Semantics and Pragmatics Exchange



Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hana Filip, PhD

Lehrstuhl Semantik, Institut für Sprache und Information


Wednesday, 12:30 -2 pm


Building 23.32, Level 02, Room 63


Schedule: here



January 11, 2017

Dolf Rami

Georg-August Universität Göttingen


Names, Pronouns and Demonstratives as use-sensitive expressions


Kaplan famously distinguished between pure indexicals and true demonstratives. Nevertheless, he thought that these two kinds of expressions are only two subvarieties of the  same semantic kind, namely the kind of context-sensitive expressions. I will argue that Kaplan underestimated the significance of his distinction and that it is in fact a distinction in semantic kind. In my opinion, there are two different sorts of expressions whose reference  depends in different ways on the occasion of their use and which should semantically berepresented in different ways.  Firstly, there are context-sensitive expressions. The reference of these expressions depends on certain objective factors that constitute a context of use. These expressions have a Kaplanian character that determines their referent relative to a context of use. Examples of this kind are expressions like “I”, “now” and “today”. They all share the following feature: It is impossible that two different uses of an expression of these kind have different referents  relative to the same context of use. Formally they can be represented, as Kaplan did, by functions from contexts of use to intensions.  Secondly, there are use-sensitive expressions. These expressions are neither sensitive to any objective factors of a context of use nor can their linguistic meaning be conceive of as a character. These expressions can have anaphoric or referential uses. Some of them have bound and pragmatic anaphoric uses. The reference of such an expression is determined relative to a referential or pragmatic anaphoric use by accompanying referential intentions.  Uses of use-sensitive expressions are individuated by means of their accompanying  referential intentions. Formally use-sensitive expressions are represented as indexed  expressions that are semantically interpreted by means of an index-sensitive assignment  function. Different indexes correspond to different referential intentions. Co-referential use-sensitive expressions are semantically interpreted by means of indexed-assignment-functions with the same output. In this sense, the referent of a use-sensitive expression is determined by subject factors that are independent of the parameters of a context of use. The reference of use-sensitive expressions can additionally be constrained in some cases by the use-conditional meaning of such an expression. Use-conditional linguistic meanings can either be captured (a) as restrictions on indexed-assignment-functions or (b) as restrictions on the class of adequate possible uses of an expression. It is possible that any two different uses of an expression of these kind have different referents relative to the same or different contexts of use. Some use-sensitive expressions also have bound uses and their corresponding assignment functions can be shifted by the right sort of quantifiers. Bare demonstratives are use-sensitives expressions without an additional use-conditional meaning and they only have pragmatic anaphoric uses. Proper names are use-sensitives expressions with an additional use-conditional meaning that restricts the possible referents of a name to its bearer; but names only have pragmatic anaphoric uses. Third person personal pronouns are use- sensitives expressions with an additional use-conditional meaning that restricts the possible  referents of them to male or female individuals and they have both pragmatic and bound  anaphoric uses.


December 14, 2016

Ruth Kempson

King's College London


Language as Mechanisms for Interaction: the challenge of modelling dialogue


My task is to introduce and justify the formalism of Dynamic Syntax (DS), whose central claim is that natural languages are mechanisms for interaction, defined by grammars that articulate the online incremental process of growth of interpretation/linearisation underpinning both production and parsing. The talk will then argue that with this perspective, there is evidence that language evolution could have been possible without having to presume rich innateness, sudden-switch change, or prior availability of higher-order inferential capacities such as mind-reading. My starting point is to illustrate data from conversational dialogue which are a huge challenge for syntax and semantics models, since sentence-based grammars are not at all well suited to express the facts of  dialogue – and even for pragmatists, since dialogue dynamics provide  evidence that successful communication does not have to involve reading  others’ minds or grasping some propositional understanding to be shared.  Rather, what is essential is speaker/hearer interaction. Then I will give a sketch  of Dynamic Syntax sufficient to show how the dynamics of dialogue will  emerge as an automatic consequence of the framework as well as expressing  universal constraints on the process of structural growth. Finally I shall show  how the individual mechanisms that underpin anaphora, ellipsis, discontinuity  effects, and scope dependencies, can all be seen to be vehicles for  interaction, in virtue of generalisations across these phenomena which can  only be expressed in dynamic, interactive terms. 


December 7, 2016

Kurt Erbach

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf


Bare singular nouns in Hungarian and the mass/count distinction


I argue for an analysis of Hungarian in which notional singular count nouns are semantically number neutral, and thus felicitous, with measure constructions and the WH-quantifier mennyi (‘what quantity of’). This provides an alternative analysis to Schvarcz (2016) and Schvarcz & Rothstein (2015) who analyze the majority of Hungarian notional count nouns as dual life—i.e. mass or count depending on the context. They assume könyv (‘book’) is mass with mennyi & measure constructions, but it is count in cardinality constructions. However, certain Hungarian constructions indicate bare singular count nouns are interpreted as number neutral. Furthermore, measure constructions sanction the occurrence of mass and bare plural count nouns but disallow singular count nouns (Krifka 1989, Landman 2016). Following Landman (2016) allows a more straightforward analysis that shows the Hungarian nominal system is more like other mass/count languages has been previously thought.



November 30, 2016

Todor Koev

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf


Adverbs of Change, Aspect, and Anaphoricity


Adverbs of change, such as quickly or slowly, have been known to give rise to a number of interpretations. A sentence like Kazuko ran to the store quickly can describe the intensity of the described action (a manner reading), the temporal extent of the entire event (a duration reading), or the time between the culmination of the event and some previous event (an anaphoric reading). It has also been noticed that available interpretations are sensitive to thelexical aspect of the verbal predicate; for example, The police quickly spotted the suspect is only compatible with an anaphoric reading for quickly. Existing accounts of adverbs of change (e.g. Cresswell 1978; Rawlins 2013) take manner readings as primary and successfully extend these to duration readings, but struggle to derive anaphoric readings. In contrast, I take anaphoric readings as primary and argue that other readings are special cases of these. Adverbs of change are claimed to modify the temporal distance between two instantaneous events that are compositionally or anaphorically available. The proposed account, couched in a dynamic semantic framework, does particularly well in predicting anaphoric interpretations and demonstrates how adverbs of change interact with lexical aspect to derive other available readings. It also correctly predicts certain positional effects and can accommodate the idiosyncratic behavior of adverbs like slowly, which appears to lack truly anaphoric interpretations.


November 23, 2016

Maria Spychalska

Ruhr University of Bochum


Scalar implicatures in context of full and partial information: Evidence from ERPs


A major part of the psycholinguistic research on scalar implicatures has been focused on the question of how scalar implicatures are generated: in a default and automatic manner or as results of effortful reasoning processes. This so-called default- vs. context-based controversy has been experimentally operationalized in terms of processing costs of scalar implicatures: the processing costs have been taken as a proxy of the implicature’s default vs. non-default character. Yet, it has eventually become evident that the data hardly fit this dichotomy. Many studies on the processing of scalar implicatures brought contrastive results: some experiments provided evidence that the processing of the pragmatically enriched interpretation is costly relative to the processing of the semantic meaning, other studies found no additional cost for the processing of scalar implicatures.  It was further shown by Degen & Tannenahus (2015) that scalar implicatures may be differently processed depending on contextual support: in contexts that support the pragmatic interpretation, scalar implicatures will occur as default and automatic, whereas when the contextual support is weaker, listeners will take longer to arrive at the inference. This results were integrated within a probabilistic model of linguistic processing, called constraint-based account and predicting that interlocutors may use information from multiple sources during sentence comprehension to create expectations about the future development of the utterance.  In my talk I will present results from EEG studies on scalar implicatures processing arguing in favor of the constraint-based model. Comparing results from two studies: where the scalar implicature processing was tested in context of full information and in context of partial information, I will discuss how the contextual support may determine the cognitive costs of the implicature processing.


November 16, 2016

Willy Geuder

Heinrich Heine University


Manner adverbs, agentive adverbs, and adverbs in between

I would like to discuss with you some questions that relate to the distinction of different semantic adverb types and their frame-based analyses. First, I present a brief sketch of a frame-semantic approach to manner modification, which allows us to distinguish manner adverbs from other types of event-related adverbs, hence going beyond the characterisation of manner adverbs as "predicates of events". Then, I discuss so-called "agentive adverbs" (Geuder 2002) (like "stupidly" in "The defender stupidly passed back"), arguing that they may be seen essentially as "predicates of events", too, but involving a different relation to an e-variable, compared with manner adverbs. I explore the possibility that their non-restrictive function, agent orientation and scope-taking behaviour can be understood on the basis of their lexical meaning as "abstract" properties of events, i.e. involving a constitution relation between concrete and abstract event descriptions, inspired by recent work of SĺbŅ (2016).


November 9, 2016

Christian Wurm

Heinrich Heine University


The algebra of ambiguity


We present an algebraic approximation to the semantic content of linguistic ambiguity. Starting from the class of ordinary Boolean algebras, we add to it an ambiguity operator and a small set of (rather peculiar) axioms which we think are correct for linguistic ambiguity beyond doubt. We then show some important, non-trivial results that follow from this axiomatization, which turn out to be surprising and not fully satisfying from a linguistic point of view. The results leave us with some open questions, both on the linguistic algebraic side – like the nature of intention in ambiguous statements, or the properties of disjunctive axioms in universal algebra.


July 20, 2016

Barbara Tomaszewicz

Universität zu Köln


Focus association in sentence processing


The focus structure of a sentence reflects the discourse context, but in the presence of various operators, such as only, even and most, it has an effect on the truth-conditions or the presuppositions of the sentence. Stolterfoht et al. (2007) and Carlson (2013) showed that only facilitates the processing of focus structures during silent reading. When (1) is read without preceding context, the first conjunct receives a wide focus interpretation (marked as FI), and when the processor encounters the ellipsis remnant (F2), it must revise the focus structure of the first conjunct from wide to matching narrow focus (F3). The presence of only in (2) requires narrow focus on its associate (FI), which is congruous with the ellipsis remnant. Revision of the focus structure in (1) vs. (2) was associated with an ERP signature in the Stolterfoht et al. study on German, and with increased reading times in Carlson’s self-paced reading study on English.


1) [Am Dienstag hat der Direktor [den Schüler]F3 getadelt]F1, und nicht [den Lehrer]F2

    On Tuesday has the principal.Nom the pupil.Acc criticized and not the teacher.Acc


2) Am Dienstag hat der Direktor nur [den Schüler]F1 getadelt, und nicht [den Lehrer]F2

    On Tuesday has the principal.Nom only the pupil.Acc criticized and not the teacher.Acc


Since ‘only x ... and not y’ is frequent in discourse, the presence of only could create an expectation for an explicit mention of excluded alternatives, and this bias alone could account for the facilitation in (2). In self-paced reading experiments on Polish we showed that the processing of replacive ellipsis ( ‘and not ... ’ ) is facilitated in the presence of the three associators: only, even, most, which indicates that it is indeed the focus association mechanism that explains the facilitation in (2) (Tomaszewicz and Pancheva (2016)). The use of Polish allowed us for a direct comparison between only, even and most, because (i) like in German replacive ellipsis is unambiguous due to Accusative case marking, and therefore any differences in ellipsis resolution can be attributed to the processing of focus structure alone; (ii) with most the focus on ‘sculptors’ yields a superlative reading that is unavailable in English or German (in Pancheva and Tomaszewicz (2012) and Tomaszewicz (2015) we argue that this reading arises via focus association).


We found that in Polish only, even and most create an expectation for narrow focus on the object, but the facilitatory effects occur already on the conjunct ‘and not’ with only and even, and on the ellipsis remnant with most. This difference likely reflects the difference between two types of focus association: obligatory and optional as identified in the formal semantic research on focus. Obligatory focus association is taken to be encoded in the lexical semantics of focus sensitive expressions (only, even), whereas optional/free association is a result of the contextual setting of the domain variable of an operator like most (Beaver and Clark (2009)). While prenominai only and even have one syntactic associate (3), most is free to associate either with the adverbial or the subject in English (4a-b), or with the object in Polish (5).


3)a. John invited only/even [sculptors]F for coffee.

b. *John invited only/even sculptors [for coffee]F


4)a. John invited the most sculptors [for coffee]F.

Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than for any other relevant occasion,


b. [John]F invited the most sculptors for coffee. Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than for any other relevant individual did.


5) John zaprosił najwięcej [rzeźbiarzy]F na kawę. John invited most sculptors for coffee

Reading: John invited more sculptors for coffee than any other group of people that he invited.


During incremental processing prenominai only and even create a precise expectation for the location of focus, but most allows association with either the object or the adverbial in Polish, which is compatible with our results. Currently, we are extending these findings to meisten in German, which like English most does not allow association with the object, to show that optional associators facilitate the processing of focus structures that are compatible with the semantics resulting from focus association (and that it is not the case that the mere presence of a prenominai modifier increases the salience of the contrast in the replacive ellipsis).


July 6, 2016

Noortje Venhuizen

Universität des Saarlandes


Projection in Discourse: A data-driven formal semantic analysis


In this talk, I present a unified, data-driven formal semantic analysis of projection phenomena, which include presuppositions, anaphoric expressions, and conventional implicatures (as defined by Potts, 2005). The different contributions made by these phenomena are explained in terms of the notion of information status. Based on this analysis, I present a new semantic formalism called Projective Discourse Representation Theory (PDRT). PDRT is an extension of traditional Discourse Representation Theory (Kamp, 1981; Kamp and Reyle, 1993), which directly implements the anaphoric theory of presuppositions (van der Sandt, 1992) by means of the introduction of projection variables. I show that PDRT captures the differences, as well as the similarities between the contributions made by presuppositions, anaphora and conventional implicatures. In order to illustrate PDRT's representational power, I present a data-driven computational analysis of the information status of referential expressions based on data from the Groningen Meaning Bank; a corpus of semantically annotated texts (Basile et al., 2012).  Taken together, the results pave way for a more integrated formal and empirical analysis of different aspects of linguistic meaning.


June 29, 2016

Markus Schrenk

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


Causal Power and Modality as Stumbling Stones

for a Semantic Analysis of Dispositional Predicates


Attempts to give a semantic analysis of dispositional predicates (like “solubility", “inflammability”, etc.) in terms of (counterfactual) conditionals (for example: “if x were put in water it would dissolve”) saw a plethora of counterexamples: void satisfaction, random coincidences, masks, finks, antidotes, etc. Already on the (semantic/logical) surface the reasons for failure are pretty obvious. Yet, there are also some deeper (metaphysical) reasons – Causal Power and Modality – that can be unearthed. In this talk I will go through all the above.


June 22, 2016

Ekaterina Rakhilina

Higher School of Economics, Department of Linguistics, Moscow


A Typology of Falling Events


Falling is a kind of quite standard motion event with Source, Goal and a special manner of motion which is usually reduced to the up-down (vertical) axis. The talk shows that  there are other semantic characteristics which build semantic oppositions within the domain of falling and trigger its metaphorical extensions.


June 15, 2016
Laura Kallmeyer & Behrang Qasemi Zadeh

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


The PoP approach to vector semantics

Vector semantics represents the meaning of a word by characterizing its distribution. More concretely, word meanings are represented by distributional vectors where the dimensions of these vectors denote context words and the coordinates are determined by the frequency of these context words in the neighbourhood of the word that the vector characterizes. Notions of similarity and distance between vectors can then be used to infer similarity of meaning between words.

The use of vector space models, however, is problematic due to the high dimensionality of these vectors and due to the fact that co-occurrence patterns often follow what is known as heavy-tailed distribution (as exemplified by the Zipfian distribution of words in documents). For instance, while a few words frequently occur in text (thus co-occur with other words, such as the function word “the”), many content words occur rarely. Consequently, as the number of vectors/entities increases, the number of co-occurring context elements (i.e., the dimensionality ofvectors) escalates.

In this talk, we first describe principles of vector semantics including the above-mentioned problems. We then introduce a new technique called positive-only projections (PoP) that address the problem of high dimensionality. PoP allows to build vectors at a fixed reduced dimensionality and in an incremental fashion. We report the performance of PoP method in two semantic similarity measurement tasks: TOEFL synonym test and MEN relatedness. In both tasks, PoP shows a performance comparable to state-of-the-art neural embedding techniques. 


June 8, 2016

Suzi Lima

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro


Portions, individuation and measurement


Container nouns (cup) are nouns that denote concrete objects that can be used as receptacles for substances. It has been argued that in constructions with numerals (as in ‘two glasses of water’), container phrases can be interpreted in at least two different ways (Selkirk 1977, Rothstein 2012, Partee and Borschev 2012). Firstly, a container noun can be used to denote actual containers filled with some substance; e.g. ‘glasses of water’ can denote actual glasses filled with some quantity of water (individuation). Secondly, a container noun can be used as the description of a unit of measurement.

Based on the results of a felicity judgment task with children and adults with Brazilian Portuguese, English and Yudja, it will be argued that individuation precedes measure. Second, unlike in English, container phrases in Yudja can be interpreted as locatives or trigger a concrete portion interpretation that is different from measure. Similar results were found for Brazilian Portuguese when the question included a prepositional phrase (Eu bebi dois copos com água ‘I drank two cups with water’) as opposed to pseudopartitive constructions (Eu bebi dois copos de água ‘I drank two cups of water’).


June 1, 2016

Jens Fleischhauer

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


Animacy and affectedness (in Germanic languages)

Most Germanic languages (English is an exception in this regard) show an animacy-dependent marking alternation of the second argument of contact verbs such as hit, kick or pinch. This is illustrated by the German examples in (1). If the referent of the second argument is inanimate, it is marked by a preposition (1b).


  (1)  a.  Das  Mädchen  schlug  den  Jungen.   
    the  girl  hit  the  boy   
    ‘The girl hit the boy.’ 
  b.  Das  Mädchen  schlug  *(gegen/auf)  den  Tisch. 
    the  girl  hit     against/on  the  table 
    ‘The girl hit against/on the table.’ 
The alternation shown in (1) is not solely dependent on animacy but also on affectedness. If the referent  of  the  inanimate  is  definitely  affected  by  the  contact  –  for  example  in  case  of  a resultative construction - , it is not marked by a preposition (2).  
(2)  Das  Mädchen  schlug  (*gegen/auf)  den  Tisch  in Stücke. 
  the  girl  hit    against/on  the  table  in pieces 
  ‘The girl hit the table in pieces.’ 

Lundquist & Ramchand (2012) argue that inanimate entities are conceived as less affected by processes such as hitting or kicking than animate entities are. de Swart (2014), on the other hand, argues that the alternation marks a difference in sentience. As sentience presupposes animacy, the animacy contrast is merely epiphenomenal. Both analyses have shortcomings: de Swart’s analysis does not rely on affectedness and therefore cannot explain the contrast between (1b) and (2). Lundquist & Ramchand’s analysis is couched in the generative framework and they define affectedness as a binary feature. Their analysis does not give a principal explanation of why it is only a subset of contact verbs that gives rise to the alternation illustrated in (1). 


An explanation of them  phenomenon  requires two things: First, a graded concept of affectedness, like the one proposed by Beavers (2011). Beavers notion of affectedness provides an explanation of why contact verbs show an alternation dependent on affectedness. According to him, these verbs entail potential results and the alternation can be seen as a resolution of this potentiality. If the referent of the second argument is animate, it is conceived as affected. If it is inanimate, it is taken to be non-affected. Second, an explication of the relationship between affectedness and animacy is needed. Lundquist & Ramchand argue that inanimate entities are only affected, if they are physically damaged. Beside physical affectedness, animate beings can also be emotionally/psychologically affected. This allows combining the basis insights of Lundquist & Ramchand’s analysis with the one of de Swart’s.


The aim of the talk is to present a unified analysis of the phenomenon, which combines a  gradual notion of affectedness  with the notion of sentience. It will  be shown that such an approach allows explaining why the alternation arises with this particular set of verbs. Furthermore, the analysis will shed light on the relationship between affectedness and animacy.


May 25, 2016

Karoly Varasdi & Zsofia Gyarmathy

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


A model of evidence and an evidence-based analysis of progressive achievements

In our talk, we are going to outline a lattice-theoretic model of evidence and an evidence-based approach to progressive achievements. Our starting point is that an agent is justified in asserting a progressive sentence if the agent has enough evidence supporting the base sentence in that specific scenario. In our framework, evidence for a proposition is that which justifies the speaker in asserting the proposition. We will argue that the set of all potential pieces of evidence ordered by containment form a lattice, and is connected with the lattice of propositions in a specific way based on the notion of (partial) justification. We will show how this evidence-based framework can be used to predict felicitous progressive uses of achievements, such as "Mary is arriving at the station" and still exclude unacceptable progressive achievements like "*Mary is noticing the picture". To this end, we exploit the fact that sentence entailment and evidence containment go in opposite directions in our framework and that achievements that can appear in the progressive are those that describe the right boundaries of extended events.


May 4, 2016

Zsofia Gyarmathy

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Achievements and presuppositions

This session will include i) a presentation of a theoretical idea about the activity presupposition of a subclass of Vendler's achievements (called culminations by Bach 1986), ii) outlining some ideas for three experiments to test the theoretical assumptions, and iii) an open discussion where I would be happy to hear comments and feedback especially about the experimental design. The basic theoretical idea I propose is that culminations like win or arrive have an existential presupposition that is of a hitherto not recognized kind that I call an extra soft presupposition, which is cancellable even when the trigger is not embedded under any operators, but is more similar to presuppositions than implicatures in other respects.

April 27, 2016

Daniel Lassiter

Stanford University


Time: 16:30-18:00

Location: Building 24.91. Room 01.22 


Must, might, knows, and the rest of the epistemic system


Linguists and philosophers have long been torn between the intuition that must is 'weak' – expressing reduced commitment vis-a-vis the unqualified expression – and the intuition that it expresses some fairly strong epistemic relation, such as knowledge. Recently von Fintel & Gillies (2010) have argued that the latter hunch is correct – must picks out a strong epistemic necessity modal ą la modal logic S5 – and that the intuition of weakness can be explained by reference to a little-noticed evidential meaning component of must. Using corpus and experimental data I'll show that must does not express knowledge, certainty, or anything of this form: speakers routinely use must to mark out a proposition when they are explicitly uncertain about the truth of p, say that they do not know p, and consider not-p a possibility. The experimental results also illuminate the relationship between might and epistemic possible, which are (contrary to the usual assumption) not synonymous. I'll discuss the implications of these results for a variety of epistemic items, arguing that they problematize Kratzer's (1991) influential proposal as well and favor a theory where epistemic modals are given a semantics built around the probabilistic support of a proposition.


April 21, 2016

Todor Koev

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Countability and the Diminutive in Bulgarian


This technical report briefly explores the count/mass distinction in Bulgarian. It pays particular attention to diminutive modification and its ability to achieve a mass-to-count shift when applied nouns that describe granular aggregates.



April 14, 2016

Michael Daniel

National Research University, Moscow

Higher School of Economics

Centre for Fundamental Studies / Laboratory of the Caucasian Languages


Mass and Class:

Number, nominal classes and mass nouns in East Caucasian


In many ways, East Caucasian languages manifest a complex interaction between the categories of grammatical number and gender as nominal classification. One obvious example of such interaction is that the inventory of nominal classes in the singular (usually three to five classes) is reduced to only two classes in the plural – human vs. non-human. Not less important, though probably somewhat less salient, is the treatment of mass nouns as P(luralia) T(antum). Thus, in Dargwa languages, mass nouns show non-human plural agreement. That mass nouns are PT is, of course, by no means typologically unexpected. What is peculiar is that the mass nouns show this agreement though being morphologically singular, while, at least for some of them, morphologically plural forms are also available. Similar but more complex is the situation in Archi, an outlier of the Lezgic branch of the family. In Archi, mass nouns are usually described as fourth class (singular). Incidentally, agreement pattern for this class is identical to non-human plural. Many of these nouns show plural inflectional morphology. This morphology is however not consistent and is coupled with singular agreement on the attributes. I suggest that mismatches between morphology and agreement are explained by a more general morphosyntactic property of East Caucasian languages that do not ascribe agreement pattern to a lexical item as a whole but do this separately to its singular and plural forms, and that the ascription is governed not only by lexicon but is partly driven by semantics of the respective morphologically singular and plural forms.



February 10, 2016

Simon Dobnik

University of Gothenburg


Interfacing Language, Spatial Perception and Cognition in Type Theory with Records

In the proposed presentation we overview and connect two lines of our work related to Type Theory with Records (TTR): modelling of spatial language and cognition and modelling of attention-driven judgement. We argue that computational modelling of perception, action, language, and cognition introduces several requirements on a formal semantic theory and its practical implementations: (i) interfacing discrete conceptual knowledge and continuous real-valued sensory readings; (ii) information fusion of knowledge from several modalities; (iii) dynamic adaptation of semantic representations/knowledge as agents experience new situations through linguistic interaction and perception. Using examples of semantic representations of spatial descriptions we show how Type Theory with Records satisfies these requirements. The advantage of truth being based on agent-relative judgements in TTR is crucial in this but practically it comes with a computational cost. However, this challenge is not unique to TTR. An agent would have to check whether a situation s is of every type in its inventory. In the second part of the talk we argue that the number of type judgements an agent has to make can be minimised by incorporating a cognitive notion of judgement that is driven by perceptual attention.




January 27, 2016

Fabienne Martin
Stuttgart University


The imperfective in subjunctive conditionals: fake or real aspect?


This talk aims to provide a 'real aspect' approach of the 'fake' imperfective in subjunctive conditionals (SCs) and a new account of the (non)-cancellability of the counterfactual inference in SCs, largely based on Ippolito’s 2013. It is argued that PAST and PRES above MODAL in conditionals compete the same way as in non-modal stative sentences, see Altshuler and Schwarzschild 2012. On this view, the counterfactual inference of SCs, when cancellable, is nothing else than the cessation implicature routinely triggered by past stative sentences.




January 20, 2016

Fred Landman

Tel Aviv University and University of Tübingen 


Aspects of Event Semantics for Aspect

Note that this is more a tutorial on aspects of my work on event semantics than a lecture.
1. Event models based on a discourse pragmatic notion of cross-temporal identity of events and the notion of event stages.
2. Homogenenous eventuality types.  Homogeneity for statives,
Incremental homogeneity for activities and the semantics of 'for an hour'.
3. Telicity, stabalization, and the semantics of 'in an hour'.
4. Stativity operators: a new proposal for the perspective operators of "1066" paper).
5. Scalarity and the perfect/progressive (in  "1066" paper)



January 13, 2016

Todor Koev
Heinrich-Heine University


Parentheticality and Discourse

Sentences with slifting parentheticals (e.g. *The dean, Susan said, flirted with the secretary*) span the divide between semantics and pragmatics because in them the main clause plays a central role while the slifting parenthetical describes the grounds for asserting the main clause (cf. Urmson 1952; Hooper 1975; Asher 2000; Rooryck 2001; Jayez & Rossari 2004; Davis et al. 2007; Simons 2007; Scheffler 2009; Haddican et al. 2014). In this talk, I discuss three core properties of sentences with slifting parentheticals:


(i) the backgrounded status and projection/scopal properties of implications triggered by slifting parentheticals,

(ii) the often weakened assertion strength of the main clause,

(iii) the requirement that slifting parentheticals create an upward-entailing environment (cf. #*The dean, Susan doubts, flirted with the secretary*).


I will argue against the idea that the main clause is interpreted in the scope of the slifting predicate. Rather, I suggest that the strength of the main clause depends in a quasi-pragmatic way on the slifting parenthetical, as the latter can lower the assertability threshold for the main clause. I will also try to derive the informational properties and the polarity restrictions on slifting parentheticals from their role as providing grounds for the main claim of the sentence.



December 9, 2015

Paul Gaus
Heinrich-Heine University


Result States in the Perfect Time Span - Combination of two Theories of the Perfect


The Perfect Time Span approach (PTS) is an approach which tries to capture perfect meanings by locating the Reichenbachian Event Time (E) within a time span. I found that in German certain accomplishment constructions cannot be captured by this approach. In this thesis I will show a solution to this problem by combining the PTS approach with the so called Result State approach. My modi
cation of the PTS approach no longer predicts E within a time span but the onset of the result state of the eventuality which takes place at E. This allows the problematic construction to be predicted, in addition to the non-problematic constructions. Further I will discuss the result state approach and show that this approach also needs time spans to predict certain meanings which brings me to the claim that a combination of both theories is desirable because it has a better empirical coverage.



December 3, 2015

Todor Koev

Heinrich Heine University


Appositive Projection and Its Exceptions


This paper has two major goals. The first is to offer a comprehensive account of the projection properties of appositive constructions. Appositives posit a challenge to traditional assumptions about form and meaning because they are interpreted in situ with respect to order-dependent phenomena like discourse anaphora but nevertheless escape the scope of entailment-canceling operators like negation or modals. Accounting for this pattern requires an innovative way of looking at propositional operators and how they interact with appositives. The second goal of the paper is to address various claimed exceptions to the otherwise robust projectivity of appositives. I argue that in some cases the construction under consideration is most likely not an appositive at all. In other cases, the observed non-speaker-oriented readings can be derived by pragmatic reasoning or are due to a perspective shift. Although genuine instances of semantically embedded appositives do seem to exist, I point out that such data have a limited empirical scope. I conclude that appositive projection is a pervasive phenomenon and is part and parcel of the semantics of appositives.



November 25, 2015

Peter Sutton and Hana Filip

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf


Mass/Count Variation: A Mereological 2d Supervaluationist Semantics


We propose a novel analysis of the mass/count distinction, within a new framework: 2-dimensional mereological supervaluationism. While the notions akin to VAGUENESS [1], SEMANTIC ATOMICITY [4] and OVERLAP [3] are needed to ground this distinction, no single notion is sufficient to fit the whole range of data, especially intra- and crosslinguistic variation in mass [-C] vs. count [+C] encoding. We make this variation tractable by treating it as following from the interaction of all three of the above notions. We formally derive four semantic classes of nouns (which closely match those in [2]) to explain these form-denotation mappings and overcome challenges faced by [1; 3; 4].



[1] Chierchia, G., 2010. Mass nouns, vagueness & semantic variation. Synth. 174, 99-149.

[2] Grimm, S., 2012. Number & Individuation. PhD Diss., Stanford University.

[3] Landman, F., 2011. Count nouns, Mass nouns, Neat nouns, Mess nouns. In: The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition: Vol. 6. pp. 1-67.

[4] Rothstein, S., 2010. Counting & the mass/count distinction. JoS 27 (3), 343-397.



November 19, 2015

Susan Rothstein

Bar Ilan University (Israel) & Tübingen University


Object mass nouns from a crosslinguistic perspective


Rothstein 2010, Schwarzschild 2011 show that nouns like furniture denote sets of individuable entities. Barner and Snedeker (2005) show further that comparisons such as who has more furniture? typically are answered by comparing cardinalities. On this basis they suggest that object mass nouns have essentially the same denotations as count nouns. In the first part of the talk, I will show that the conclusions drawn by Barner and Snedeker (2005) are too strong: while comparisons of object mass nouns may involve comparing cardinalities, they need not do so. There is thus a basic contrast between object mass nouns and count nouns: count nouns require comparison by cardinality while object mass nouns allow it, but also allow comparisons along other, continuous dimensions. I will support this with data from English, Brazilian Portuguese, Hungarian and Mandarin. This means that object mass nouns and count nouns must have different semantic interpretations, contra e.g. Bale and Barner (2009). But whatever semantics we give for object mass and count nouns, we need to answer the obvious question: If object mass nouns are not countable, how can they be compared in terms of cardinality? In the second part of the talk, I offer a solution to this problem, proposing that there are cardinality scales, which allow us to evaluate and compare quantities in terms of their perceived or estimated number of atomic parts without actually counting the atoms. This allows us to clarify the distinction between counting and measuring, and to maintain the general principle that only count nouns have countable denotations.



November 11, 2015

Henk Zeevat

Heinrich Heine University


Presupposition Blocking by Causal Inference


The talk develops an account of causal inferences in update semantics. A typical case would be the inference of a causal relation in:


When John pushed the button, the bomb exploded.


While cause inferences have many applications, the talk applies it to presupposition projection. It shows that the effects of Karttunen's satisfaction theory are better captured by causal inferences than by the logical satisfaction relation employed by Karttunen. E.g. blocking is not predicted by satisfaction in:


If Marie is French, she has stopped eating snails.


It is after all just false that every French person eats snails. But there is a plausible causal inference that being French can lead to eating snails. In:


If John has grandchildren, his children are happy.


most people infer that John has children, contra the satisfaction theory. And of course, children are the cause of grandchildren and not inversely.The talk also adds a new class of presupposition blocking that is unreducible to the satisfaction theory, based on identity inferences.



November 4, 2015

Rainer Osswald

Heinrich Heine University


Quantification in Frame Semantics with Hybrid Logic