Research


 

recent and ongoing projects

Alternative unconditionals in Yucatec Maya: Previous accounts of alternative unconditionals in English ("Whether or not it rains, the party will be fun") make crucial use of question semantics, contributed compositionally by the embedded interrogative headed by "whether". In YM, however, no interrogative syntax is present. Instead, alternative unconditionals consist of a disjunction of subjunctive marked predicates occurring as a clausal topic. This work develops a compositional semantics based on these components.  [Handout en español] [Handout - UChicago]

At-issueness and embedding in Yucatec Maya attitude reports: Examines two kinds of attitude report, differing in the presence/absence of the topic marker -e'. Argues that the two are truth conditionally equivalent, but differ in whether the propositional attitude itself is part of that content is at-issue meaning or expressed parenthetically (similar to English 'Slifting'). Furthermore, I argue that this semantic difference correlates with significantly different syntaxes in the two superficially similar forms. [Handout en español - CILLA V][Handout - Rutgers ST@R/SURGE][Draft available on request]

Indefiniteness and the typology of implicit arguments: Examines Traditionally, the literature distinguishes between indefinite implicit arguments (IAs) like the theme of "John ate" and the definite IA in "Fred noticed.". Here, I argue that in addition to these, we must distinguish a third type: flexible IAs like the contest in "Maribel won". I show that data from Sluicing and the novelty condition reveal that flexible IAs can pattern with either definites or indefinites. Based on this, I propose a semantic analysis of flexible IAs and explore ramifications for the study of implicit arguments in general. [Poster - WCCFL30] [Paper-WCCFL 30]

Linguistically establishing discourse context: Two case studies from Mayan languages (joint work w/ Robert Henderson): Our invited contribution to the 2012 LSA Special Session on Methodologies in Semantic Fieldwork. Examines the linguistic (as opposed to practical and sociolinguistic) factors governing the choice of language used to establish discourse context in felicity and truth value judgment tasks in fieldwork settings. [Poster - LSA 2012][Paper - in prep]

Uninformativity and Focus in (Yucatec Maya) Questions: Despite a morphosyntax largely bereft of question-specific elements, I provide a compositional semantics of matrix polar, alternative, and wh-questions in Yucatec Maya. The account relies crucially on a particular semantics for indefinites and disjunctions, arguing that these elements have an inherent issue-raising capacity at the core of the meaning of question.  (The paper has been accepted at Natural Language Semantics pending revisions; the revised version will be posted shortly)[paper - NALS][handout en español - CILLA IV]

The pragmatics of quantifier scope: a corpus study (joint work w/ Adrian Brasoveanu and Robert Henderson): Using quantifier-rich LSAT logic puzzles as our corpus, we present a quantitative analysis of the various factors influencing quantifier scope disambiguation (linear order, grammatical function, and choice of lexical item) [slides - MIT Syntax Square][Paper - Sinn und Bedeutung]

dissertation

Issues and Alternatives: Argues that disjunctions, indefinites, and other existential quantifiers have an issue-raising capacity similar to that of questions. [pdf - single spaced]

other downloads

Verum focus and the composition of negative polar questions: A semantic/pragmatic account of English polar questions with preposed negation. Central to the account is a compositional account where the intuitive effect of verum focus (i.e. emphasis on truth value) arises compositionally from double negation itself. Other core properties of these questions are derived pragmatically based upon this semantics. (NB: Ch. 5 of my dissertation largely supersedes this handout) [handout - 2011 LSA Annual Meeting]

Sluicing as anaphora to issues: Develops a semantic isomorphy account of Sluicing over both truth-conditional content and issues in the sense of inquisitive semantics. The approach solves a number of existing problems regarding double negation and implicit passive agents as well as novel data regarding Sluicing and appositives. [paper - SALT 20][poster - SALT 20][handout - SALT 20]

Crossing the appositive/at-issue meaning boundary (joint work w/ Adrian Brasoveanu and Robert Henderson): Argues for a unidimensional, incremental semantics for appositives to capture anaphora, presupposition, and ellipsis between appositive and at-issue content. At-issue content, modeled as a proposal to update the context set (CS), is interleaved with appositive updates, which update the CS directly. [paper - SALT 20][handout - SALT 20

Fine-grained alternatives and varieties of polar questions: Ongoing work on positive, negative, and alternative questions in English arguing that the epistemic inferences they contribute (speaker bias or so-called 'Verum effects') can be captured via pragmatics and a semantics where polarity plays a compositional role in all cases (even high negation). (NB: this handout is superseded by Ch. 4-5 of my dissertation) [handout available on request]

if-suspenders and the existential presupposition of questions: Ongoing work arguing that the contribution of Horn's if-suspenders can be derived pragmatically from a semantics which gives a compositional role both to their conditional morphosyntax and appositive status. Such a compositional account, then, provides an empirical argument that the existential inference in wh-questions is indeed presuppositional. [handout - CUSP 2]

Non-interrogative Questions in Yukatek Maya: This work examines the semantics and pragmatics of polar and alternative questions in Yukatek Maya. Alternative questions consist of focused disjunctions which are analyzed in terms of the interaction of the existential presupposition of focus and an inquisitive semantics account of disjunctions. Polar questions are analyzed as covert alternative questions where only one disjunct is pronounced. The covert disjunct is interpreted according to general properties of disjunctions (e.g. mutual exclusivity, exhaustivity). [handout - SULA 5][paper - SULA V]

Disjunctions and Polar Questions in Yukatek Maya: Part of a larger project examining the semantics of wáa, this paper argues that polar questions in Yukatek Maya are in fact elliptical alternative questions with wáa performing the `or' role as it does in ordinary disjunctions. Counterarguments to this analysis from Bolinger (1978)'s discussion of English polar questions are argued to be English-specific rather than inherent properties of polar/alternative questions. [abstract - SSILA 2009][Handout - SSILA 2009]

Strong Positions and Laryngeal Features in Yukatek Maya: Yukatek Maya has two phonological phenomena, allophonic aspiration and [h]-epenthesis, which insert the feature [spread glottis] at the right edge of the prosodic word and phonological phrase respectively. Providing an OT analysis of these phenomena requires controversial constraints which privilege [s.g.] in 'weak' positions. Despite this conflict with certain theories of positional privilege, these two processes are argued to instantiate a universal pressure, the articulatory effort required to maintain persistent voicing throughout longer prosodic units. [pdf - NELS 39] [Handout - NELS 39]

 VP Ellipsis in POSSing constructions: This squib examines VP Ellipsis in cases where the functional head preceding the VP is a determiner rather than tense (so-called POSS-ing cases). We find that such VPE is subject to unexpected restrictions (most notably it cannot go backwards) above and beyond those that hold of regular VPE. [pdf]