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Semantics and Pragmatics     Open Access   (Followers: 4)
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Semantics and Pragmatics
Number of Followers: 4  

  This is an Open Access Journal Open Access journal
ISSN (Print) 1937-8912
Published by Linguistic Society of America Homepage  [1 journal]
  • “More is up” for domain restriction in ASL

    • Authors: Kathryn Davidson, Deanna Gagne
      First page: 1
      Abstract: This paper investigates a form-meaning mapping in American Sign Language (ASL) whereby pronouns, verbs, and quantifiers can be produced progressively higher in signing space to signal a widening of their contextually supplied domains. We show that this is not a gesture-like expression of surprise, uncertainty, or quantity, and is also not equivalent to well-studied domain-widened quantifiers in spoken language, but rather involves reference via plural pronouns in ASL. When appearing with verbs these pronouns are incorporated as arguments and when appearing with quantifiers as a partitive-like domain restriction. In addition, we show that the use of continuous space along the height dimension in ASL allows for gradient interpretations of domain widening and narrowing. We contrast the grammatical functions of this use of height in sign languages with superficially similar gesture and prosody accompanying spoken language. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-01-19
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.1
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Alternatives and attention in language and reasoning: A reply to
           Mascarenhas & Picat 2019

    • Authors: Nadine Bade, Léo Picat, WooJin Chung, Salvador Mascarenhas
      First page: 2
      Abstract: In this paper, we employ an experimental paradigm using insights from the psychology of reasoning to investigate the question whether certain modals generate and draw attention to alternatives. The article extends and builds on the methodology and findings of Mascarenhas & Picat 2019. Based on experimental results, they argue that the English epistemic modal might raises alternatives. We apply the same methodology to the English modal allowed to to test different hypotheses regarding the involvement of alternatives in deontic modality. We find commonalities and differences between the two modals we tested. We discuss theoretical consequences for existing semantic analyses of these modals, and argue that reasoning tasks can serve as a diagnostic tool to discover which natural language expressions involve alternatives. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-01-26
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.2
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Varieties of Hurford disjunctions

    • Authors: Paul Marty, Jacopo Romoli
      First page: 3
      Abstract: Hurford 1974 famously observed that a disjunction is generally infelicitous if one of the disjuncts entails the other. Several accounts of Hurford’s observation have been put forward in the literature, grounding the infelicity of the so-called “Hurford disjunctions” into various principles of language use. In this article, we investigate three variants of Hurford’s original cases and we show that none of the major explanatory approaches to “Hurford disjunctions” captures all at once Hurford’s original cases and our novel variants. We discuss the challenges raised by our data for existing approaches to informational oddness and, more broadly, for the descriptive generalization originally proposed by Hurford. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-02-21
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.3
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Referential transparency as the proper treatment for quantification

    • Authors: Andy Lücking, Jonathan Ginzburg
      First page: 4
      Abstract: An important motivation for Montague’s work on quantification (Montague 1974) was to achieve uniformity with respect to referential and quantificational subjects. This was attained by type raising all NPs to denote sets of sets (indeed there are claims that such a move is theoretically necessary) and by giving up a subject–predicate semantics where the verbal predicate predicates of the nominal argument. In this paper we argue for essentially the opposite move whereby all predication is genuine predication and involves arguments -- witnesses of type individual or set of individuals (for plurals). We argue that such an approach is crucial if one is to capture a variety of fundamentally important phenomena involving anaphora, clarification interaction, and speech-gesture cross-references associated with the use of quantificational noun phrases in dialogue, and to explicate several recent key psycholinguistic results on quantifier processing -- all features of an NP semantics which give rise to what we call “Referential Transparency”. The discussion is couched in a new set-denotational framework for plural count nouns, namely sets of ordered set bipartitions. We argue that quantification happens entirely within the noun phrase and involves ref(erence)sets, comp(lement)sets, and max(imal)sets. As a corollary of this denotational foundation, the semantic conservativity universal is an immediate consequence and the range of quantifier denotations is significantly reduced. In addition to collecting empirical motivation for quantification from Referential Transparency Theory and to developing a count noun semantics, a theoretically grounded explanation for complement set anaphora is given. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-04-19
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.4
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Logic and conversation: The case of free choice

    • Authors: Maria Aloni
      First page: 5
      Abstract: Free choice inferences represent a much discussed case of a divergence between logic and language (Kamp 1973, Zimmermann 2000). Grice influentially argued that the assumption that such divergence does in fact exist is a mistake originating “from inadequate attention to the nature and importance of the conditions governing conversation” (Grice 1989: 24). I will first show that when applied to free choice phenomena, the standard implementation of Grice’s view, representing semantics and pragmatics as two separate components, is empirically inadequate. I will then propose a different account: a bilateral state-based modal logic modelling next to literal meanings also pragmatic factors and the additional inferences that arise from their interaction. The pragmatic factor I will consider connects to a tendency of language users to neglect empty configurations when engaging in linguistic interpretation. The non-emptiness atom (ne) from team semantics provides a perspicuous way to formally represent this tendency and to rigorously study its impact on interpretation. In terms of ne, I will define a pragmatic enrichment function and show that, in interaction with disjunction occurring in positive contexts and only in these cases, pragmatic enrichment yields non-trivial effects including predicting free choice inferences and their cancellation under negation. The latter result relies on the adopted bilateralism, where each connective comes with an assertion and a rejection condition and negation is defined in terms of the latter notion. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-06-02
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.5
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Keep only strong

    • Authors: Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Aron Hirsch
      Pages: 6:EA - 6:EA
      Abstract: While Horn (1969) proposed that [[only](p) presupposes that the prejacent p is true, von Fintel & Iatridou (2007) showed that the expected prejacent inference is not observed when a necessity modal occurs in the scope of only: [[only](□p) may convey that p is possible, rather than necessary. What is the mechanism behind the surprisingly weak inference' The approach in von Fintel & Iatridou 2007 is to revise the analysis of only itself to weaken its contribution. In this paper, however, we argue that Horn’s only is correct after all, and introduce a source of weakening separate from only. In particular, in von Fintel & Iatridou’s modal environment, a phonetically null operator (AT LEAST; Crnic̆ 2011, Schwarz 2005) occurs in the scope of only to weaken the presupposed prejacent. Much recent attention has been paid to covert operators which strengthen meaning, in particular a covert EXH with a meaning similar to only (e.g. Chierchia 2006, Fox 2007, Chierchia et al. 2012). A key consequence of our analysis is that natural language incorporates a covert weakening operator, as well. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-06-24
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.6
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Exceptional wide scope of bare nominals

    • Authors: Bert Le Bruyn, Henriëtte de Swart
      Pages: 7:EA - 7:EA
      Abstract: One of the strongest arguments in favor of the kinds approach to bare nominals is that they always take narrow scope with respect to other scope bearing operators in the sentence (Carlson 1977; Chierchia 1998; Dayal 2011). The publications supporting the obligatory narrow scope of bare nominals in a wide range of typologically different languages vastly outnumber the ones that claim the opposite. In this paper, we survey the facts from the literature, work out how the kinds approach deals with them, and identify scrambled bare plurals as the ultimate challenge for the kinds approach. Dutch examples illustrate that scrambled bare plurals unambiguously take wide scope with respect to quantifiers and negation, while maintaining kind reference. The kinds approach proves unable to derive the wide scope reading of bare plurals under a surface-oriented composition of scrambled objects. Once we abandon the default kind shift, following Krifka (2004), and allow bare plurals to directly shift to an existential interpretation, we can easily derive the wide scope reading with a local type repair. We conclude that a flexible type shifting approach to bare nominals is preferred over a default kind shift for empirical reasons. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-08-10
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.7
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • The role of Alternatives in the interpretation of scalars and numbers

    • Authors: Chao Sun, Richard Breheny
      Pages: 8:EA - 8:EA
      Abstract: Numerical noun phrases (NNPs) are ambiguous between at least two and exactly two interpretations. This ambiguity has been commonly discussed as a case of Scalar Implicature (SI), where meaning is enriched by exclusion of an alternative. But the SI approach to NNPs has also been widely challenged. We tested NNPs and scalar expressions in inference tasks and found that scalars were sensitive to a manipulation that altered the relevance of alternatives, whereas exactly readings for NNPs were not. Our findings provide a theory-critical challenge to the SI view of NNPs and support alternative views. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-09-01
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.8
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Pragmatic reasoning and semantic convention

    • Authors: Ming Xiang, Christopher Kennedy, Weijie Xu, Timothy Leffel
      Pages: 9:EA - 9:EA
      Abstract: Gradable adjectives denote properties that are relativized to contextual thresholds of application: how long an object must be in order to count as long in a context of utterance depends on what the threshold is in that context. But thresholds are variable across contexts and adjectives, and are in general uncertain. This leads to two questions about the meanings of gradable adjectives in particular contexts of utterance: what truth conditions are they understood to introduce, and what information are they taken to communicate' In this paper, we consider two kinds of answers to these questions, one from semantic theory, and one from Bayesian pragmatics, and assess them relative to human judgments about truth and communicated information. Our findings indicate that Bayesian accounts can model human judgments about what is communicated better than they can model human judgments about truth conditions, and their weakness on the latter is mainly because they fall short in accurately predicting the relevant threshold distributions. We explore the possibility that the overall performance of the Bayesian accounts can be potentially improved when they are supplemented with the threshold conventions postulated by semantic theory. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-09-02
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.9
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Attentional Pragmatics

    • Authors: Matthijs Westera
      Pages: 10:EA - 10:EA
      Abstract: The neo-Gricean approach to exhaustivity is based on the idea that exhaustivity arises when relevant propositions are not asserted. This paper presents a new pragmatic approach based on the idea that exhaustivity arises when relevant propositions are not mentioned, or more precisely, when the speaker did not intend to draw attention to them. This seemingly subtle shift from information to attention results in different predictions on a range of challenges for the neo-Gricean approach, some of which have been brought up in support of the grammatical approach to exhaustivity. This paper discusses three such challenges: exhaustivity on the hints of a quizmaster, exhaustivity on questions, and exhaustivity without an opinionatedness assumption. The two pragmatic approaches are compared on these puzzles along with the grammatical approach. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-09-08
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.10
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Two paths to habituality

    • Authors: Seth Cable
      Pages: 11:EA - 11:EA
      Abstract: This paper presents a detailed description and formal semantic analysis of habitual sentences in Tlingit (Na-Dene; Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon). As in many other languages (Carlson 2005, 2012), there are two means in Tlingit for expressing a habitual statement, such as my father eats salmon. The first employs a relatively unmarked verb, realizing imperfective aspect. In the second type of habitual sentence, however, the verb bears special habitual morphology. Although there is a significant overlap in the use of these constructions, certain semantic contrasts do exist. Most notably, the special habitual marking cannot be used to express pure, unrealized dispositions/functions/duties (e.g., Mary handles any mail from Antarctica). In other words, Tlingit habitual morphology --- unlike imperfective aspect --- requires the habituality in question to have actually occurred, an effect that has also observed for habitual morphology in a variety of other, unrelated languages (Green 2000, Bittner 2008, Boneh & Doron 2008, Filip 2018). I develop and defend a formal semantic analysis that captures these (and other) contrasts between imperfective and habitual verbs. In brief, imperfective aspect is argued to possess a modal semantics, quantifying over alternative worlds/situations (Arregui et al. 2014, Ferreira 2016). Habitual morphology, however, is argued to be associated with a (potentially covert) quantificational adverb, one that quantifies strictly over times in the actual world. The consequences of this account for the analysis of habitual sentences in other languages are explored. Most notably, we find that (i) “habituality” so-called is potentially a heterogeneous phenomenon, and resists unified definition or semantic analysis, and (ii) therefore is a sui generis category of phenomena, which cannot be reduced as an instance of aspect or modality (Filip & Carlson 1997, Filip 2018). EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-09-08
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.11
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
  • Scorekeeping in a chess game

    • Authors: Bryan Pickel, Brian Rabern
      Pages: 12:EA - 12:EA
      Abstract: There is an important analogy between languages and games. Just as a scoresheet records features of the evolution of a game to determine the effect of a move in that game, a conversational score records features of the evolution of a conversation to determine the effect of the linguistic moves that speakers make. Chess is particularly interesting for the study of conversational dynamics because it has language-like notations, and so serves as a simplified study in how the effect of an assertion depends on, as well as evolves, the scoreboard. In this paper, we offer a compositional semantics for chess notation and a simple formal picture for determining the full information conveyed by an entry. We will also discuss an alternative model resembling accounts of centered assertion. EARLY ACCESS
      PubDate: 2022-09-08
      DOI: 10.3765/sp.15.12
      Issue No: Vol. 15 (2022)
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Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK
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