the other: where semantic accounts often argue in favour of a default semantics for pre-nominal possessives and thus predict a rather minor contribution of the context, pragmatic accounts converge on the idea of an underspecified semantics enriched by means of a pragmatic process that operates over decoded linguistic meanings and contextually available assumptions. In this paper, we present the results of a corpus analysis of 3,000 pre-nominal possessive NPs which were analysed in terms of what kind of relation they expressed and how much contextual explication each relation received. The results show that the quantitative reality is far more mixed than what is predicted by default semantic accounts, and that co-textual support of possessive interpretations is the norm, even in cases where the semantics of the head noun indicates a possible possessive relation. We take our results to be compatible with an account where contextually appropriate possessive relations are derived mainly pragmatically, on the basis of accessible encyclopaedic or situational knowledge as well as the linguistic context, from highly underspecified relations encoded by possessive NPs. This approach has the advantage of accounting uniformly not only for possessive interpretations in high-information contexts but also for readily available interpretations in low-information contexts.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, May 27, 2021: Steffen Heidinger & Edgar Onea (University of Graz): What you interpret as focus and why: Focus affinity and the accessoriness hierarchy in Spanish

Abstract: The notion “focus affinity” refers to the likelihood with which a grammatical role (subject, object, etc.) is the narrow focus of a sentence. In our experimental study, we investigate the focus affinity of three adjunct types (instruments, locatives, depictive secondary predicates) in Spanish and show that these grammatical roles indeed differ with respect to focus affinity. Depictives show the highest degree of focus affinity, followed by instruments and finally locatives. We also present an account of the differences between grammatical roles in terms of focus affinity − and thus also answer the question why some grammatical roles have a stronger affinity to focus than others. It is argued that the more accessory the information expressed by a grammatical role, the greater the focus affinity of that grammatical role. Why should this be this way? The more accessory a grammatical role is, the more it violates the economy principle (Avoid unimportant information!) when it is non-focal (i.e., part of the background). As a consequence, if a grammatical role A is more accessory than another grammatical role B, A is more likely to be interpreted as narrow focus than B, because under this interpretation the economy principle is violated to a lesser degree.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, May 13th, 2021: Frank Sode (Goethe University Frankfurt): On the conditional nature of embedded V2-clauses in counterfactual wish reports of German

Abstract: This talk addresses embedded V2-clauses under “preference predicates” that typically are marked by subjunctive mood (“Konjunktiv II”), cf. Frank (1998); Meinunger (2007).

a. Ich {wollte / wünschte}, ich wäre schon zu Hause.
  I {want.SUBJ / wisht.SUBJ} I be.SUBJ already at home
  ‘I wish I was already at home.’
b. Ich wäre froh, Ich wäre schon zu Hause.
  I be.SUBJ happy I be.SUBJ already at home
  ‘I would be glad if I was already at home.’
c. Es wäre gut, Ich wäre schon zu Hause.
  It be.SUBJ good I be.SUBJ already at home
  ‘It would be good if I was already at home.’

These embedded V2-clauses dont’t really fit into the classical picture of the licensing conditions of embedded V2-clauses since predicates like “wollen” (‘want’), “gut” (‘good’) and “froh” (‘happy’) are not assertive and don’t license embedded root phenomena. I argue that, first, the embedding enviroments form a natural class from a syntactic and semantic point of view – not only in German but cross-linguistically – and that, second, this class of embedded V2-clauses are a grammaticalized form of “complement fulfilling conditionals” and therefore fall out of the scope of the classical picture of embedded V2-clauses in German.

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  • Thursday, May 6, 2021: Daniel Gutzmann (University of Cologne): Context? Contexts? Multicontexts!

Abstract: Most semantic theories of context-sensitive interpretation are based on the (mostly implicit) assumption that there is the utterance context; i.e. that there is one utterance context per utterance. In this talk, I will challenge this “one utterance, one context” assumption by collecting many problematic cases. This will lead to abandoning this basic assumption. However, instead of throwing semantic theories of context dependency like Kaplan’s framework over board because of these challenges, I suggest an expansion of the Kaplan-style approaches by what may be called “multicontexts”, by which I understand a supercontext that included a multitude of “classical” context and thus can solve the problems while keeping the over interpretational strategies the same.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, April 22, 2021: Xuping Li (Zhejiang University): Counting and countability in classifier languages: evidence from a Tai-Kadai language

Abstract: This research addresses ways of counting in classifier languages by investigating how countability is encoded in nominal phrase structures in Donglan Zhuang, a Tai-Kadai language spoken southwest China. This language features three types of classifier phrases, including the canonical numeral classifier phrase “Num-Cl-N”, the classifier doubling construction “Num-Cl-Cl-N”, and the bare classifier phrase “Cl-N”. To account for the syntactic variability, we propose a two-layer analysis that includes two distinct heads of classifiers in the extended projection of nouns, in the form of [DP D [CLP CLnum [CLP CLnom NP]]]. The upper classifier is the numeral classifier CLnum, whose function is to count (Scontras 2014). The lower classifier is the nominal classifiers CLnom, whose semantic function is to encode countability and derive taxonomic kinds. No matter what status is NP, [CLP CLnom NP] will be invariably used as count nominals. Donglan Zhuang thus offers us more straightforward empirical data than Chinese that a specific type of classifiers is fully dedicated to marking the mass/count distinction (Cheng and Sybesma 1998). Assuming that bare nouns are property-denoting, we argue that nominal classifiers CLnom in Donglan Zhuang, on the one hand, encode countability by imposing a ‘dividing’ structure onto the nominal predicates denoted by NPs in the sense of Borer (2005), and on the other hand, create kind expressions from the count nominal predicates derived. It follows that bare nouns in classifier languages are not uniform with respect to the [±argument] parametric setting (Chierchia 1998, Dayal 2004).

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, April 15, 2021: Anna Paradís (University of Oxford): Catalan clitics are climbers!

Abstract: The aim of this talk is to provide a descriptive and formal approach to linguistic variation regarding the different Clitic Climbing (CC) patterns attested in Catalan varieties and how CC correlates with respect to restructuring and control. The data collected support two major claims: i) the absence of CC does not entail the absence of restructuring not only in those languages in which the phenomenon displays an optional nature but also in those languages in which CC is ruled out; ii) restructuring is universal; what differentiates languages is the way in which it becomes visible (i.e. the set of transparency phenomena). The analysis presented here locates the variation regarding the different CC patterns on the nature of embedded v*. Ultimately, our proposal leads to a redefinition of restructuring.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, March 25, 2021: Lauren Fonteyn (Leiden University): Schematically similar, but distributionally distinct? Using contextualized embeddings to study prepositions

Abstract: The term ‘meaning’, as it is presently employed in Linguistics, is a polysemous concept, covering a broad range of operational definitions. Focussing on two of these definitions, meaning as ‘concept’ and meaning as ‘context’ (also known as ‘distributional semantics’), this paper explores to what extent these operational definitions lead to converging conclusions regarding the number and nature of distinct senses a polysemous form covers. More specifically, it investigates whether the sense network that emerges from the principled polysemy model of over as proposed by Tyler & Evans (2003; 2001) can be reconstructed by the neural (or predictive, see Baroni et al. 2014) language model BERT. The study assesses whether the contextual information encoded in BERT embeddings can be employed to successfully (i) recognize the abstract sense categories and (ii) replicate the relative distances between the senses of over proposed in the principled polysemy model.

What emerges from these explorations is that BERT clearly captures fine-grained, local semantic similarities between tokens. Even with an entirely unsupervised application of BERT, discrete, coherent token groupings can be discerned that correspond relatively well with the sense categories proposed by linguists. Furthermore, embeddings of over also clearly encode information about conceptual domains, as concrete, spatial uses of prepositions, as in (1) are neatly distinguished from more abstract, metaphorical extensions (into the conceptual domain of time, or other non-spatial domains), as in (2):

1. I noticed a painting hanging over the piano (COHA, 2006)

2. a. The war on witchcraft intensified over the next 200 years, sending millions of cats, not to mention humans, to their deaths. (COHA, 2001)

b. But Mike had seemed okay with it, as if he was completely over Lindsey (COHA, 2009).

However, there are no indications that BERT embeddings also encode information about the abstract image schema resemblances between tokens across those domains. These findings highlight the fact that such imagistic similarities may not be straightforwardly captured in contextualized embeddings. Such findings can provide an interesting basis for further experimental research (testing to what extent different operational models of meaning representation are complementary when assessed against elicited behavioural data), as well as a discussion on how we can bring about a "greater cross-fertilization of theoretical and computational approaches" to the study of meaning (Boleda 2020: 213).

Baroni, Marco, Georgiana Dinu & Germán Kruszewski. 2014. Don't count, predict! A systematic comparison of context-counting vs. context predicting semantic vectors. In Proceedings of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers). 238–247.

Boleda, Gemma. 2020. Distributional Semantics and Linguistic Theory. Annual Review of Linguistics 6(1). 213–234.

Devlin, Jacob, Ming-Wei Chang, Kenton Lee & Kristina Toutanova. 2019. BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding. In Proceedings of NAACL-HLT 2019. 4171–4186.

Tyler, Andrea & Vyvyan Evans. 2001. Reconsidering Prepositional Polysemy Networks: The Case of Over. Language 77(4). 724–765.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, March 18, 2021: Valentin Rose (Osnabrück University): Biased subject pronouns? – A comparative analysis of Italian and Spanish 3rd subject pronouns

Abstract: In this talk I want to discuss the variation of pronominal resolution between Italian and Spanish. Both languages are classically seen as null-subject languages in which null subjects (NS) and overt subject pronouns (OS) coexist, but display different pragmatic functions (Cardinaletti & Starke 1999; Carminati 2002). NS are used to refer to highly prominent antecedents (mostly subjects); OS are used to switch the attention to less prominent antecedents (mostly non-subjects). As these two languages are relatively close related to each other, we would not expect to find variation in pronominal resolution. However, research on this topic shows that only the pronouns in Italian show a rather clear division of labor with NS preferably referring to subjects and OS preferably referring to non-subjects. The same cannot be said about Spanish in which OS can refer relatively free to both subject and non-subject antecedents. More recently, Leonetti Escandell et al. (2019) argue, based on data of an offline experiment, that this variation between Italian and Spanish is due to word-order differences (SVO vs. VSO) and thus to the different level of prominence subject and object exhibit. Although quite appealing, their test items do not contain word-order variation. The goal of this presentation is two-fold: first, by presenting data from an offline experiment with Italian monolinguals, I want to show that Leonetti Escandell et al. (2019) are on the right track, at least for Italian. However, word-order variation only plays a role in resolving NS, but not OS. Also, the data indicate that NS seem to be less biased than their overt counterparts. Secondly, I will present an approach which tries to capture the variation between pronominal resolution and word-order variation in Italian and Spanish. I follow Sheehan (2015) that Italian and Spanish check the EPP in different ways. EPP in the former needs to be checked by a XP; the latter allows EPP to be checked by either XP or X˚. As I will show, this mirrors the bias for Italian OS and simultaneously guarantees the relative freedom of Spanish OS.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, March 11, 2021: Reading session (students)

For the first reading group session among students in this academic year, we will discuss a paper proposed by Sebastian: Benincà, P., & Poletto, C. (2004). Topic, Focus and V2: defining the CP sublayers.

Everyone is welcomed and please feel free to propose other papers that you want discuss with the group!

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, March 4, 2021: Tobias Gretenkort (RWTH Aachen University): Language and technology – graph theory in cognitive and social network analysis

Abstract: This presentation is going to explore the benefits of the application of formal graph theory to the analysis of language. The past decades in both society as a whole and linguistics as an academic field are characterised by a steadily increasing relevance of technology. While society faces challenges in dealing with the resulting enhanced interpersonal connectivity, the work of linguists nowadays faces a myriad of new research methods based on these technologies. Such technologies also have a deep impact on theory. This is, however, not a recent phenomenon. The work of Noam Chomsky is deeply influenced by the mathematical advances in computation and automata theory at the time, most notably by Alan Turing. The technological revolution that is the Internet has produced a new tool and method of conceptualisation of language – networks. Networks are widely studied in informatics and communication under the mathematical umbrella graph-theory, but have hitherto only started to impact the study of linguistics proper. The presentation will focus on highlighting the different applications of graph theory to human language, specifically on the applicability of networks on different levels of linguistic inquiry, such as typology, grammar, cognition, and interaction networks. It will be shown that all these applications of networks to language operate under fundamentally different axiomatic assumptions, the advantages of pitfalls of which are going to be discussed in each context. Finally, the formal analysis of interaction networks will be characterised drawing on empirical data from a network corpus from online social media, hinting to some of the properties of such networks.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, February 18, 2021: Isidora Stojanovic (Institut Jean-Nicod), Bianca Cepollaro (Univ. San Raffaele, Milan) and Filippo Domaneschi (Univ. of Genoa): Literally a jerk: an experimental study of the meaning of expressive and evaluative terms

Abstract: The semantic literature on expressive terms, such as 'bastard' and 'jerk', converges on two claims. The first one is the idea that the use of such terms is felicitous as long as the speaker has a negative attitude toward the person for whom they are using the pejorative, and does not place any special constraints on the conversational context. We have argued against this idea in our "When is it OK to call someone a jerk? An experimental investigation of expressives" (Synthese 2020, doi 10.1007/s11229-020-02633-z). The second claim is that the content associated with expressives is subjective, i.e. it amounts to something like 'the speaker feels negatively about the target'. We have argued against this idea in a new study in which we have focused on the predicative - rather than referential - uses and investigated what is the content associated with expressives. Our new study replicates the results of the first one: it shows that expressives in their predicative use are sensitive to contextual information, and that they are judged less acceptable than other negatively valenced, evaluative terms, such as 'unbearable'. We observe that negatively valenced terms in general (expressives and non-expressives alike) are, ceteris paribus, judged to be less acceptable than positive evaluative terms, such as ‘smart’ and ‘kind’. As for how to spell out the expressive content, speakers tend to take the meaning of a sentence such as "X is a jerk" to be objective ("X must have done something bad") rather than subjective ("The speaker dislikes X"). This tendency shows up both in a selection study, in which participants have been asked to choose the most appropriate paraphrase, as well as in a rating study, in which the subjective vs. objective conditions are used in the description of the context of utterance. While negative terms (expressives and non-expressives alike) tend to be interpreted in a more objective manner, there is a strong preference to interpret positive terms in a more subjective, speaker-oriented manner. Note that within negative terms, expressives are in general judged less acceptable than non-expressive evaluatives, yet the latter get to be associated with objective contents to a higher degree. This suggests that the relationship between negative valence, tendency toward objective interpretation, and acceptability, is more complex than one may have thought.

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Thursday, February 11, 2021: Fabienne Martin (Humboldt University Berlin): On non-literal readings of noun phrases: the case of pancake subjects

Abstract: This paper explores some properties of so-called pancake sentences in Brazilian Portuguese and French. Pancake sentences are copular sentences built with a (postcopular) adjective, but differ from run-of-the-mill copular sentences in two respects: (i) the nominal expression in the subject position, which is individual-denoting in its literal meaning, is reinterpreted non-literally as an event type involving the original referent; (ii) there is agreement mismatch between this nominal expression in subject position and the adjective. Following Greenberg (2008), we propose that in Brazilian Portuguese and in French, it is the agreement feature mismatch which triggers the reinterpretation mechanism of the nominal expression, which stands for a non-overt semantic structure. However, the exact output of the reinterpretation mechanism (and the meaning of the covert semantic structure the nominal expression stands for) depends on the building blocks of a non-agreeing copular sentence, which are different in the two languages under discussion. These differences explain why French non-agreeing copular sentences may have more than one meaning and are thus not necessarily pancake sentences. We also observe that in general, only predicates of personal taste are licensed in pancake sentences in the languages under discussion, which we also account for. This is joint work with Janayna Carvalho (Federal University of Minas Gerais) and Artemis Alexiadou (HU & ZAS).

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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  • Friday, January 15, 2021: Sara Cañas Peña's PhD defense: Polar Interrogatives in Catalan Sign Language (LSC). A Comprehensive Grammatical Analysis. Director: Josep Quer Villanueva (UPF). 

Committee: Annika Herrmann (Universität Hamburg), Yasutada Sudo  (University College London), Elena Castroviejo Miró (Universidad del País Vasco). 

At 10:00 on Zoom.

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  • Thursday, January 14, 2021: Zi Huang (UPF): POSS-ing and ACC-ing as complement of with(out)

Abstract: English has two types of gerunds that take direct complements: POSS-ing ("Clay's/his winning the match") and ACC-ing ("Clay/him winning the match"). Theories of English gerunds differ in whether POSS-ing and ACC-ing are interpreted in the same way. In this talk, I will present data from the BNC which involve POSS-ing and ACC-ing as complement of "with(out)". While ACC-ing is compatible with both "with" and "without", there is an asymmetry in the distribution of POSS-ing as complement of "without" and "with":
          (1) She had been suddenly taken to hospital
              a. without Darren knowing why/Darren's knowing why
              b. with Darren being fully informed/#Darren's being fully informed
I first provide an interpretation for "without + POSS-ing" using generic incausality (Zieleke 2020). Then I argue that the asymmetry in (1) can be attributed to different referential properties of the two gerunds: POSS-ing is anaphoric and cannot be anchored to the time of the matrix clause; ACC-ing is non-anaphoric and can be anchored to matrix tense. This distinction supports those analyses that assign different interpretations to POSS-ing and ACC-ing, like Portner (1992) and Grimm & McNally (2015).

At 12:00 on Collaborate.

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