New Frontiers:
Formal Semantics Beyond Spoken Language
Organizers Topic Registration/Venue Program

Tutorials, NYU, May 29, 2014 
(in conjunction with SALT 24, May 30 - June 1st, 2014 at NYU) 

organized jointly by 
the ERC Advanced Grant Project ‘New Frontiers of Formal Semantics’ 
and New York University


Philippe Schlenker (Senior Researcher, Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; Global Distinguished Professor, NYU; ERC Project Leader, FRONTSEM project, LINGUAE Group).

Kathryn Davidson (Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale)

Jeremy Kuhn (Graduate Student, NYU)

Itamar Kastner (Graduate Student, NYU)


Methods of formal semantics have recently been extended beyond the realm of spoken language. These tutorials are intended to give a snapshot of two new research directions: the formal semantics of sign languages; and the formal semantics of pictures, gestures and diagrams. While the former direction pertains to human language and the latter doesn’t, we believe that researchers from these fields can benefit from each other’s work. First, it has long been established that sign languages share the general formal properties (phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic) of other human languages, and that they have a key role to play in studies of linguistic universals – which they sometimes illuminate in a new way due to the unique properties of the signed modality. But sign languages also have an iconic dimension which is only beginning to be captured in formal studies of meaning; some of the formal tools developed in research on pictures, gestures and diagrams might prove helpful in this endeavor. One key theoretical question lies in the relation between iconic and grammatical rules in sign language: are they separate systems that happen to coexist in the same modality, or are they integrated within one unified system – and if so what does that tell us about Universal Grammar? Second, researchers on pictures, gestures and diagrams have emphasized the rich semantic content of these mediums, and they have sometimes attempted to devise logical systems to capture them. But sign languages have a considerably richer logical structure (at least as rich as that of spoken languages), one which undoubtedly has a gestural/pictorial/diagrammatic component – and which could thus serve as a useful point of comparison for these non-linguistic studies. 

Note: For financial reasons, the tutorials are all given by researchers working in the US at the time of the meeting.

Registration: please register here if you wish to attend. Registration is free (but we need to have an estimate of the number of people who will attend).

Venue: All talks will occur at New York University in 5 Washington Place, Room 101. Further information on the venue can be found here.

ASL interpreting will be provided for all talks.

CART captioning will be provided for afternoon talks only.


The slides of some of the talks are enclosed below

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - New York University  
Room:  5 Washington Place, Room 101
9:25 Introduction
Part I: Semantics of pictures, gestures and diagrams
9:30-10:30 Gabriel Greenberg (UCLA)
Reference and predication in pictorial representation
10:30-11:30 Matthew Stone (Rutgers)
Formal semantics for coverbal gestures [pdf]
11:30-11:45 Break
11:45-12:45 Sun-Joo Shin (Yale)
The formal semantics of diagrams [ppt]
12:45-2:00 Lunch Break
Part II: Sign Language Semantics
2:00-3:00 Jeremy Kuhn (NYU) and Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; NYU)  
Loci: variables, pictures, or features? [pdf]
3:00-4:00 Ronnie Wilbur (Purdue)
'Event visibility' (and beyond) in sign languages.
4:00-4:30 Break
4:30-5:30 Kathryn Davidson (Yale)
Sign languages and the semantics/pragmatics interface [pdf]
5:30-6:30 Ann Senghas (Columbia)
The emergence of spatial reference in Nicaraguan Sign Language [pdf]
6:30 End of workshop