Archive | April 2013

April 19, 2013: Markus Egg (Humboldt University of Berlin) — LUCL

We are very happy to announce that Markus Egg (Humboldt University of Berlin) will be giving a LUSH talk entitled Discourse particles and common ground management.

Time: 15:15 – 17:00

Location:  LEIDEN, Vrieshof 4, room 012


In this talk, I will analyse the semantics of (mostly, German) discourse particles like doch in terms of their potential to manage the common ground. These particles are relations between propositions semantically, e.g., doch expresses that, according to the common ground, its first semantic argument is a potential counterargument of the second one. For instance, in (1), Max’s illness is a potential counterargument to his coming along:

(1) A:Max wird auch mitkommen. B: Er ist doch krank.

          Max  will  also  come.along     he is  DOCH ill

      ‘A: Max will come along, too. B: But he is ill.’

I will offer a monosemantic analysis that tries to captur the wide range of uses of these particles in terms of one single yet fully specified semantic representation. The different uses of the article emerge because their second argument is anaphoric and has a certain leeway in that there are several suitable kinds of antecedents. (1) is only the simplest case, in which the semantic contribution of a preceding utterance is the antecedent, but felicity conditions of previous speech acts or presuppositions can also be antecedents.

Discourse particles differ w.r.t. the logical relation they presuppose between their arguments (e.g., auch introduces a potential explanation, schon rules out a potential consequence), or w.r.t. the strength of this relation (eben as opposed to auch introduces a strict explanation). Minimal pairs of discourse that differ only in terms of a discourse particle can be explained in terms of these analyses. In an outlook on further work, I will review the issue of stressed discourse particles.

Special announcement: Talk by Anastasia Giannakidou in Leiden, April 12

Lisa Cheng (Leiden University) is organizing a talk by Anastasia Giannakidou (University of Chicago) entitled Evaluative subjunctive in Greek and Romance: epistemic weakening, expressive content, and nonveridicality. The talk will be in Leiden on Friday, April 12. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Date: Friday, April 12, 2013
Time: 15:15
Location: Leiden, Van Wijkplaats 2, room 002


In this talk, I discuss instances of optional subjunctive, i.e.  non-selected subjunctive that appears to be either triggered by noneveridicality in the sentence, or itself creates a nonveridical effect when chosen. This subjunctive appears in main clauses (alone, or triggered by modal adverbs),  relative clauses in the scope of nonveridical verbs,  in embedded clauses triggered by negation (‘polarity’ subjunctive), and with emotive factives in some Romance languages. I will argue that this optional subjunctive is ‘evaluative’ i.e. it conveys evaluation of a proposition p. An evaluation can be of two kinds: (a)  Epistemic weakening of an individual’s commitment to the truth of p. When there is a choice, and the speaker choses to use the subjunctive,  she intends to remove epistemic commitment. This is consistent with the nonveridicality dependency (Giannakidou 1998, 2011) of the subjunctive in selection. The second kind of evaluation is expressive attitude towards the proposition (in the sense of Potts 2007, Giannakidou and Yoon 2011). I suggest that this is the use of subjunctive in complements of factive verbs. The talk draws on data from Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. The big picture generalization will be that although the selected subjunctive does not have a semantic contribution (selection is a kind of nonveridical agreement), non-selected subjunctive has both a semantic (epistemic weakening) and a pragmatic effect (expressive content).

April 11: Polina Berezovskaya (Tübingen University) – UiL OTS

We are happy to announce that on Thursday, April 11, Polina Berezovskaya (Tübingen University) will give a LUSH talk in Utrecht entitled A Parametric Approach to the Acquisition of Russian Degree Constructions. We hope to see you all there!

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Time: 15:00 – 17:00
Location: Utrecht, Janskerkhof 13, room 0.06 (Stijlkamer)

As discussed in the literature (Stassen (1985), Beck et al. (2009)), there is considerable cross-linguistic variation in degree constructions with respect to their syntax and semantics. This has consequences for the acquisition of these constructions: a child acquiring degree constructions is guided by the parametric constraints that they are subject to (Snyder (2007)).

This talk will center around the acquisition of Russian degree constructions. With Beck et al.’s parameters of cross-linguistic variation as my starting point, I propose a time course for the acquisition of Russian degree constructions. Furthermore, I will talk about Russian-specific features of degree constructions which also influence the order of acquisition. These specific features are: the distinction between synthetic and analytic forms (e.g. sil’nee (‘stronger’) vs. bolee sil’nyj (‘more strong’)), genitive marked vs. clausal structures in the embedded clause of comparatives (e.g. Katya vyshe Mashi (lit.: ‘Katja taller MashaGEN.’)  vs. Katya vyshe chem Masha (lit.: ‘Katya taller whatINSTR Masha.’ )), cf. Pancheva (2006), and evaluativity (Rett (2008), Krasikova (2009)) in certain Russian degree constructions.

The predictions that arise from (i) the parametric variation with special focus on Russian and (ii) Snyder’s parametric approach to language acquisition have been tested against data collected from a longitudinal corpus study containing data from two children. I will present the results of the corpus study and compare those to the findings of previous studies on the acquisition of English and German degree constructions (Tiemann (2009), Tiemann, Hohaus & Beck (2012)).