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Monday, 25 Sep 2017

Research and Projects

 Challenging Gricean Assumptions: Towards a Corpus-Based Pragmatics
 Funding: Israel Science Foundation (ISF), grant 161/09, 2009-2013
Adopting a code versus inference distinction as a basis for the linguistic semantic versus pragmatic division of labor, the goal of this project is to problematize well-established assumptions on the Gricean agenda. One central idea to be challenged is that the lexical meaning of natural language expressions such as some and or is reducible to their counterpart logical operators (a). Another is the assumption that linguists' intuitions reflect speakers' actual use(s) of these expressions (b). Corpus studies, augmented by questionnaire data, reveal that contra (b), the pragmatics of such expressions is by far richer than previously assumed, and contra (a), their lexical meanings must be modified in order to account for all their attested uses.
Prof. Mira Ariel mail home


 Heritage Amharic
The research focuses on the phonetic and phonological systems of Amharic (Heritage language) and Hebrew (ambient language) for sequential bilingual Israelis of Ethiopian descent, while comparing the systems to those of native speakers of each of the two languages. Since Heritage languages are sometimes acquired incompletely, the question is which of the grammatical elements are not acquired and which principles are at the basis of incomplete acquisition. We assume the interaction between universal principles and language specific principles, and therefore conduct a comparative study between the two languages in order to identify components crossing over from language to language.
Prof. Outi Bat-El mail home Dr. Evan-Gary Cohen mail home Dr. Anbessa Teferra mail home
together with Prof. Sharon Rose, UCSD.


 Negation Generates Nonliteral Interpretations by Default
 Funding: Israel Science Foundation (ISF), grant 436/12, 2012-2016
This research focuses on default nonliteral interpretations of non-conventionalized utterances. Using online and offline experimental measures alongside corpus-based studies, we aim to show that negation (among other low-salience markers) generates nonliteral interpretations by default. Certain negative utterances of the form "X is not Y", "Y you are not" (and others) are expected to be interpreted nonliterally by default: (a) When presented in isolation, they are expected to be rated as nonliteral compared to their affirmative counterparts. (b) When embedded in a context biasing them toward their nonliteral interpretation, they are expected to be processed faster than when embedded in a context equally strongly biased toward the literal interpretation. (c) Corpus-based studies are expected to demonstrate that the environment of such utterances resonates with their nonliteral interpretation.
Prof. Rachel Giora mail home


 Relatives of the Third Kind
This project deals with the semantics of a variety of (non-appositive) relative clauses that necessarily involve definiteness or universal quantification. It focuses on three areas: (a) The semantics of amount relatives and relatives where the relativization gap is not in argument position. Rethinking the analysis of Grosu and Landman (1998) in terms of maximalization leads to new insights into the interaction between these relatives and scope and intensionaly. (b) The semantics of internally headed relatives in Japanese and Korean. (c) Maximalization in the semantics of clausal comparatives.
Prof. Alex Grosu mail home Prof. Fred Landman mail home
together with Prof. Koji Hoshi, Keio University, Japan.


 Idioms: Mental Representation and Acquisition
 Funding: US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), grant 2009269, 2010-2014
The project is a study of the mental representation and acquisition of idioms. It puts forth the Type-sensitive Storage (TSS) Model, distinguishing between clausal vs phrasal idioms, and investigates its predictions. Moreover, it examines the effect of syntactic properties of idioms on their acquisition by children from age 6-7. The project collects data from two distinct sources: a set of quantitative corpus-based studies, and a series of psycholinguistic experiments. Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of the acquisition and storage of idioms, our findings are of crucial relevance for linguistic and psycholinguistic theories of the organization of the mental lexicon and the division of labor between the lexicon and the syntactic component of the language faculty.
Prof. Julia Horvath mail home Prof. Tal Siloni mail home
together with Prof. Kenneth Wexler, MIT.


 Towards a Focus-Free Analysis of 'Focus Effects':
 A Fresh Look at the Interface of Prosody, Semantics and Pragmatics
 Funding: Israel Science Foundation (ISF), grant 504/11, 2011-2014
This project tests the radical hypothesis that the notion of 'focus' can and should be eliminated from our theory of grammar (Kadmon and Sevi 2011), concentrating on English and Hebrew. One goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that facts of 'discourse congruence' can be accounted for without recourse to 'focus', based on a notion of 'given' (roughly 'recoverable' or 'predictable'). We aim to develop this idea into a full-fledged theory of the interpretation of pitch accent placement. A second goal concerns 'focusing adverbs'. Our initial results indicate that it is possible to give a viable focus-free account of only, the most extensively studied of these adverbs. We wish to establish these initial results, and provide focus-free analyses of other 'focusing adverbs'. A third goal is to study as many of the other sorts of 'focus effects' as possible, including less-studied ones. Our hope is that this research will lead to a better understanding of the interaction between semantics, pragmatics and prosody in general.
Dr. Nirit Kadmon mail home Dr. Aldo Sevi mail home

 Aspect and Incrementality
We develop a theory of aspect in which the central concept relevant for the aspectual analysis of eventive predicates is incremental homogeneity: incremental preservation of the event-type of an event from its onset through its development stages. Incremental homogeneity is a dynamic notion, which contrasts with the static notion of homegeneity down to points of time, which is appropriate for statives. The theory sheds new light on various central problems in aspectual theory, e.g., crosslinguistic differences concerning stative and eventive predicates, the semantics of aspectual for and in phrases, the notion of telicity and the relation between aspect, habituality and genericity.
Prof. Fred Landman mail home
together with Prof. Susan Rothstein, Bar Ilan University.


 Iceberg Semantics for Mass and Count Nouns
Classically, the mass-count distinction is characterized as a distinction concerning semantic atoms:  the interpretation of count nouns is grounded in a set of atoms, while mass nouns do not have atoms at all. In Iceberg semantics, every noun is grounded in a set of generating elements, but these are not necessarily atoms.  The mass-count distinction is formalized as a distinction between nouns with disjoint generators (count) versus overlapping generators (mass).  Iceberg semantics provides new insights into the semantics of mass nouns, plurality, distributivity and collectivity, measures and classifiers, and provides a good setting for crosslinguistic research.
Prof. Fred Landman mail home