Split constructions are widespread in natural languages. The separation of the semantic restriction of a quantifier from that quantifier is a typical example of such a construction. This study addresses the problem that such discontinuous strings exhibit--namely, a number of locality constraints, including intervention effects. These are shown to follow from the interaction of a minimalist syntax with a semantics that directly assigns a model-theoretic interpretation to syntactic logical forms. The approach is shown to have wide empirical coverage and a (...) conceptual simplicity. The book will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of syntax and semantics. (shrink)
The main objective of this article is to provide a formal semantics of comparative correlatives of the form ‘yuè …, (jiù ) yuè … ’ in Mandarin Chinese. A new analysis is proposed which treats the comparative correlatives as one which involves a quantificational tripartite structure and which derives all the meanings of the ‘yuè …, (jiù) yuè … ’ constructions through a comparison of degrees which relate to different or same individuals. The comparison of the same or (...) different degrees of a given property is shown to be the consequences of the general processing strategy for noun phrase interpretations suggested by Partee, as well as of the constituent structure of the sentence. It is also shown that the same semantics for Chinese yuè can be extended to the -er in English comparative conditionals, as well as to similar constructions in other languages. At the same time a superficial cross-linguistic variation from independent factors can also be derived. (shrink)
One of the two central suggestions put forth in Longobardi (1991, 1994) was that Romance/English differences in the syntax of proper names were parametrically connected to supposed differences in the semantics of bare (plural and mass) common nouns (BNs). The present article will pursue this line of investigation, trying to make precise such meaning differences and to understand the reason for their apparently surprising parametric association with the syntax of proper names.It will be shown that in most Romance varieties BNs, (...) unlike their English counterparts, distribute their existential and generic readings across all different contexts exactly like (Romance and English) overt indefinites. All the differences will be unified under the proposal that Romance BNs are nothing but a type of indefinites (variables, existentially or generically bound) in Kamp-Heim’s DRT sense, while English BNs are rather systematically ambiguous between this quantificational interpretation and a referential (i.e. directly kind-denoting, much in the spirit of Carlson 1977a, b) one, providing for another type of generic reading.The analysis will therefore crucially exploit and empirically support Gerstner and Krifka’s (1987) distinction between referential and quantificational genericity. On such grounds we will finally gain a conceptual understanding of the typological implication originally established in Longobardi (1991, 1994), thus confirming that the strategies of interpretation of nominals, whether proper or common nouns, are basically one and the same, though differently parametrized in different languages. This result, in turn, will shed some light on the question whether comparative semantics is possible and whether it can be singled out as a legitimate independent component of parametric theories of grammatical variation. (shrink)
Spatial relational meaning is typically predominantly expressed in English and related languages by die locative particle system. Even between closely related languages such as Danish and English, there are substantial differences with respect to both the semantics and the morphology of locative particles. Other languages (including Japanese), although they may use locative particles in spatial relational expression, distribute spatial relational meaning quite differendy between and within form classes. We investigate the consequences of these differences for the acquisition of spatial relational (...) expressions in these three languages. Although the structure of the target language affects the specific strategies employed by the language acquiring child, the acquisition strategies for all three languages appear to be instances of a general class of conservative learning strategies. We discuss die implications of these findings in terms of the relationship between linguistic and cognitive determinants of spatial language acquisition. (shrink)
Against the background of a new interest in empires past and present and an inflation of the concept in modern political language and beyond, the article first looks at the use of the concept as an analytical marker in historical and current interpretations of empires. With a focus on Western European cases, the concrete semantics of empire as a key concept in modern European history is analyzed, combining a reconstruction of some diachronic trends with synchronic differentiations.
Our understanding of subjunctive conditionals has been greatly enhanced through the use of possible world semantics and, more precisely, by the idea that they involve variably strict quantification over possible worlds. I propose to extend this treatment to ceteris paribus conditionals - that is, conditionals that incorporate a ceteris paribus or 'other things being equal' clause. Although such conditionals are commonly invoked in scientific theorising, they traditionally arouse suspicion and apprehensiveness amongst philosophers. By treating ceteris paribus conditionals as a species (...) of variably strict conditional I hope to shed new light upon their content and their logic. (shrink)
Conceptual primitives and semantic universals are the cornerstones of a semantic theory which Anna Wierzbicka has been developing for many years. Semantics: Primes and Universals is a major synthesis of her work, presenting a full and systematic exposition of that theory in a non-technical and readable way. It delineates a full set of universal concepts, as they have emerged from large-scale investigations across a wide range of languages undertaken by the author and her colleagues. On the basis of empirical cross-linguistic (...) studies it vindicates the old notion of the "psychic unity of mankind", while at the same time offering a framework for the rigorous description of different languages and cultures. (shrink)
During the last thirty years, most linguists and philosophers have assumed that meaning can be represented symbolically and that the mental processing of language involves the manipulation of symbols. Scholars have assembled strong evidence that there must be linguistic representations at several abstract levels--phonological, syntactic, and semantic--and that those representations are related by a describable system of rules. Because meaning is so complex, linguists often posit an equally complex relationship between semantic and other levels of grammar. The Semantics of Syntax (...) is an elegant and powerful analysis of the relationship between syntax and semantics. Noting that meaning is underdetermined by form even in simple cases, Denis Bouchard argues that it is impossible to build knowledge of the world into grammar and still have a describable grammar. He thus proposes simple semantic representations and simple rules to relate linguistic levels. Focusing on a class of French verbs, Bouchard shows how multiple senses can be accounted for by the assumption of a single abstract core meaning along with background information about how objects behave in the world. He demonstrates that this move simplifies the syntax at no cost to the descriptive power of the semantics. In two important final chapters, he examines the consequences of his approach for standard syntactic theories. (shrink)
In this interpretive analysis, Ravin argues that thematic roles are not valid semantic entities, and that syntax and semantics are indeed autonomous and independent of one another. Suggesting a decompositional approach to lexical semantics in the spirit of Katz's semantic theory, the book considers such theoretical issues as indeterminacy and ambiguity, lexical configuration rules, and lexical projection, and analyzes the semantic content of event concepts such as causation, action, and change.
This book attempts to marry truth-conditional semantics with cognitive linguistics in the church of computational neuroscience. To this end, it examines the truth-conditional meanings of coordinators, quantifiers, and collective predicates as neurophysiological phenomena that are amenable to a neurocomputational analysis. Drawing inspiration from work on visual processing, and especially the simple/complex cell distinction in early vision (V1), we claim that a similar two-layer architecture is sufficient to learn the truth-conditional meanings of the logical coordinators and logical quantifiers. As a prerequisite, (...) much discussion is given over to what a neurologically plausible representation of the meanings of these items would look like. We eventually settle on a representation in terms of correlation, so that, for instance, the semantic input to the universal operators (e.g. and, all)is represented as maximally correlated, while the semantic input to the universal negative operators (e.g. nor, no)is represented as maximally anticorrelated. On the basis this representation, the hypothesis can be offered that the function of the logical operators is to extract an invariant feature from natural situations, that of degree of correlation between parts of the situation. This result sets up an elegant formal analogy to recent models of visual processing, which argue that the function of early vision is to reduce the redundancy inherent in natural images. Computational simulations are designed in which the logical operators are learned by associating their phonological form with some degree of correlation in the inputs, so that the overall function of the system is as a simple kind of pattern recognition. Several learning rules are assayed, especially those of the Hebbian sort, which are the ones with the most neurological support. Learning vector quantization (LVQ) is shown to be a perspicuous and efficient means of learning the patterns that are of interest. We draw a formal parallelism between the initial, competitive layer of LVQ and the simple cell layer in V1, and between the final, linear layer of LVQ and the complex cell layer in V1, in that the initial layers are both selective, while the final layers both generalize. It is also shown how the representations argued for can be used to draw the traditionally-recognized inferences arising from coordination and quantification, and why the inference of subalternacy breaks down for collective predicates. Finally, the analogies between early vision and the logical operators allow us to advance the claim of cognitive linguistics that language is not processed by proprietary algorithms, but rather by algorithms that are general to the entire brain. Thus in the debate between objectivist and experiential metaphysics, this book falls squarely into the camp of the latter. Yet it does so by means of a rigorous formal, mathematical, and neurological exposition – in contradiction of the experiential claim that formal analysis has no place in the understanding of cognition. To make our own counter-claim as explicit as possible, we present a sketch of the LVQ structure in terms of mereotopology, in which the initial layer of the network performs topological operations, while the final layer performs mereological operations. The book is meant to be self-contained, in the sense that it does not assume any prior knowledge of any of the many areas that are touched upon. It therefore contains mini-summaries of biological visual processing, especially the retinocortical and ventral /what?/ parvocellular pathways computational models of neural signaling, and in particular the reduction of the Hodgkin-Huxley equations to the connectionist and integrate-and-fire neurons Hebbian learning rules and the elaboration of learning vector quantization the linguistic pathway in the left hemisphere memory and the hippocampus truth-conditional vs. image-schematic semantics objectivist vs. experiential metaphysics and mereotopology. All of the simulations are implemented in MATLAB, and the code is available from the book’s website. • The discovery of several algorithmic similarities between visison and semantics. • The support of all of this by means of simulations, and the packaging of all of this in a coherent theoretical framework. (shrink)
'Mass terms', words like water, rice and traffic, have proved very difficult to accommodate in any theory of meaning since, unlike count nouns such as house or dog, they cannot be viewed as part of a logical set and differ in their grammatical properties. In this study, motivated by the need to design a computer program for understanding natural language utterances incorporating mass terms, Harry Bunt provides a thorough analysis of the problem and offers an original and detailed solution. An (...) extension of classical set theory, Ensemble Theory, is defined, and this provides the conceptual basis of a framework for the analysis of natural language meaning which Dr Bunt calls Two-level model-theoretic semantics. The validity of the framework is convincingly demonstrated by the formal analysis of a fragment of English including sentences with quantified and modified mass terms. Separate chapters of the book are devoted to an axiomatic definition of Ensemble Theory and a detailed discussion of its status as a mathematical formalism. (shrink)
This book presents an innovative and novel approach to linguistic semantics, beginning with the idea that language can be described as a system for the expression of linguistic Meanings as particular surface forms or Texts.
This book is concerned with the relationship between semantics and surface structure and in particular with the way in which each is mapped into the other. Jim Miller argues that semantic and syntactic structure require different representations and that semantic structure is far more complex than many analysts realise. He argues further that semantic structure should be based on notions of location and movement. The need for a semantic component of greater complexity is demonstrated by an examination of prepositions, particles, (...) adverbs and verb-prefixes, and is shown to accord with cross-language and historical facts. The volume goes on to consider the sort of rules that are required to map semantic structures onto syntax. Semantics and Syntax tackles fundamental issues and draws together many of the key concepts of traditional grammar and formal linguistics. The general framework for handling syntax, semantics and morphology that it outlines is perhaps a controversial one, but it will be recognized as challenging and original. (shrink)
The sentence Irving was closer to me than he was to most of the others contains a quantifier, most of the other, in the scope a comparative. The first part of this paper explains the challenges presented by such cases to existing approaches to the semantics of the comparative. The second part presents a new analysis of comparatives based on intervals rather than points on a scale. This innovation is analogized to the move from moments to intervals in (...) tense semantics. The remainder of the paper is concerned with an interval-based semantics of degree in relation to issues other than the comparative proper. The paper begins with a discussion of the role negative polarity has played in studies on the semantics of comparatives. (shrink)
(1) is an example of an adjectival comparative. In it, the adjective important is flanked by more and a comparative clause headed by than. This article is a survey of recent ideas about the interpretation of comparatives, including (i) the underlying semantics based on the idea of a threshold; (ii) the interpretation of comparative clauses that include quantifiers (brighter than on many other days); (iii) remarks on differentials such as much in (1) above: what they do in (...) the comparative and what they do elsewhere in the language; (iv) the relationship between comparatives and other Degree constructions (e.g. as important, too impor- tant); and (v) the types of phrases in which comparatives are found (adjective: tighter versus noun: more water). Given the nature and purpose of this essay, I have tried not to presuppose background in formal semantics and I have departed from standard practice in journal articles by, as much as possible, not interrupting the flow with footnotes and references. There are two appendices. The first provides more analytical detail and there I do rely on formal techniques of natural language semantics. The second covers the sources for the ideas surveyed here. (shrink)
In this paper, we propose an analysis of metalinguistic comparatives (MCs) in Greek and Korean which combines an attitudinal semantics (Giannakidou and Stavrou 2008) with an expressive component. The comparative morpheme supplies the former, and the than-particle supplies the latter. Following Giannakidou and Stavrou, we assume that the MC involves the speaker’s attitude towards the than-proposition— which is deemed less appropriate or preferable— and we discuss novel data from Korean showing a two way distinction between “regular” MCs (signaled by (...) the particle kipota), and negative MCs (signaled by charari “rather” and the particle nuni). We argue that the use of MC than particles, in all variants, brings about an individual’s emotive state, and propose that the morphemes contain expressive indices in the sense of Potts 2007. Indices allow a range from mildly negative to very negative stance, so we capture the fact that expressive particles convey negativity, without positing negation in syntax— a result consistent with the fact that MC-than itself does not license strong NPIs that need negation. We further show that NPI sanctioning in comparatives is very limited, contrary to what is generally thought. Besides NPI-sanctioning, this analysis has two, we believe, important implications. First, it allows the generalization that metalinguistic functions in language are indeed part of the grammar as a combination of attitude semantics and expressivity. Additionally, our use of expressive indices supports Potts’s view of the expressive component as separate, but interacting, with the descriptive content. Finally, we show that the than particle is not vacuous (as is generally believed) but contentful: it is the locus of the interaction between descriptive and expressive meaning in the comparative. (shrink)
One of the major arenas for debate within generative grammar is the nature of paradigmatic relations among words. Intervening in key debates at the interface between syntax and semantics, this book examines the relation between structure and meaning, and analyses how it affects the internal properties of words and corresponding syntactic manifestations. Adapting notions from the Evo-Devo project in biology (the idea of 'co-linearity' between structural units and behavioural manifestations) Juan Uriagereka addresses a major puzzle: how words can be both (...) decomposable so as to be acquired by children, and atomic, so that they do not manifest themselves as modular to adults. (shrink)
This book offers a new approach to the analysis of the multiple meanings of English modals, conjunctions, conditionals, and perception verbs. Although such ambiguities cannot easily be accounted for by feature-analyses of word meaning, Eve Sweetser's argument shows that they can be analyzed both readily and systematically. Meaning relationships in general cannot be understood independently of human cognitive structure, including the metaphorical and cultural aspects of that structure. Sweetser shows that both lexical polysemy and pragmatic ambiguity are shaped by our (...) metaphorical folk understanding of epistemic processes and of speech interaction. Similar regularities can be shown to structure the contrast among root, epistemic and speech act uses of modal verbs, multiple uses of conjunctions and conditionals, and certain processes of historical change observed in Indo-European languages. Since polysemy is typically the intermediate step in semantic change, the same regularities observable in polysemy can be extended to an analysis of semantic change. (shrink)
This new and important study of semantic change examines how new meanings arise through language use, especially the various ways in which speakers and writers experiment with uses of words and constructions in the flow of strategic interaction with addressees. In the last few decades there has been growing interest in exploring systemicities in semantic change from a number of perspectives including theories of metaphor, pragmatic inferencing, and grammaticalization. Like earlier studies, these have for the most part been based on (...) data taken out of context. This book is the first detailed examination of semantic change from the perspective of historical pragmatics and discourse analysis. Drawing on extensive corpus data from over a thousand years of English and Japanese textual history, Traugott and Dasher show that most changes in meaning originate in and are motivated by the associative flow of speech and conceptual metonymy. (shrink)