Author Archive

Friday May 23: Malte Willer

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This Friday we are pleased to welcome our very own Malte Willer (University of Chicago, philosophy), who will be presenting a new approach to indicative Sobel sequences!

Speaker: Malte Willer
Title: Another Case For Dynamic Conditionals
Date: Friday 5/23
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401


Folklore has it that Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. While recent discussions for or against the lore have focussed on (reverse) Sobel sequences involving subjunctive conditionals, I here draw attention to the fact that indicative Sobel sequences are just as felicitous as their subjunctive cousins. The fact, or so I will argue, proves problematic for the classical view: given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a variably strict analysis fails to predict that indicative Sobel sequences are felicitous. A properly dynamic strict analysis of indicatives, in constrast, handles the data with grace, and it can also be extended so that it covers subjunctives. Time permitting, I discuss how the story told here handles reverse Sobel sequences and of how it differs from previous dynamic analyses of conditionals.

Friday May 16: Anthony S. Gillies

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Please join us this Friday as we welcome our Spring Quarter White’s Visiting Professor at the Linguistics and Philosophy workshop!

Speaker: Anthony S. Gillies
Title: “What (deontic) ‘hafta’ reveals about preferences”
Date: Friday 5/16
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401

Friday May 9: Sarah Moss

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

This Friday, please join us in welcoming Sarah Moss (University of Michigan, Philosophy)!

Speaker: Sarah Moss
Title: ‘On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Epistemic Vocabulary’
Date: Friday 5/9
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401

Friday May 2: Daniel Rothschild

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

This week, Daniel Rothschild (University College London, Philosophy) will be presenting a new approach to the ‘it might be raining’ problem.

Speaker: Daniel Rothschild
Title: ‘Epistemic Contradictions’
Date: Friday 5/2
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401

We look forward to seeing you there!


Yalcin (2007) argued that the infelicity of epistemic contradictions, such as ‘It might be raining but it’s not raining’, cannot be accounted for with the normal pragmatic resources used to handle Moorean paradoxes. To explain the infelicity of epistemic contradictions, Yalcin gave a non-standard semantics for epistemic modals that is in most respects equivalent to Veltman’s (1996) dynamic update semantics. I will show that neither Yalcin nor Veltman’s semantics is adequate to deal with the problem of epistemic contradictions. I present a semantics that can account for them and discuss its implications for the dynamic view of meaning.

Friday April 25: Jonathan Cohen

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

This week, Jonathan Cohen (USCD, Philosophy) will be here to present some of his new work on the semantics/pragmatics distinction.

Speaker: Jonathan Cohen
Title: ‘Failure-Free Extrasemantic Content’
Date: Friday 4/25
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401

Please join us!

Friday April 4: Michael Glanzberg

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Please join us as we welcome Michael Glanzberg for the first meeting of the quarter!

Speaker: Michael Glanzberg
Title: ‘Context Dependence and Discourse Effects in Knowledge Attributions’
Date: Friday 4/4
Time: 11:30 to 1:20
Location: Social Sciences 401

(Note: unless otherwise specified, all further meetings will take place in Social Sciences 401.)

Friday March 13: Anubav Vasudevan

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

This week, we conclude the Winter Quarter by welcoming our very own Anubav Vasudevan to the workshop!

SPEAKER: Anubav Vasudevan
TITLE: ‘On Two Paradoxes of Information’
DATE: Friday 3/14
TIME: 11:30 to 1:20
LOCATION: Wieboldt 408

Friday February 28: Michael Franke

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Please join us this week for a talk by Michael Franke (ILLC, Amsterdam) on adjectives:

Speaker: Michael Franke (ILLC, Amsterdam)
Title: Optimal use of gradable adjectives: the effect of scale structure & prior expectations
Date: Friday 2/28
Time: 11:30 am to 1:20 pm
Location: Wieboldt 408


Gradable adjectives are commonly classified into absolute and relative cases. Absolute adjectives more readily allow for crisp truth value judgements, are less context-dependent (if at all) and less prone to give rise to vagueness than relative ones. The goal of this talk is to explore a model that tries to explain this distinction in terms of optimal speaker behavior. The main building block of the theory proposed here is the notion of an (almost) optimal convention of use that depends crucially on prior expectations about how likely a given property is instantiated to a certain degree.

Friday February 21: Karen Lewis

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

This Friday, we are eager to welcome Karen Lewis (Columbia University, Philosophy), who will be discussing some challenges for our assumptions about how ‘would’ and ‘might counterfactuals interact. Please join us!

Speaker: Karen Lewis (Columbia University, Philosophy)
Title: Elusive Counterfactuals
Date: Friday 2/21
Time: 11:30 am to 1:20 pm
Location: Wieboldt 408

Friday February 7: Rebekah Baglini

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

This week, Rebekah Baglini is back at the workshop again to present some of her work on stativity and lexical semantics. We hope you’ll join us!

Speaker: Rebekah Baglini (Linguistics, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)
Title: States, degrees, and the semantics of lexical categories
Date: Friday 1/31
Time: 11:30 am to 1:20 pm
Location: Wieboldt 408


Linguists and philosophers often mention states in characterizing the referential properties of certain lexical items. But different languages use different syntactic categories to encode these meanings, leading to systematic variation in the shape of stative constructions. English exemplifies the three primary strategies for expressing stative meaning attested cross-linguistically: non-dynamic verbs (1), adjectival predicates (2), and certain abstract mass nouns or roots (3).

(1) VERBAL: Sam hungers for pie.
(2) ADJECTIVAL: Sam is hungry.
(3) NOMINAL: Sam has hunger.

Surprisingly, the semantics literature does not relate the types of stative expressions in (1)-(3) model-theoretically. It is typically assumed that stative verbs denote properties of stative eventualities; that (gradable) adjectives denote (functions from degrees to) properties of individuals; and that abstract mass nouns denote properties of individuals or individual kinds. This heterogeneity in the formal treatment of stative expressions provides the central question of this talk: can stative meanings be captured model-theoretically as a natural class across syntactic categories? The empirical focus of my research is cross-linguistic variation in the morphosyntax of stative constructions which, I argue, provides important clues to identifying the structures which underlie stative meanings universally. I draw heavily on my ongoing fieldwork on the Senegambian language Wolof, a language which exemplifies two different strategies for constructing statives which express gradable property concepts (concepts like tall, expensive, and happy which are prototypically associated with adjectives): some Wolof property concepts are lexicalized as stative verbal predicates, while others are lexicalized as mass nouns. I show that comparing the semantic properties of these stative expressions across categories points us towards a unified definition of statives as a natural class of meanings, and provides insight into the relationship between states and degrees in the semantic ontology.