Abstracts

December 6th 2006
Presentations by Aynat Rubinstein and Barbara Partee & Vladimir Borschev

(i) Aynat Rubinstein: Reciprocal verbs as a probe into lexical and compositional semantics (handout)

Siloni (2001, 2002, to appear) has shown that reciprocal verbs are an excellent probe into cross-linguistic variation at the interface of morphology, syntax, and semantics. She identifies a divide between 'syntax languages' (e.g. Romance languages), in which reciprocals are derived in the syntax, and 'lexicon languages' (e.g. English, Russian), in which reciprocalization is a lexical process. This paper is an exploration of the operations that derive the denotations of reciprocal verbs in the two language types, and the semantic foundations in which they are grounded. The proposal highlights the role played by pair individuals and pair events in the semantics of reciprocals, thereby providing evidence for the relevance of group events to natural language.

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(ii) Barbara Partee & Vladimir Borschev: Information Structure, Perspectival Structure, Diathesis Alternation, and the Russian Genitive of Negation (handout)

The Russian Genitive of Negation construction (Gen Neg) involves case alternation between Genitive and the two structural cases, Nominative and Accusative. The factors governing the alternation have been a matter of debate for many decades, and there is a huge literature. Here we focus on one central issue and its theoretical ramifications.

      The theoretical issue is the following. The same truth-conditional content can often be structured in more than one way; we believe that there is a distinction between choices in how to structure a situation to be described, and choices in how to structure a sentence describing the (already structured) situation. The distinction may not always be sharp, and the term Information Structure may perhaps cover both, but we believe that the distinction is important and needs closer attention.

      Babby (1980) , in a masterful work on the Russian Genitive of Negation, argued that the choice depended principally on Theme-Rheme structure; after initially following Babby (Borschev and Partee 1998) , we later argued (Borschev and Partee 2002a, 2002b) that the choice reflects not Theme-Rheme structure but a structuring of the described situation which we call Perspectival Structure.

      Here we briefly review the phenomenon, Babby’s Theme-Rheme-based analysis, and our arguments for a different analysis. We then consider Hanging Topics, the Genitive Initial Construction, partitive Genitives, and broader licensing conditions of Genitive case, raising the possibility that our counterexamples to Babby’s use of Theme-Rheme structure might be explained away as examples involving Hanging Topics rather than (Praguian) Themes.

      We end up having strengthened our arguments that Theme-Rheme structure is not a determinant of Genitive choice for Gen Neg through the comparison of Gen Neg with the Genitive Initial Sentence construction, which does seem to essentially involve a Thematic Genitive NP. Among examples of the Genitive Initial Sentence construction, we find some that simultaneously exemplify the Gen Neg construction. In our speculative concluding hypotheses and questions, we raise further issues concerning the different possible Theme-Rheme structures for Gen Neg and hypothesize that a common Perspectival Structure motivates the marked constructions of both Gen Neg and the Genitive Initial Sentence construction.

This talk is based on our extended abstract for the LoLa9 conference in Hungary, available here, which was superseded by our handout, which is here.

Partee, Barbara H., and Borschev, Vladimir. 2006. Information structure, Perspectival Structure, diathesis alternation, and the Russian Genitive of Negation. In Proceedings of Ninth Symposium on Logic and Language (LoLa 9), Besenyőtelek, Hungary, August 24–26, 2006, eds. Beáta Gyuris, László Kálmán, Chris Pińón and Károly Varasdi, 120-129. Budapest: Research Institute for Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Theoretical Linguistics Programme, Eötvös Loránd University.

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November 29th 2006
Presentations by Andrew McKenzie and Florian Schwarz

(i) Andrew McKenzie: Fixing the scope of Turkish negation

Recent work (Butler 2001, Kelepir 2001) has claimed that sentential negation is mobile in Turkish, based on the interaction between N-words (NPI-like items) and polarity items.  Negation (the -mE- suffix) moves with the verb, and can adjoin to any projection to ensure that the N-word is within the immediate scope of negation (i.e. with no intervening operator).  In effect, Butler and Kelepir say that all negation in Turkish is constituent negation.  However, actual constituent negation is effected with the particle
degil, which is also used in verbless copular clauses. The -mE- suffix only affixes to verb stems, while degil is added to non-verbal stems (Kelepir 2001).  I claim that degil is always constituent negation, while -mE- is sentential negation, whose scope is fixed at NegP.   The mysterious "floating" effects are derived by a null operator in the NegP projection.  This operator originates with the N-word, and raises to NegP (cf.
Mathieu 2001 for French).  The actual n-word must be within the operator's scope, but is free to move about for other reasons, like specificity.  The immediate scope requirement derives an intervention effect based on movement (like Beck 1996 originally proposes), not on agreement.

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(ii) Florian Schwarz: Anaphoric and Non-anaphoric Definites in German

This presentation presents some issues from ongoing work on two types of definite descriptions in standard German and some German dialects. The main difference between the two concerns the presence or absence of a relation to an antecedent noun phrase. The goal of this work is to capture the difference in formal terms and to explore what implications the availability of these two mechanisms for realizing definiteness in natural language has for theoretical issues related to the analysis of definite descriptions (e.g. donkey anaphora, accommodation, bridging, discourse reference, etc.).

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November 8th 2006
Presentations by Amy Rose Deal and Barbara Partee & Vladimir Borschev

(i) Amy Rose Deal: Case-marking and object interpretation in Nez Perce (handout, paper)

In this talk I will discuss my fieldwork on Nez Perce case alternations, in particular the finding that 0-case objects in Nez Perce display semantic behaviors characteristic of antipassivization.  Like antipassive objects in West Greenlandic, Nez Perce 0-marked objects are non-referential and have obligatory narrow scope with respect to intensional operators. I will discuss the status of the alternation between case-marked and 0-marked objects, arguing with data from negation that the marked object is not required to take wide scope. Finally, I will discuss possible sources of structural difference between negation and intensional contexts, and solicit suggestions for future fieldwork.

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(ii) Barbara Partee & Vladimir Borschev: Pros and Cons of a Type-Shifting Approach to Russian Genitive of Negation

This talk is based on a forthcoming paper of the same title, to appear in Proceedings of the Sixth International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Computation (Batumi 2005), eds. Balder ten Cate and Henk Zeevat: Springer.

In our work on the Russian Genitive of Negation, we address the semantics of the Genitive of Negation construction and the interplay of lexical, compositional, and contextual factors. In this paper we focus on one interesting semantic proposal that has arisen recently (Kagan 2005, Partee and Borschev 2004), the possibility that the relevant diathesis shift in this case involves the demotion of the Genitive-marked NP from a normal referential type e to a property type, <e,t>. We consider arguments both in favor of it and against it. We consider the matter unresolved and worth continued investigation.

Kagan, Olga. 2005. A modal analysis of genitive case in Russian. Ms. Jerusalem. [PDF file]

Partee, Barbara H., and Borschev, Vladimir. 2004. The semantics of Russian Genitive of Negation: The nature and role of Perspectival Structure. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 14, eds. Kazuha Watanabe and Robert B. Young, 212-234. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.  [PDF file]

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October 25th 2006
Presentations by Keir Moulton and Vladimir Borschev &Barbara Partee

(i) Keir Moulton: Exploring Reflexive Verb Meanings

Abstract: There is a well known verb class often referred as inherent reflexives, a subset of which denote "self-action" meanings (Reinhart and Reuland 1993, Rooryck and vanden Wyngaerd 1997, Lidz 1997). I will review arguments that these meanings cannot be derived by a reflexivization operation (see Rooryck and vanden Wyngaerd 1997, Reinhart and Siloni 2005 for different conclusions). Rather, I will propose a meaning postulate to characterize this class of "self-action" meanings and an in-progress proposal for how reflexive morphology can signal it (in essence, providing a semantics for Reinhart and Reuland's 1993 'semantically reflexive predicates'). I will then explore whether English is sensitive to this lexical distinction.

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(ii) Vladimir Borschev and Barbara Partee: Sentential and Constituent Negation in Russian BE-sentences Revisited

Abstract: 

In this talk, based on the 5-author paper Borschev et al. (2006), we bring some new perspectives to the interaction of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics in negative sentences, in order to address some puzzling anomalies in the occurrence of Genitive of Negation in BE-sentences in Russian. What is the negation of (1)? We will show that while neither (2) nor (3) is the syntactic sentential negation of (1), each may be a near-optimal functional negation of the sentence in appropriate contexts.

(1) Kolja    doma.
      Kolya   at-home
     
‘Kolya is at home.’

(2) Kolja    ne      doma.
     Kolya   neg  at-home
     ‘Kolya is not at home.’

(3) Koli           net      doma. 
     Kolya.
gen neg.is at-home
   
‘Kolya is not at home.’
 

      The “moral” of this talk will be that the notion of “the negation of” a sentence is often not straightforward. The (sentential) negation of a simple locative sentence like (1) “should” be (2), which differs from (1) only by the addition of the negative morpheme ne. But it has been argued (Chvany 1975, Babby 1980, Kondrashova 1996, Harves 2002a) that (2) involves constituent negation, and that the sentential negation of (1) is (3); most native speakers agree. This is an anomaly (Babby 1980, Harves 2002b), since net ‘(there) is/are not’ and Genitive of Negation are generally found in existential sentences and generally impossible in locative sentences.

      Following (Horn 1989, Sgall et al. 1986 and others), we may say that pragmatic negation, or “functional negation”, produces a proposition that is narrower than pure logical negation, preserving the presuppositions of the Theme and negating only the content of the Rheme. Then what is “the negation of” a given sentence? Slavic linguists have concentrated on syntactic sentential negation, since only that structure licenses ni-words, for instance. But since Russian constituent negation often falls on the Rheme as in (2), constituent negation may often provide the best “functional negation” for the sentence. The functional importance of constituent negation in Russian, and the corollary that (2) is a good functional negation of (1), may have been underestimated in previous studies.

             What about (3), Koli net doma? Most researchers have called this sentence the negation of (1). An alternative approach (Partee and Borschev, in press) treats (3) as a mixed case, neither a typical locative nor a typical existential, characterized by disharmonies among ‘Perspective Structure’, Theme-Rheme structure, and definiteness. While (3) may not be an existential sentence, (3), like existential sentences, suggests a ‘Perspective’ or implicit ‘observer’ centered ‘at home’ (e.g. it is natural if the speaker is ‘at home’), and remarks on the absence of Kolja; sentence (2) resists such a perspective. We discuss two competing approaches to how either of these near-optimal negations can become the optimal one in a given context in the absence of the all-purpose general negation caused by the defectiveness of the verb byt' ‘be’. We don’t have an actual optimality-theoretic analysis, and would especially welcome help in how one might be constructed. We have aims to produce a journal paper on this topic together with our Russian colleagues, and welcome all feedback.

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October 4th 2006
Presentations by Anna Verbuk and Barbara Partee

(i) Anna Verbuk: 'The acquisition of the Russian or' (handout)

Abstract: In languages such as English and German, the disjunction operator is interpreted inclusively under the scope of negation. In languages such as Russian and Hungarian, the disjunction operator is interpreted exclusively under the scope of negation because it is a PPI (Szabolcsi 2002). I discuss an experiment that I did on the acquisition of the Russian "or." Russian-speaking children start out by going through the "English" stage where they interpret the Russian "or" inclusively when clausemate negation is present. I argue that the default setting of the PPI parameter is {-PPI}, and propose a trigger for changing the initial setting of the parameter to the Russian {+PPI} setting.

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(ii) Barbara Partee: "Negation, Intensionality, and Aspect: Interaction with NP Semantics" (a paper currently under final revision for a volume resulting from an Aspect conference organized by Susan Rothstein in Tel Avis in June 2005)

Abstract: This paper is about the interaction of the meanings of Noun Phrases (NPs) and various operator-like elements that a sentence may contain: negation, intensional verbs (want, expect,hope for, seek), tenses, modal verbs, aspectual operators, and other elements. I focus mainly on negation and intensionality, with discussion of aspect-related problems at the end. The patterns of interaction of NPs and various operator-like elements sometimes show negation and intensional operators patterning alike, sometimes differently. Negation is not an intensional operator; so the question arises why it sometimes, but not always, patterns with the intensional operators.

The Russian "genitive of negation" construction seems to lump negation and some intensional verbs together. We review hypotheses about interactions among scope, NP interpretation, and the semantic properties of negation and intensional operators. Then we add aspect to the picture, drawing on recent works by Paul Kiparsky and by Dmitry Levinson. After challenging some appealing but questionable claims by Kiparsky (Kiparsky 1998) about parallels between partitive case in Finnish and imperfective aspect in Russian, I adapt some arguments from Dmitry Levinson's work (this and this) on a slightly different kind of parallel between imperfectivity and genitive case under negation, to further support the idea of similarity between NPI contexts and intensional contexts. In the concluding section I opt for a view of "family resemblance" properties that many but not all instances of negation and intensionality share, so as to allow for equally important differences that show up among the family members.

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