Seminar: Semantics

Alternative-sensitive particles cross-linguistically 


This class will examine expressions whose semantic contribution is argued to be sensitive to contextually given or compositionally derived alternatives of some sort (including so-called “questions under discussion” or “issues”), and to induce complex at-issue and non-at issue meanings in context. A fascinating aspect of crosslinguistic variation in interpretation is how different languages express the range of such alternative-based meanings. For example, some of the meanings available to the English expressions ‘even’, ‘still’ and ‘yet’ is covered in Hebrew by one additive expression, and the meanings available to English `until’ are split between different expressions, some obviously temporal and some not, in other languages (like German, Ngamo, Hebrew or Greek).  We will look at classic and more recent work on a select set of such expressions and the analyses they have been given, with two parallel goals in mind: First, to try and discover / uncover patterns in the crosslinguistic semantic distribution of alternative-sensitive expressions. Second, to see what the analysis of alternative sensitivity tells us about how to tease apart and articulate the lexical, the compositional, the contextual, and the pragmatic.


Itamar Francez -- Spring 2021