Colloquium: Formal Restrictiveness and the Syntax-Semantics Interface

May 19, 3:30-5pm, Cobb 201
Bob Frank, Yale University

There is a long tradition of work in syntax (and phonology, to some degree) that makes use of computationally restricted formal systems. When such work is successful, these systems simplify analyses of specific phenomena and provide explanations of general properties of human language, lending support to the hypothesis that computational restrictiveness plays an important role in the nature of grammar. As far as I am aware, there have not been corresponding efforts in the domain of the syntax-semantics interface, aiming to simplify and explain through computational restrictions. In this talk, I will review a line of research, underway for some time but not well-known in the linguistics community, that attempts to do this. This work makes use of Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG), a computationally restrictive grammar formalism whose ability to account for and explain facts of syntactic distribution has been the object of previous study. Building on case studies involving reflexive interpretation, scope, and donkey anaphora, I will show that the a "synchronous" extension to the TAG formalism allows for the simplification of previous analyses, and I will suggest that this approach holds out the potential for a restrictive theory of mismatches between surface syntax and logical form.