Transmodal perspectives on secondary meaning


Transmodal perspectives on secondary meaning

TbiLLC Workshop: Transmodal perspectives on secondary meaning

Recent years have seen a growing or renewed interest in components of secondary meaning, meaning that is not entailed, that is: not-at-issue meaning, conventional implicature, evaluative and expressive meaning, use-conditional meaning etc. At the same time, formal accounts of sign language and speech-accompanying gesture have made substantial progress. Some of these transmodal approaches focus on secondary meaning, too. The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers with expertise in the realm of secondary meaning in natural language with researchers specializing in sign language and gesture research with a (partial) emphasis on secondary meaning.

The workshop will be part of the 12th International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic and Computation, which will be held on 18–22 September 2017 at Lagodekhi, Georgia. The exact workshop dates will be announced soon; but we expect the workshop to take place on the first two days of the symposium (September 18–19).

Given sufficient funding, there may be financial support for some accepted speakers available.

Call for papers

We invite submissions for talks on the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of secondary content in signed, spoken, or written language, as well as on speech-accompanying gestures (including facial expressions). Abstracts should not exceed 2 pages (A4, using a 12pt font) including references and examples. Anonymized abstracts should be send to Katharina Turgay (turgay{at} no later than July 21.

Workshop detail

  • Organization: Daniel Hole (Stuttgart), Fabian Bross (Stuttgart), Daniel Gutzmann (Cologne), Katharina Turgay (Landau)
  • Symposium date: September 18–22, 2017
  • Workshop date: September 18–19, 2017 (estimated)
  • Location: Lagodekhi, Georgia
  • Deadline for submission: July 21, 2017
  • Notification of Acceptance: July 26, 2017


Report: DGfS Workshop on Secondary Information & Linguistic Encoding


Report: DGfS Workshop on Secondary Information & Linguistic Encoding

From March 8-10, Katharina Turgay (who unfortunately could not attend) and I organized a workshop on secondary content and linguistic encoding, which was part of the 39th annual meetig of the DGfS at Saarbrücken. This is a short report of the workshop for those who didn't attend but nevertheless are interested in the topic (and for those who did attend but would like to refresh their memories).


Announcing: The Grammar of Expressivity


Announcing: The Grammar of Expressivity

I am very stoked to announce that I just signed a contract with Oxford University Press for my next book. It will be called The Grammar of Expressivity and will be published in the Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics series.


Secondary Information & Linguistic Encoding


Secondary Information & Linguistic Encoding

DGfS Workshop: Secondary Information & Linguistic Encoding

→ German version

In addition to expressing some main or primary content, an utterance often conveys secondary information. Under this term, we think of content that is not the “main point” of the utterance, but which rather provides side or background information and which is less prominent than the main content. Secondary content – which in recent literature is often called “non-at-issue content” – often also shows distinctive behavior with respect to its role in discourse structure and which discourse moves it licenses. Linguistic phenomena that fall under this category are, for instance, appositives and non-restrictive relative clauses, presupposition triggers, expressive adjectives, interjections and many more. The aim of this workshop is to tackle the question of what kinds of secondary meaning exist, if they can receive a unified characterization (and treat-ment) and how they influence the progression of discourse structure. On the formal side, we may ask if and how secondary information is linguistically encoded and set apart from the main content of an utterance. For instance, some content may be marked as secondary by means of intonation, punctuation, or syntactic disintegration, while other bearers of secondary information prima facie cannot be distinguished from expressions that convey primary content. An-other controversy regards the question of whether certain lexical expressions or constructions are conventionally marked as conveying secondary content or whether the secondary nature of some information is determined conversationally by pragmatic processes.

Invited Speakers

Call for Papers

We invite submission of proposals for 30min talks (20min presentation + 10min discussion period) dealing with secondary information and ist linguistic encoding. We aim at a good balance between empirical and theoretical oriented talks, approach-ing the topic from a variety angles.

Topics that can be addressed at the workshop include but are not limited to the following questions:

  • Which strategies can be used to mark some information as secondary (e.g. intonation, morphological or lexical means, punctuation, syntactic operations)?
  • Are there different kinds of secondary content (e.g. side vs. background information) and, if so, how do they relate to traditional kinds of meaning (like presuppositions, conventional implicatures)?
  • How can secondary content be characterized and defined and distinguished from primary content? Does secondary content have special properties that can be used to identify it (denial in discourse, propositional anaphora, embeddability etc.)?
  • How does the notion of secondary information relate to established semantic-pragmatic categories and mechanisms of discourse structure (e.g. common ground, question under discussion, discourse updates)?
  • In the recent literature, secondary information is often treated in terms with respect to the notion of “(non)-at-issue meaning”. However, there are at least two different usages of this term: one that is backward-looking and is based on the notion of the question under discussion and one that is forward-looking and is based on the notion of making a proposal. Do we need both variants of this notion to capture the full range of secondary information or can one be reduced to the other? If not, are there regularities that tell us which notion applies in which situation and how can possible different kinds of secondary content be characterized by these two competing notions?

Abstracts should be submitted to Katharina Turgay no later then August 31, 2016: turgay{at} The workshop languages are English and German. Abstracts should be anonymized, should not exceed two pages (DIN A4) including examples and references, and be submitted as a pdf. Notifications of acceptance will be issued until September 15, 2016.

The workshop is part of the 39th Annual Meeting of the DGfS (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft). Workshop speakers have to register for the conference and are not supposed to speak at more than one workshop.

Workshop Details

Organizers: Daniel Gutzmann (Frankfurt & Cologne), Katharina Turgay (Landau)
Contact: turgay{at}
Date: March 8–10, 2017
Venue: Saarland University, Saarbrücken
Deadline for submission: August 31, 2016.
Notification of acceptance: September 15, 2016.


Wilhelm von Humboldt Prize 2014 for the best dissertation


Wilhelm von Humboldt Prize 2014 for the best dissertation

On this year's annual meeting of the DGfS (German Linguistic Society) in Marburg, I was awarded the Wilhelm von Humboldt prize 2014 for my dissertation. I was very surprised when I got notified that the jury has selected my dissertation »Use-conditional meaning. Studies in multidimensional semantics« unanimously for the prize, especially since I didn't even know that I was suggested for the price in the first place!

I was especially stoked when I learned that besides the actual content, the jury especially mentions the high accessibility of the thesis. I actually tried hard to make the core ideas of my work understandable even without all those crazy formulas and to always put enough explanatory prose around the semantic derivations. Therefore, it is a good feeling that this seems to shine through :-)

The prize ceremony took place between the two plenary talks on Wednesday, March 5, at the Alte Aula of the University of Marburg. 

During the ceremony, I had to present the dissertation in 10 minutes to an audience of linguists of all flavors. First I planed to really present the work, but quickly realize that this was not only a hopeless endeavor, but also the wrong take on such a presentation. I therefore decided to focus on the people and ideas that influenced and shaped me as a linguists and directly or indirectly had an influenced the final shape of my dissertation. The slides of the presentation can be found here. However, since they were in German, I will post an English version in form of a blog post soon.

 Presenting my dissertation during the prize ceremony. Picture by  Stefan Müller . See also his  LingPhot  blog.

Presenting my dissertation during the prize ceremony. Picture by Stefan Müller. See also his LingPhot blog.


Use-conditional meaning: Biography of a dissertation


Use-conditional meaning: Biography of a dissertation

As detailed in the previous post, I was awarded the Wilhelm von Humboldt prize 2014 for my dissertation at this year's annual meeting of the DGfS (German Linguistic Society) in Marburg. During the ceremony, I had to present the dissertation in 10 minutes to an audience of linguists of all flavors. First I planed to really present the work, but quickly realized that this was not only a hopeless endeavor, but also the wrong take on such a presentation. I therefore decided to focus on the people and ideas that influenced and shaped me as a linguists and directly or indirectly had an influenced the final shape of my dissertation. Since the slides of the presentation were in German, here comes an English version in form of a blog post.

Use-conditional meaning: Biography of a dissertation

The dissertation in buzzwords

Formal pragmatics — Applying the formal tools of semantics to traditional pragmatic topics.

Use-conditional meaning — Some expressions of natural language impose conditions on their felicitous use, instead of contributing to the truth-conditioans of a sentence.

Hybrid semantics — In order to capture the entire meaning of an expression, one needs to take into account the truth- and use conditional dimensions of meaning.

Multidimensionality —  The meaning of natural language expressions consist of (at least) this two dimensions , which are independent of each other but interact compositional with each other.

Compositionaliy — In contrast to some previous multidimensional approaches, the formal system developed in the thesis is strictly compositional and uses just two compositions rules.

Modal particles — Besides classic expressives like expressive adjectives (damn etc.), one of main empirical domains studied in the dissertation are modal particles in German.

Sentence mood — his also leads to a fresh perspective on sentence mood, under which mood operators are understood as use-conditional expressions. This makes it possible to represent them explicitly without inheriting the problems of the »performative hypothesis«.

Extendability – The system is general enough that it can be extended by additional dimensions (e.g. for appositives or focus) and can be applied to other field of linguistics investigations (language change, typology).

But today: people before content

  • My main teacher during my MA program at Mainz
  • Got me into modal particles ...
  • ... and sentence mood
  • Taught me about pragmatics, and especially, semantics vs. pragmatics.
  • Introduced me to issue in the philosophy of language (what lead me to study philosophy as a minor in my MA)

To understand a proposition means to know what is the case if it is true.
— Wittgenstein 1922: §4.023

➢ Semantic Theory of Meaning

… the meaning of a word is its use in the language.
— Wittgenstein 1953: § 43

➢ Pragmatic Theory of Meaning

Is one right?     (Spoiler alert: No, both!)     

  • Together with Jörg sparked my interest in linguistics with his Intro to Linguistics class.
  • Later, he recommended me Chris Potts's just appeared book.
  • Also pointed me towards Horst Lohnstein's semantics text book.
  • Conventional implicatures made me curious, as I heard they were a myth.
  • Expressives also seemed to be relevant for my seminar paper on ethical datives.
  • But ?λx??⟨e, t⟩?∀y?●????
  • I got my semantic »basic training« from this book.
  • It was hard to get at that time, only 2nd hand. (There is a new edition now.)
  • I worked through this book with goal of understanding Potts's book. 

Chris Potts (now!)

  • Expressions of natural language can carry more than one meaning.
  • In case of conventional implicatures, those dimensions of meaning are independent of each other.

Example: appositives

  • Daniel, a linguist, writes a blog post.
  • ⟨ Daniel writes a blog post, Daniel is a linguist ⟩


  • Potts develops also a formal System to model the different dimensions and their interaction.
  • If one can have more than dimension of meaning, maybe the Wittgenstein can be unified with Wittgenstein after all?
  • But how can a unified formal approach be possible, given that pragmatic use-theories of meaning are mostly construed in an anti-formal manner?

  • Somebody provides me with a copy of Kaplan's The meaning of ouch and oops (1999), the infamous underground paper, to which Potts 2005 drew my attention.
  • This helpful person therefore must remain anonymous.

For certain expressions of natural language, a correct Semantic Theory would state rules of use rather than something like a concept expressed.
— David Kaplan (1999: 6)


  1. »Snow is white«
  2. ist true,
  3. iff snow is white.


  1. »Oops«
  2. is felicitously used,
  3. iff the speaker observed a minor mishap.
  • In both conditions, an expression is connected with a condition that captures its meaning.

  • What differs is the kind of connection (»mode of expression«).

  • These conditions can be the case or not.

  • This makes them propositional → Standard semantic toolbox available! 

Potts + Kaplan = Hybrid Semantics

  • Assuming a multidimensional semantics à la Potts, we can view the meaning of a natural language expressions as the combination of their truth- and use-conditional content.
  • We can have our cake and eat it, too!

Truth- and use-conditions (here in the case of modal particles)

  1. »Es regnet ja« (it's raining MP) is true, iff it is raining.
  2. »Es regnet ja« (it's raining MP) is felicitously used, iff it is common knowledge that it is raining.
  • Expressions with both meaning dimensions are hybrid  expressions.

  • Hybrid semantics: 1, ✓⟩   ⟨1, ✗ ⟩   ⟨0, ⟩   ⟨0✗⟩

  • Many complex expressions are hybrid (that damn Daniel), but there also lexically hybrid expressions (Kraut).

  • From Ede, I got my semantic »master class«.
  • Lead me to think more about compositionality.
  • Spark my interest in the important role of contexts.
  • Became the principle supervisor of the thesis.
  • Answered thousands of questions and inspired me on even more occasions.
  • What is the nature of the use-values ✓and ✗?
  • Since, as seen above, use-conditions can be the case of not, the notions of truth sneaks back into the theory.
  • If an ordinary truth-conditional proposition is understood as a set of worlds, a use-conditional proposition can be conceived as a set of contexts (in order to be used felicitously, there must be an actually utterance and hence context).
  1. ⟦Snow is white⟧-t = {w: snow is white in w}
  2. ⟦Oups!⟧-u = {c: S(c) observed a minor mishap on w(c)}


  • Potts's system, however, involves some compositionally problems, which are based on the fact that expressions are only sporadically multidimensional.
  • In contrast, the framework developed in the dissertation is based on consequent multidimensionality: every expression exhibits both a truth- and a use-conditional dimension (and an intermediate dimension for compositional bookkeeping).
  • These dimensions are calculated side by side during semantics derivations.
  • So-called lexical extension rules ensure that »one-dimensional« expressions like house or pus get equipped with the necessary dimension to avoid to blow up the lexical entries of such expressions.
 How an actual derivation actually looks like in my thesis. I am really happy that the jury – in spite of this – especially mentioned the accessibility of the my dissertation.

How an actual derivation actually looks like in my thesis. I am really happy that the jury – in spite of this – especially mentioned the accessibility of the my dissertation.

To conclude: modal particles and sentence mood again

  • A use-conditional and multidimensional analysis of modal particles cannot only account for their semantic status, but is also able to derive many of their syntactic particularities.
  • The notion of sentence mood also receives a fresh analysis, as sentence mood operators are also treated as use-conditional expressions.
  • This allows one to represent them explicitly in the semantics without leading to wrong truth-conditions.
  • The interaction between modal particles and sentence mood can then also be modeled in the use-conditional dimension.
  • A sentence involving various use-conditional expression can therefore lead to complex use-conditions.
  1. ASSERT(Der verdammte Daniel trägt halt vor)    “That damn Daniel is MP talking.”
  2. ⟨ Daniel is talking, the speaker wants that the hearer knows that Daniel is talking & the speaker has a negative attitude towards Daniel & one cannot do anything about Daniel being talking ⟩

  • Through his papers, I learned that there is much more to expressive meaning than was accounted for by Potts 2005.
  • That thought me to not fear take an existing (and established) framework apart in order to build something new out of it.
  • He became the second supervisor of the thesis.

From him, I learned that one should respect old work and the early pioneers an that there are still  a lot of hidden ideas waiting to be uncovered.

Lead me to think more about what speech acts are and how they relate to sentence mood.

He became the third supervisor of the thesis.

  • Beside those that are explicitly mentioned on this page, there are many more persons that help and inspired me on my way from my first contact with linguistics to putting together the final version of my dissertation.
  • A revised version of the dissertation will published by OUP (probably in 2015).
  • Who want to get the original version of the thesis, can contact me.

Multidimensional Thanks!


New paper on expressive intensifiers accepted by JCGL


New paper on expressive intensifiers accepted by JCGL

This post comes a bit late, but a few weeks ago, Katharina Turgay’s and my paper Expressive intensifiers and external degree modification was accepted for publication in the The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics. It started as an extended version of our 2012 EISS paper, but thanks to three really helpful reviews and great guidance by Editor-in-Chief Susi Wurmbrand we revised substantially and hence ended up with a different and – we think – much better analysis.

Abstract Varieties of colloquial German exhibit a special class of degree expression, including expressions like sau, voll or total, which we call expressive intensifiers(EIs) and which have received almost no attention in the literature. EIs are distinguished from ordinary degree intensifiers like very by several special syntactic properties. Most importantly, they can appear in what we call theexternal degree modification construction (EDC), a construction of the form [EI D (A) NP]. Despite preceding the determiner in these constructions, the EI still intensifies the adjective or noun inside the DP. The entire EDC behaves like a DP and, curiously, its interpretation must be indefinite, irrespective of the definite determiner that it involves. External EIs raise at least six questions for their analysis. (i) What is their relation to internal EIs? (ii) What position hosts them and why do they move at all? (iii) Why does the external position shift the interpretation of the determiner? (iv) Why are ordinary degree items excluded from that position? (v) Why are some EIs prevented from appearing adnominally in internal position, but all can be used adnominally in external position? (vi) Why do some constructions block external EIs? After presenting a detailed descrip- tion of the behavior of EIs both in internal and external position and in adjectival and adnominal use, we develop an analysis of EDCs to answer these questions which is based on the idea that the derivation of EDC involves head movement to D0 where the EI forms a complex quantifier with the determiner in order to express a syntactic expressivity feature.

The paper can be downloaded from the publication page.


Using descriptions – Manuscript submitted to EISS 10


Using descriptions – Manuscript submitted to EISS 10

Last fall, I went to CSSP in Paris to present some work I had done with Eric McCready on an expressive/use-conditional approach to referentially used descriptions. The ideas for this go back to an exchange Eric and I had at the Frankfurt main station in March 2013 (after my defense). Since then, we managed to developed those ideas first into a talk and now a paper which we submitted to the CSSP proceedings aka Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 10, which again are edited by Chris Piñon

Abstract   Referential uses of descriptions have been extensively studied from both semantic and pragmatic perspectives. This paper proposes a new treatment of this phenomenon which uses the multidimensional tools developed to account for what now goes under the label of expressive or use-conditional meaning. The basic idea is to treat the “descriptive content” of referential descriptions as use-conditional. We show that doing so allows a satisfying explanation of their meaning and use. From the semantic side, the theory brings out interesting parallels to appositive constructions and theories of proper names; from the pragmatic side, it allows an explanation of their use as reference vehicles and of the cooperative aspects of misdescriptions.

Any comments on the manuscript are very much welcome!

Download the manuscript on its publication page.


New homepage and domain


New homepage and domain

After ongoing troubles with my previous homepage, I decided to switch horses and to build a new homepage, this time using the tools provided by Squarespace. So far, I am quite happy with it, but we'll have to see in a year from now if it does everything I want.

This also means that I have a new domain: I'll redirect my old domains to this page, once I the domain management is transferred from my old provider. So in case you use rss, update your subscription.



Talk at Konstanz on use-conditional meaning

Yesterday, I visited the linguistics department at the University of Konstanz, because Josef Bayer invited me to present stuff from my dissertation. Giving the talk was really fun and the discussion was very inspiring. Irene Heim posed a really hard question regarding quantification over multiple use-conditional item simultaneously, and Maribel Romero had inspiring comments on use-conditional modification vs. stacking of expressive items. A lot food for thought! A handout version of the presentation can be downloaded here.



Linguistics and Philosophy Workshop

This weekend, on May 24-26, my institute will host a special workshop organized by Ede Zimmermann, at which the editors of Linguistics and Philosophy present their work. The list of speakers include almost the entire team of editors (unfortunately, Danuiel Büring and Craige Roberst are unable to attend).

  • Emma Borg (University of Reading): Some arguments for and against minimal semantics
  • Veneeta Dayal (Rutgers University): A viability constraint on alternatives for free choice
  • Paul Dekker (University of Amsterdam): Tom and Jerry paint a mouse
  • Regine Eckardt (University of Göttingen): Narrator information: An attempt at dynamic diagonalization
  • Graeme Forbes (University of Colorado, Boulder): Pragmatic acccounts of free-choice disjunction
  • Michael Glanzberg (Northwestern University): What does model theory explain in semantics?
  • Stefan Kaufmann (University of Connecticut): Premise semantics for counterfactuals and more
  • Lisa Matthewson (University of British Columbia): On the interaction of modality and temporality: Evidence from 15 languages
  • Peter Pagin (University of Stockholm): General compositionality and belief sentences
  • Paul Portner (Georgetown University): Imperatives and gradable modality


  • Friday, May 24: 09:00-16:00 (lunch 13:15 - 14.45)
  • Saturday, May 25: 09:00-17:15 (lunch 13:15 - 14.45)
  • Sunday, May 26: 10:45-12:00


A detailed program can be found here.


In addition, there will also be a warming-up talk by Magdalena Kaufman (University of Connecticut) on Connecticut) Imperatives and (im)perfect information



Talk on modal particles at GGS

This weekend, the 39th Generative Grammar of the South meeting, better known as just GGS, took place at University of Frankfurt. Together with Katharina Turgay, I gave a talk on the linearization of modal particles in German, which was rather empirically oriented (without much theory) and presented a corpus analysis of the position in which modal partilces occur in spontaneous speech. (slides as .pdf).

The meeting was a lot of fun – as always – and there were many very interesting talks. I especially enjoyed Michael Wagner's talk on a generalization of Hurford's constraint to any kind of alternative sets, as well as Gert Webelhuth's talk on extraposition, which incorporates Drach's classical topological field model of German sentence structure as lexical features into a HPSG framework.



Talk at UGöttingen on multidimensionality (in semantic change)

I gave an invited talk on multidimensionality in semantic change today at University of Göttingen. The talk was (supposed  to be) a slightly extended version of the talk I gave in Austin at the workshop on semantic change. For a colloquium, it had many hear's and the exchange with the faculty members and students was very lively and stimulating, especially on the formal underpinning of the approach. So much, actually, that I wasn't even able to talk on the pragmaticalization of  German obwohl “although”, which -- like in may talk at Austin -- was supposed to be the major case study for illustrating the general idea of pragmaticalization of a semantic type shift between meaning dimensions. For those who are interested in catching up on this, you can download the slides for the talk here.



References and publication pages

During the last days, I restructured the work page. Now, the links take you to dedicated publication pages where you find an abstract of the paper and the possibility to download it. I also added links to export the bibliographical data as a .bib-file. In addition, you can also get the references for my publications all at once, either as .bib or .pdf.



Talk on pragmaticalization and multidimensional semantics

This week, I will attend the Workshop on Systematic Semantic Change,  which will take place this Friday and Saturday (April 5-6) at UT Austin.  Besides me, the speakers are: Patricia Amaral (UNC), Andrea Beltrama(Chicago), Cleo Condoravdi (Stanford), Ailis Cournane (Toronto), Östen Dahl (Stockholm), Regine Eckardt (Göttingen), Chiara Gianollo (Köln), Larry Horn (Yale), Lukasz Jedrzejowski (ZAS), Roumyana Pancheva (USC), Mike Pham (Chicago), Scott Schwenter (OSU), Julia Thomas (Chicago), Elizabeth Traugott (Stanford), and Igor Yanovich (MIT).

The  program looks very promising and I am looking forward to the workshop. I will talk about Pragmaticalization and multidimensional semantics. Here is the abstract:

Overview     We investigate the relation between the empirical phenomenon of pragmaticalization in grammaticalization and a theoretical framework of multidimensional semantics in the Pottsian tradition. In such a framework, the development from descriptive into expressive meaning can be modeled as a diachronic type shift from ordinary truth-conditional into expressive types. An intermediate stage is provided by McCready’s mixed types. Grammaticalization theory can profit from the formal perspective, while the formal semantics can profit from the additional data the diachronic development of expressive meaning provides. For instance, the need for intermediate stages, provides further evidence against Potts’s claim that there are no mixed expressives. To highlight these interrelations, we present a case study involving the development of discourse markers from subordinators in German …

Pragmaticalization      Pragmaticalization is a special subtype of grammaticalization (Diewald 2011) and can be defined as the “the development of a grammatically identifiable expression of speaker belief or speaker attitude to what is said.” (Traugott 1995: 32). A corresponding pragmaticalization path can be given as follows (Traugott 2003: 633).

(1)   propositional (> textual) > expressive meaning

Some of the best-studied cases of pragmaticalization include pejorations such as English boor ‘countryman, farmer’ > ‘crude person’ (Traugott 2003: 634) or the development of German modal particles out of adjectives or adverbs (see, amongst many others, Autenrieth 2002). While pragmaticalization as an account of semantic change is empirically and conceptually well-grounded, we think that it would nevertheless profit from an adaption of more recent developments in formal semantics in which the notions of expressive meaning and multidimensionality have received a lot of interest, especially thanks to the influential work by Potts (2005, 2007). The main hypothesis which we want to pursue in this talk is that pragmaticalization can be modeled as a (diachronic) semantic type shift in such a framework.

Multidimensional semantics     Potts framework and its extensions (Gutzmann 2011; McCready 2010) rests on two core ideas. (i) Sentences can have two meaning dimensions: a descriptive and an expressive one. (ii) The semantic types encode what kind of content is contributed by an expression and regulate the flow of information between the meaning dimension by means of dedicated application rules.

Informally, we can notate multidimensionality by prefixing the expressive dimension with the bullet “●” to separate it from the descriptive dimension.

(2)   |That damn Kaplan got promoted| = got-promoted(kaplan) ∶ tdamn(kaplan) ∶ u

Beside the standard descriptive types for e, t, s and the functional types that can be built from them by the standard definition, there is also a special type for expressive propositions, which I call u for use-conditional (following Gutzmann 2012) and which contrasts with the truth-conditional base type t. For instance, the expressive adjective damn in (2) is of type ⟨e, u⟩. Applying it to its argument yields an expressive proposition (of type u) while returning its argument unmodified.

(3)   |damn Kaplan| = kaplanedamn(kaplan) ∶ u

Diachronic type shifts     In light of this framework, pragmaticalization can be understood as the development of descriptive into expressive expressions. Formally, this means that the type of an expression shifts diachronically from a descriptive into an expressive type. Take boor again, for instance. It starts as an ordinary descriptive predicate and develops into a functional expletive expressive item that displays a negative expressive speaker attitude, labeled simply as boor-ex here.

(4)   boor ∶ ⟨e, t⟩ > boor-ex ∶ ⟨e, u

This (diachronic) type shift formally reflects the change from propositional to expressive meaning as depicted in (1). Of course, diachronically, such type shifts do not happen suddenly but evolve during complex processes and in contexts that support such changes (Traugott 2003).

Most often, pejorations like in (4) start from a conversational implicature that, given a sufficiently high frequency, become conventionalized. Given the right circumstances, this implicature then may become part of an expression’s lexical meaning. In a final stage, the original meaning may get lost, so that only the negative expressive component remains from the originally descriptive predicate. We therefore observe something like the following pattern, which complies with the so-called overlap model of grammaticalization (Heine 2003: 590).

(5)   A > A, B > B

In addition to the arguments in McCready (2010) and Gutzmann (2011), the need for such an intermediate stage add further evidence against Potts’s (2005: 7) claim that no lexical item contributes to both meaning dimensions. To model this stage, we employ McCready’s mixed expressions which consist of a descriptive and an expressive part conjoined with the diamondd “◆” and have a product type. Returning to boor, this means that after the conventionalization of the conversational implicature, the truth-conditional content is still there and we have a mixed expressive. It is only at the last stage, that the first dimension is lost and we arrive at a non-mixed expletive expressive.

(6)   boor ∶ ⟨e, t⟩ > boor boor-ex ∶ ⟨e, t⟩ × ⟨e, u⟩ > boor-ex ∶ ⟨e, u

Case study: Discourse markers in German     To put the formal approach to pragmaticalization to use, we investigate the pragmaticalization of the adversative subordinating conjunction obwohl ‘although’, as in (7), into a discourse particle marking corrections, as in (8) (Günthner 1999).

(7)   Peter ist im Kino, obwohl er keine Zeit hat. P. is at.the cinema although he no time has “Peter is at the cinema, although he has not time.”

(8) Peter ist im Kino, obwohl – er hat keine Zeit. P. is at.the cinema although he has no time “Peter is at the cinema, (correction: but wait,) he as no time.”

Beside the witnessed semantic change – in (7), there is one assertion with a descriptively relevant connection, wheras in (8), there are two speech acts where the later revises the former – the pragmaticalization of obwohl is followed by a corresponding syntactic change in word order. While the second clause exhibits subordinate word order (verb in final position) in (7), it has the root clause word order (verb-second) in (8). Given some assumption about the semantic motivation of verb movement in German (Truckenbrodt 2006) , we show that this syntactic change is a direct reflect of the semantic type shift. Since expressive expressions are arguably invisible (Potts et al. 2009) for the rules that govern verb movement in German, the presence of obwohl in (8) does not stop the verb from moving into the verb-second position that is associated with an independent speech act.


A pdf of the abstract can be obtained here. After the workshop, I will also post the slides of my talk here.



Upcoming talks

Here is a list of upcoming talks, I am going  to give until summer. It starts with Austin this week! (I am going to post at least some of the slides/handouts after the talks.)

April 5

Talk on pragmaticalization and multidimensional semantics @Workshop on systematic semantic change, UT Austin.

May 2

Invited talk on tba @Linguistic colloquium, UGöttingen.

May 11

Talk on the linearization of German modal particles @GGS 2013, UFrankfurt (with Katharina Turgay).

May 23

Invited talk on use-conditional meaning and hybrid semantics @Linguistic colloquium, UKonstanz.

May 25

Talk on expressive intensifiers @SPSW 5, USaarbrücken (with Katharina Turgay).

July (22-27)

Talk on multidimensional semantics for expressive content @ICL 19 Geneva, Semantics/Pragmatics interface session.

Talk on the linearization of German adverbials @ICL 19, Geneva, Syntax session  (with Katharina Turgay).

Poster presentation on the L2 acquisition of the German PP @ICL 19 Geneva, Workshop on native language influence on L2 (with Katharina Turgay).


Dissertation defended


Dissertation defended

The biggest of all things that kept me away from posting any updates to this website during the last couple of months, which I haven't mentioned yet, is of course my doctoral dissertation, which I submitted at the end 2012  and which I (successfully) defended on March 6, 2013. (I plan to write more on the dissertation in a later post.) It took some efforts to set everything up, because we wanted that Eric (McCready), who has been my second supervisor, could come and participate and therefore, the defense had to take place during the semester break, something that seems to be rather uncommon. However, everything worked out, thanks to all my three supervisors, who were incredibly super fast with their reviews, and Cecilia Poletto, who, as the vice dean, ensured that the administrative procedure was much faster than usual. She also kindly served as the chair of the defense committee. As it turned out, even Hans-Martin (Gärtner), my third supervisor, was able to be there for the defense. Besides my boss and principled supervisor Ede (Zimmermann),  only one additional member for the comittee was needed, which became Markus Bader.

After the defense
After the defense

The picture above is from just after everything was done. Besides me in the middle, there are, from left to right, my supervisors Ede, Eric, and Hans-Martin.

After the defense, I now have fulfilled every requirement for obtaining the grade of a "Dr. phil", but -- as it is German law -- I am not yet allowed to carry that title. For this, I first have to publish my dissertation. This will be one of my next projects.



Expressives and beyond (manuscript version)

Continuing the post from yesterday, I post here the manuscript version of my contribution to our CRiSPI volume Beyond ExpressivesSince it starts with expressives in the narrow sense and then goes on to discuss other use-conditional items found in natural languages, and since it functions as an introduction to the volume (and actually also in a slightly different form as the second chapter  of my dissertation), it is called Expressives and beyond. An introduction to varieties of use-conditional meaningNote that Brill officially allows authors of edited volumes the post the post-print (i.e. the final-final-final version) on their personal websites. So once I get the final Pdf of the article, I will post it here as well and exchange the link at the work page.