This book takes concepts developed by researchers in theoretical computer science and adapts and applies them to the study of natural language meaning. Summarizing over a decade of research, Chris Barker and Chung-chieh Shan put forward the Continuation Hypothesis: that the meaning of a natural language expression can depend on its own continuation.
We present a general theory of scope and binding in which both crossover and superiority violations are ruled out by one key assumption: that natural language expressions are normally evaluated (processed) from left to right. Our theory is an extension of Shan’s (2002) account of multiple-wh questions, combining continuations (Barker, 2002) and dynamic type-shifting. Like other continuation-based analyses, but unlike most other treatments of crossover or superiority, our analysis is directly compositional (in the sense of, e.g., Jacobson, 1999). In particular, (...) it does not postulate a level of Logical Form or any other representation distinct from surface syntax. One advantage of using continuations is that they are the standard tool for modeling order-of-evaluation in programming languages. This provides us with a natural and independently motivated characterization of what it means to evaluate expressions from left to right. We give a combinatory categorial grammar that models the syntax and the semantics of quantifier scope and wh-question formation. It allows quantificational binding but not crossover, in-situ wh but not superiority violations. In addition, the analysis automatically accounts for a variety of sentence types involving binding in the presence of pied piping, including reconstruction cases such as Whose criticism of hisi mother did each personi resent? (shrink)
This paper presents syntactic and semantic rules for a fragment of English with mixed quotation. The fragment shows that quotation has a recursive and compositional structure. Quoted expressions turn out to denote characters, so the semantics of quotation simulates the pragmatics of speech, including dependence on utterance contexts and reference to mental entities. The analysis also accommodates varieties of unquotation, pure quotation, and causal reference.
Using the programming-language concept of continuations, we propose a new, multimodal analysis of quantification in Type Logical Grammar. Our approach provides a geometric view of in-situ quantification in terms of graphs, and motivates the limited use of empty antecedents in derivations. Just as continuations are the tool of choice for reasoning about evaluation order and side effects in programming languages, our system provides a principled, type-logical way to model evaluation order and side effects in natural language. We illustrate with an (...) improved account of quantificational binding, weak crossover, wh-questions, superiority, and polarity licensing. (shrink)
We propose a novel interpretation of natural-language questions using a modal predicate logic of knowledge. Our approach brings standard model-theoretic and proof-theoretic techniques from modal logic to bear on questions. Using the former, we show that our interpretation preserves Groenendijk and Stokhof's answerhood relation, yet allows an extensional interpretation. Using the latter, we get a sound and complete proof procedure for the logic for free. Our approach is more expressive; for example, it easily treats complex questions with operators that scope (...) over questions. We suggest a semantic criterion that restricts what natural-language questions can express. We integrate and generalize much previous work on the semantics of questions, including Beck and Sharvit's families of subquestions, non-exhaustive questions, and multi-party conversations. (shrink)