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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.



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).



New article on expressive intensifiers previewed

Thanks to Christopher Piñón, the editor of Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 9 (aka Proceedings of CSSP 2011), the volume got a preview section in which completed articles are being previewed. One of those articles is a paper on expressive intensifiers in German, coauthored by Katharina Turgay and me. In that paper, we are dealing with expressions like German sau which can be used to expressively intensify a gradable adjective. Most curiously, such expressive intensifiers can occur in an "external" position, preceding the article of a definite DP but still modifying the adjective inside the DP (cf. the second example in the picture). However, despite the fact that this construction is only possible with definite DPs, the entire construction is interpreted as indefinite. In the paper, we try to address some of these syntax-semantics mismatches.



Talk at GGS

Yesterday, Katharina Turgay and I gave a talk at GGS ("Generative Grammar of the South) in Freiburg. We examined data of spoken German regarding the linearization of adverbials and compared it to the approach developed by Frey & Pittner (1998). The slides of the talk can be download here.



Article on the acquisition of functional categories in PPs accepted for publication

Last year, Katharina Turgay and I gave a talk on the acquisition of functional categories in German prepositional phrases at Generative Grammatik des NordenS (GGS)in Berlin. An article that is based on that talk but elaborates on it in many respects has now been accepted for publication in the Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft. In the paper, we describe and evaluate a study with 40 Turkish speaking primary school children in L2 acquisition (together with two control groups of children in L1 acquisition) in order to examine how the functional categories D, Path and Place are acquired. A manuscript version of the paper can be found here.



Paper on quotation published

Together with Erik Stei (University of Bonn), I am working on the semantics and pragmatics of quotation for quite some time now. Now, our paper "How quotation marks what people do with works" has just been published by the Journal of Pragmatics. The picture links to the original paper. I you do not have access to the Journal of Pragmatics, you can find a preprint version of the paper  here.



Stressed particles and verum focus

Last weekend, I attended MOSS 2, where Malte Zimmermann gave a talk on the two German modal particles “doch” and “schon” (you can find the abstract here). He focussed on stressed variants of these particles and argued for two hypotheses. (i) The stressed variants consist of the unstressed particle plus verum focus. (ii) The meaning of the particle “schon” is based on its temporal adverbial counterpart.

While I have not much to say regarding hypothesis (ii), I already said something regarding (i). In a paper based on a talk I gave at a fest-conference for Harald Weydt in Bern in 2009, I defended basically the same claim for accented “JA”. The paper is titled “Betonte Modalpartikeln und Verumfokus” and appeared at the end of 2010 in the volume “40 Jahre Partikelforschung” edited by Elke Hentschel and Theo Harden. I uploaded a manuscript version of the article which you can find here. The picture links to the official page for more information on the volume.