The truth is, I'm interested in a lot of things, and I tend to follow an approach that starts with looking at small empirical problems in order to get at bigger theoretical issues. Specific data areas that I have worked on include the internal semantics of nominals and their role in sentence semantics, with a particular focus on property-type nominals; the semantics of adjectives, especially gradability and the role of adjectives in modification; Aktionsart, particularly stativity; so-called "figurative" uses of language, including idioms; and existential and related constructions. The grammatical footprint of the type/token distinction has been a recurring theme in my work, which I am currently trying to relate to evidence for distinct conceptually vs. referentially-mediated semantic composition strategies. Here is a list of recent projects that I have been involved in:
2017-2020: OASIS: Ontology as Structured by the Interfaces with Semantics. This CNRS-funded research network, led by Bridget Copley and Isabelle Roy, is based on the idea that there is a formal semantic ontology whose precise characterization is still to be discovered, not only through methods of model-theoretic semantics and philosophy, but also through syntactic theory and cognitive psychology. The project will found an annual conference of the same name.
2014-2020: Connecting Conceptual and Referential Models of Meaning (MINECO, FFI2013-41301-P, FFI2016-76045-P). The overall goal of the project is to take a fresh look at the articulation between conceptual and referential aspects of natural language meaning, based on the empirical results that have been obtained in our recent projects. In many classic references and textbooks on semantics, the views of meaning as involving a semiotic relation to something in the mind (hereafter, the conceptual view) vs. a relation to things in the world (the referential view) are presented in opposition to each other. While this opposition has long been acknowledged to be an oversimplification, in practice, each view has spawned distinct research communities, the interaction between which has historically been rather limited. We start from the hypothesis that both conceptual and referential aspects play a crucial role in meaning composition. Though by itself not a new hypothesis (similar views are relatively explicit e.g. in certain sectors of Discourse Representation Theory and in the Conceptual/Procedural Meaning distinction in Relevance Theory), the novelty of the project will most notably lie in 1) the incorporation of a distributional semantic perspective and 2) the use of diachronic evidence, still a very infrequent method in compositional semantic analysis. In addition, as in previous projects, we will make an effort to focus on understudied empirical phenomena so as to make a contribution to the body of descriptive linguistics literature.
2014-2016: MINECO Thematic Excellence Network Meaning and Grammar (MINECO, FFI2014-51675-REDT). The goals of this network, which includes researchers from UPF, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, and the University of the Basque Country, are to promote research activities in the area of the semantics and pragmatics of natural language, to improve training at the graduate level in this area, and to strengthen the critical mass of semantics and pragmatics researchers in Spain, while at the same time raising the visibility and relevance of our research beyond the boundaries of linguistics.
2011-2012: A distributional semantic model for fully recursive phrasal meaning (MICINN, FFI2010-09464-E). No existing theory of how meaning is expressed via human language takes into account both the full richness of conceptual content and the recursive, structural aspects of meaning. The goal of this project was to take a qualitatively different step towards accomplishing this task by combining in a novel way the insights of two radically different approaches to meaning: that of formal semantics and the growing field of distributional semantics. Since the two paradigms have complementary strengths and weaknesses, in drawing on both of them the aim was to overcome their individual limitations. This was a pilot project whose empirical focus was on combining the semantics of nouns, adjectives and determiners. This is an area of research I am continuing to develop in collaboration mainly with Gemma Boleda.
2009-2013: Experimental Pragmatics in Europe (EURO-XPRAG). EURO-XPRAG was an ESF-funded network proposed by Ira Noveck (CNRS/Lyon), Richard Breheny (UCL), Bart Geurts (Nijmegen) and Uli Sauerland (ZAS-Berlin), with participants from 12 countries. The network aimed to support Experimental Pragmatic research through collaborations, workshops and conferences in order to provide leadership for this field. Topics of interest included implicature, metaphor, conditionals, and the expression of quantity, among others. EURO-XPRAG organized yearly workshops and biennial conferences. UPF hosted the 2011 conference. See http://www.euro-xprag.org for more information.
2007-2013: Natural language ontology and the semantic representation of abstract objects (MEC, HUM2007-60599/FILO, MICINN FFI2010-15006). An essential part of human communication involves reference to abstract objects such as facts, propositions or situations. The goal of OntoSem was to make progress on a natural language ontology, together with a system of lexical semantic representations and compositional semantic rules, which would permit a semantic analysis of nominalizations and other nouns referring to these abstract objects. In addition to contributing to semantic theory, the project also aimed to improve our understanding of the relation between the semantics of nouns and morphologically related verbs and adjectives, as well as of nominal complementation and modification. As part of this project involved a diachronic study of participles in Spanish, project participants Josep M. Fontana, Gemma Boleda, Cristina Sánchez Marco, Eva Bofias, and Toni Bassaganyas, with the support of Andrés Chandía, have adapted the Freeling suite of tools for contemporary Spanish to the tagging of Old Spanish; they have since also used the same strategy to adapt the Freeling suite for contemporary Catalan to Old Catalan. Learn more about the adaptation of the tools, the corpora we have tagged, and how to access them here.
2003-2007: Semantic composition with enriched lexical representations (Generalitat de Catalunya, Programa Distinció de la Generalitat per a la Promoció de la Recerca Universitària, 2003-2007). The goal of this project was to work on semantic composition problems that involve finer-grained aspects of lexical semantics than are usually paid attention to in semantic theory, mainly in the area of adjectival and adverbial (degree and manner) modification. I was (and am) interested is the consequences of these problems both for the way lexical semantic information is represented and for the inventory of composition rules that are developed to exploit it.I'm also a member of UPF's Formal Linguistics Research Group GLiF, a consolidated research group recognized by the Generalitat de Catalunya (2014SGR698, 2009SGR00763, 2005SGR00067 (the latter two as part of the larger unit UR-Ling)).