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Similar Journals
 Natural Language SemanticsJournal Prestige (SJR): 0.866 Citation Impact (citeScore): 1Number of Followers: 8      Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles) ISSN (Print) 1572-865X - ISSN (Online) 0925-854X Published by Springer-Verlag  [2469 journals]
• Finding the force: How children discern possibility and necessity modals

Abstract: Abstract This paper investigates when and how children figure out the force of modals: that possibility modals (e.g., can/might) express possibility, and necessity modals (e.g., must/have to) express necessity. Modals raise a classic subset problem: given that necessity entails possibility, what prevents learners from hypothesizing possibility meanings for necessity modals' Three solutions to such subset problems can be found in the literature: the first is for learners to rely on downward-entailing (DE) environments (Gualmini and Schwarz in J. Semant. 26(2):185–215, 2009); the second is a bias for strong (here, necessity) meanings; the third is for learners to rely on pragmatic cues stemming from the conversational context (Dieuleveut et al. in Proceedings of the 2019 Amsterdam colloqnium, pp. 111–122, 2019a; Rasin and Aravind in Nat. Lang. Semant. 29:339–375, 2020). This paper assesses the viability of each of these solutions by examining the modals used in speech to and by 2-year-old children, through a combination of corpus studies and experiments testing the guessability of modal force based on their context of use. Our results suggest that, given the way modals are used in speech to children, the first solution is not viable and the second is unnecessary. Instead, we argue that the conversational context in which modals occur is highly informative as to their force and sufficient, in principle, to sidestep the subset problem. Our child results further suggest an early mastery of possibility—but not necessity—modals and show no evidence for a necessity bias.
PubDate: 2022-05-19

• Polymorphic distributivity

Abstract: Abstract This article describes a novel pattern of interpretations associated with universal determiners like ‘each’ and ‘every’. It is demonstrated that these canonically distributive quantifiers can give rise to surprising collective readings when they quantify into sub-clausal constituents, especially other Determiner Phrases. For instance, ‘two cards from each player’ can be understood to pick out a single assorted deck of cards, one whose contents co-vary with the players. Yet this deck as a whole may be said to participate in a range of collective activities (being shuffled together, being traded en masse, not fitting into a standard pack, etc.). Such examples are shown to differ from more familiar cumulative readings of the same quantifiers. A compositional analysis is offered that generalizes Krifka’s (2001) method of quantification into speech acts in order to accommodate quantification into a larger class of non-truth-denoting semantic objects, including in these cases, entities.
PubDate: 2022-04-29

• Challenges for independence-driven and context-repair responses to the
proviso problem

Abstract: Abstract This note presents challenge cases for prominent pragmatic responses to the proviso problem. I offer examples of uses of conditionals if  $$\psi,\,\phi_{P}$$ that seem to commit the speaker unconditionally to the presupposition P of the consequent clause ϕ, even though the sentence’s predicted semantic presupposition ψ⊃P is antecedently satisfied (contrary to context-repair accounts), and independence between ψ and P isn’t antecedently assumed (contrary to independence-driven accounts). The examples provided avoid problems with other examples from the literature used against pragmatic accounts. I leave the matter as an unresolved challenge for satisfaction theories of presupposition.
PubDate: 2022-04-27

• Zero N: Number features and ⊥

Abstract: Abstract In this paper I demonstrate that there is an explanation of the number marking we see on nouns when they combine with the numeral zero which combines Martí’s (Semant. Pragmat., 2020a, https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.13.3) account of the morphosyntax and semantics of the numeral-noun construction with Bylinina and Nouwen’s (Glossa 3(1):98, 2018) semantics for zero and which does not need to appeal to any further principles (e.g., agreement).
PubDate: 2022-04-22

• Time and evidence in the graded tense system of Mvskoke (Creek)

Abstract: Abstract In recent years, much attention has been given to the puzzling relationship between tense and evidence type found in languages where a single morpheme appears to encode both reference to time and to the evidential source for the assertion. In natural language, tense has long been understood as serving to locate the time at which the proposition expressed by the sentence holds. The two main theories of evidentials both agree that these morphemes serve to identify the type of evidence the speaker has for their assertion. In languages with evidential-tense morphology, these two categories of meaning are intertwined in ways that are unexpected given our understanding of both phenomena. Specifically, these evidential-tense morphemes appear to encode reference to a time that is linked to the situation in which the speaker gains evidence for their assertion. Two competing approaches have emerged in the literature as to whether these evidential-tense morphemes make crucial reference to the time evidence was acquired (Lee 2013; Smirnova 2013) or to the time and place of the speaker with respect to the event (Faller 2004; Chung 2007). This paper examines the temporal and evidential properties of the Mvskoke (or Creek) graded past tense system and finds novel support for the view in which evidential-tenses encode Evidence Acquisition Time (EAT). Mvskoke is shown to have three evidential-tenses which form part of its graded tense system, comprising recent, middle, and distant past. The main proposal is a formalization of EAT as a moment of belief-state change, i.e., the moment the speaker comes to believe the proposition. It is shown that Mvskoke’s evidential-tenses are compatible with a range of evidence types, and this distribution is explained through interactions with viewpoint aspect.
PubDate: 2022-04-04

Abstract: Abstract In this paper, we aim to account for the distribution and interpretation of a novel class of free choice items in Romanian, which we refer to as additive free choice items (ADD-FCIs). We show that the internal composition of ADD-FCIs, as well as their distribution, differs from that attested for other free choice paradigms discussed in the literature. Morphologically, ADD-FCIs are a more complex variant of regular universal FCIs, by virtue of an additional morpheme. This morpheme plays an additive role when it functions as a stand-alone particle, and we propose that its role is similarly additive when it functions as an infix in ADD-FCIs. Couched in an exhaustification framework, we put forward a novel compositional account that can derive the interpretation of these ADD-FCIs. As for their distribution, these elements are only found in the presence of the conditional mood, as well as unconditional structures. We show how our analysis, coupled with the Viability Constraint used to explain the distribution of regular FCIs, can also account for their restricted distribution. In doing so, we further show how the pattern we investigate opens new perspectives regarding the licensing of free choice items in unconditionals.
PubDate: 2022-04-01

• Scope splitting in Syrian Arabic

Abstract: Abstract Sentences like Mary needs to make the fewest mistakes on the upcoming test have a ‘split scope’ reading roughly paraphrasable as ‘Mary exceeds all others in terms of how many mistakes she must not make’; that is, her situation is the most precarious. The structural approach to this phenomenon attributes to such sentences a logical form resembling this paraphrase, in which the superlative component of the meaning of fewest scopes above the modal need to and the negative component scopes below it. This paper investigates analogous structures in Syrian Arabic, a language in which superlatives may appear at a distance from their scalar associates in the surface order. The syntax of such expressions in Syrian Arabic, and the range of interpretations available to the various syntactic permutations found there points to two different sources for split scope readings. While some split scope readings are derived by syntactic splitting of fewest across a modal verb, others arise from a semantic ambiguity in the modal verb itself, rather than from a syntactic distinction in logical form.
PubDate: 2022-03-28

• Number in NPI licensing

Abstract: Abstract The acceptability of any-DPs in existential modal sentences presents a challenge for theories of NPI licensing: existential modal sentences appear to differ substantially from other environments in which any-DPs are acceptable (in particular, they lack a downward-entailing operator). One approach to this challenge has been to, first, take any-DPs to be subject to an environment-based downward-entailingness condition—they have to occur in an environment that is Strawson downward-entailing with respect to their domain (cf. Kadmon and Landman 1993)—and, second, to derive such an environment in existential modal sentences by means of exhaustification (e.g., Fox 2007). This note presents new evidence for such a two-layered approach (cf. Crnič 2017, 2019). The evidence comes from a striking contrast in the behavior of singular vs. plural any-DPs in existential modal sentences. The paper concludes by charting some relations between any-DPs and other polarity items.
PubDate: 2022-03-23

• Enough clauses, (non)finiteness, and modality

Abstract: Abstract Infinitives are known to encode covert modality in certain environments including infinitival relatives and questions. Beyond these environments, however, the precise distribution and interpretation of infinitival modality remains poorly understood. In that light, this paper investigates infinitive-embedding enough/too sentences like Pat is tall enough to be the thief or Lee is too old to drive. These sentences have a modal semantics whose compositional source is contested: on one approach, the infinitive encodes the modality, and on another approach, the enough/too morpheme itself is modal. To adjudicate this debate, I consider heretofore largely overlooked finite-clause-embedding enough sentences like Pat is tall enough that she might/must be the thief or Lee was fast enough that she won the race. They provide, I argue, novel support for the view that the modality is in the embedded clause (whether nonfinite or finite) and not in enough/too. I then compare the covert modality of nonfinite enough clauses to the covert modality of infinitival relatives, questions, and complements to attitude predicates and content nouns. I generalize that covert modality in nonfinite clauses never encodes epistemic necessity, and I tentatively hypothesize that this constraint reflects the marked status of nonfiniteness in the finite/nonfinite opposition.
PubDate: 2022-03-22

• Contrast and verb phrase ellipsis: The case of tautologous conditionals

Abstract: Abstract This paper argues that verb phrase ellipsis requires contrast. The central observation is that ellipsis is ungrammatical in tautologous conditionals; e.g., *If John wins, then he does. Ellipsis is correctly ruled out by a focus-based theory of ellipsis (Rooth 1992a,b), but one that crucially imports focus’s requirement for contrast: an elliptical constituent must have an antecedent that is not merely an alternative to it, but a ‘proper’ alternative. An explanation in terms of contrast failure proves superior to alternative explanations in terms of triviality and matching form. Showing as much catalogues what counts for contrast in ellipsis, encompassing negation, questions, and intensionality. Subjecting ellipsis to a contrast requirement is in direct conflict with the traditional analysis of MaxElide effects (Takahashi and Fox 2005), favouring alternative explanations (e.g., Jacobson 2019a,b), perhaps in terms of contrast itself (Griffiths 2019). Overall, this paper establishes that contrast has explanatory power in ellipsis licensing.
PubDate: 2022-03-17

• Factive islands and questions about propositions

Abstract: Abstract In this squib, I evaluate the contradiction analysis (Abrusán in Natural Language Semantics 19(3):257–321, 2011, in Weak island semantics, 2014) and the necessary infelicity analysis (Oshima in Washio et al. (eds.), New frontiers in artificial intelligence, 2007; Schwarz and Simonenko in Natural Language Semantics 26(3–4):253–279, 2018b) of factive islands in light of a pattern that has not been previously discussed in the literature: questions about propositions. I argue that while the necessary infelicity approach can straightforwardly explain the acceptability of this kind of question, the contradiction account undergenerates, since it wrongly predicts their ungrammaticality. I claim that this prediction follows from the assumption that the domain of quantification contains contraries. Therefore, the main contribution of this squib is the observation that such an assumption cannot play an explanatory role in accounting for factive islands.
PubDate: 2022-03-10
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-022-09187-5

• Farewell and Welcome

PubDate: 2021-12-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09185-z

• Evidence for generalized quantifier semantics in the interpretation of the
English neuter singular pronoun

Abstract: Abstract The English pronoun it can anaphorically take on the meaning of a salient generalized quantifier when it occurs in subject position followed by an elided Verb Phrase and (optionally) a VP-level operator. The extent to which theories of pronoun interpretation will have to be altered to take account of this finding will depend on whether the phenomenon is unique to English or part of a crosslinguistic pattern.
PubDate: 2021-12-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09183-1

• Groups versus covers revisited: Structured pluralities and symmetric

Abstract: Abstract A number of natural language constructions seem to provide access to structured pluralities — that is, pluralities of pluralities. A body of semantic work has debated how to model this additional structure and the extent to which it depends on pragmatics. In this article, after controlling for the distinction between ambiguity and underspecification, we present new data showing that structured pluralities are sometimes but not always available, depending on the form of the plural noun phrase used. We show that these results challenge two longstanding theories of plurality. We sketch two different ways to account for these data and describe some of the diverging predictions they make.
PubDate: 2021-12-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09179-x

• Explaining presupposition projection in (coordinations of) polar questions

Abstract: Abstract This article starts off with the observation that in certain cases, presuppositions triggered by an element inside a question nucleus may fail to project. In fact, in what looks like coordinated structures involving polar questions, presupposition projection patterns are exactly parallel to what is observed when the corresponding assertions are coordinated. The article further shows that these facts do not fall out straightforwardly from existing theories of polar questions, (apparent) coordinations of questions, and presupposition projection. It then proposes a trivalent extension of inquisitive semantics such that the observed pattern can be understood in terms of existing theories of presupposition projection. The proposal has the following properties: (a) apparent coordinations of questions are indeed coordinations of questions, and (b) the semantic denotation of polar questions is asymmetric with respect to the “yes” and “no” answers.
PubDate: 2021-12-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09182-2

• On logicality and natural logic

Abstract: Abstract In this paper we focus on the logicality of language, i.e. the idea that the language system contains a deductive device to exclude analytic constructions. Puzzling evidence for the logicality of language comes from acceptable contradictions and tautologies. The standard response in the literature involves assuming that the language system only accesses analyticities that are due to skeletons as opposed to standard logical forms. In this paper we submit evidence in support of alternative accounts of logicality, which reject the stipulation of a natural logic and assume instead the meaning modulation of nonlogical terms.
PubDate: 2021-09-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09184-0

• The meaning of the tough-construction

Abstract: Abstract A formal semantic analysis of the tough-construction is provided building on the well-known observation that events play a central role. A close look at the semantic characteristics of the class of tough-predicates and the syntactic and semantic properties of nonfinite clauses reveals the link between these pieces, expanding on recent advances in the semantics of clauses (Moulton in Natural selection and the syntax of clausal complementation, PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2009). Building on Salzmann (Reconstruction and resumption in indirect A′-dependencies: On the syntax of prolepsis and relativization in (Swiss) German and beyond, de Gruyter, Berlin 2017b), a formal semantic and syntactic analysis of prolepsis is provided to explain the antecedent gap chain in the tough-construction. In total, this paper offers a description and explanation of (i) the class of tough-predicates; (ii) the properties of the nonfinite clause that appears in the tough-construction; (iii) why no other predicates or clauses are permitted in the construction; (iv) the many properties of the antecedent gap chain in the tough-construction, primarily the fact that the chain is “weakly” unbounded; and (v) the semantic contribution of prolepsis as it applies in the tough-construction.
PubDate: 2021-09-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09181-3

• Mandarin wh-conditionals: A dynamic question approach

Abstract: Abstract Mandarin has a special construction widely known as a ‘wh-conditional’, in which both the antecedent clause and the consequent clause are wh-clauses. Wh-conditionals are of interest to linguists because the wh-expressions in a wh-conditional must co-refer. How to make sense of the fusion of a conditional and two wh-clauses, as well as the nature of the co-reference relation, have been long-standing issues. Two competing approaches have been advanced to shed light on wh-conditionals: the indefinite approach (Cheng and Huang in Nat. Lang. Semant. 4(2):121–163, 1996; Chierchia in J. East Asian Linguist. 9: 1–54, 2000; a.o.), which treats wh-expressions as indefinites that exhibit dynamic potentials, and the question-categorial approach (Xiang in Interpreting questions with non-exhaustive answers, Ph.D. thesis, 2016; Xiang in Linguist. Philos., 2020a; Liu in Varities of alternatives, Ph.D. thesis, 2016; Liu in Varieties of alternatives: Focus particles and wh-expressions in Mandarin, 2017), which treats wh-clauses as questions denoting functions of various types (or categories). Both approaches face nontrivial challenges, but at the same time have unique advantages each. The goal of this paper is to devise an alternative approach that borrows insights from these two approaches but avoids their shortcomings. On the one hand, the proposed analysis treats wh-clauses as questions. On the other hand, it recognizes the dynamic potential of interrogative wh-expressions, i.e., their ability to introduce discourse referents. A wh-conditional is analyzed as quantification over the values of these discourse referents, which creates the impression of co-reference of the wh-expressions involved (via unselective binding). To the extent that the present analysis is on the right track, it extends the application of the dynamic potential of wh-expressions beyond anaphora.
PubDate: 2021-09-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09180-4

• Conditional analysis of clausal exceptives

Abstract: Abstract In this paper I argue that English exceptive constructions introduced by except can be derived from full clauses by ellipsis. I offer a compositional analysis for this clausal exceptive construction. I propose that except introduces quantification over possible situations and the clause following it provides the restriction for this quantification. I show how the analysis developed here derives the inferences except contributes to sentences it occurs in and the restrictions on its use. I also show how this approach captures certain cases which traditional approaches to the semantics of exceptives do not, such as cases where an except-phrase contains a PP or multiple syntactic constituents. The approach I propose correctly captures the NPI licensing facts inside except-phrases. In addition, this is the first approach to the semantics of exceptives that correctly captures the contribution of modal phrases such as possibly inside except-phrases.
PubDate: 2021-06-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09177-z

• Japanese free choice items as unconditionals

Abstract: Abstract This article examines syntactic and semantic properties of free choice items (FCIs) in Japanese. It is argued that Japanese FCIs, which have been considered to have a wh-item and a scalar focus particle demo, actually involve a clausal structure, which contains a null subject, a copula, and a subjunctive modal/mood. This proposal explains a number of puzzling issues regarding their distribution as FCIs compared with those in other languages. A compositional semantic analysis of Japanese FCIs is then proposed based on this morpho-syntactic decomposition; the Japanese free choice items are essentially analyzed as unconditionals, and it is shown that the subjunctive mood plays a crucial role in deriving relevant interpretations (in particular, counterfactuality, an ignorance inference, and an indifference inference) in the spirit of Izvorski (2000). This article also discusses a number of extensions and implications of the proposal: correspondence of different wh-items to different atomic levels in Condoravdi’s (2015) individuation scheme, scalarity of Japanese FCIs, the typology of FC expressions, and connection to correlative constructions. In addition, this article addresses some issues regarding licensing contexts of Japanese FCIs, an existential-like interpretation obtained in the presence of the phrase ii-kara ‘good-because’ in imperatives, anti-episodicity, subtrigging, the so-called Canasta scenario, and partitives.
PubDate: 2021-06-01
DOI: 10.1007/s11050-021-09175-1

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