The workshop is pleased to announce a special additional meeting on Friday, December 14th, at the usual time, 11.30am, in an unusual location, Stuart 209, in order to discuss recent work by Malte Willer on epistemic modals. Please join us for this our last session of the term!
The next meeting of the workshop will be this Friday, November 30, 11.30am-1.30pm, in Harper Memorial 148. Our speaker is Ezra Cook, a graduate student in philosophy at Northwestern University, whose paper is entitled “Epistemic Modals and Common Ground”. Please join us!
The next meeting of the workshop will be this Friday, November 16, 11.30am-1.30pm, in Harper Memorial 148. Our speaker is Kristina Liefke, doctoral fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, and the topic is “A Single-Type Semantics for Natural Language”. For further information see Kristina’s abstract for the talk.
The next meeting of the workshop will be this Friday, November 9, 11.30am-1.30pm, in Harper Memorial 148. Our speaker is David Etlin, postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. Dr. Etlin’s talk is entitled “Vague Desire: the Sorites and the Money Pump”. Please join us!
The Workshop is pleased to announce its first regular meeting of the 2012-2013 academic year, on Friday, October 26, 11.30am-1.30pm, in Harper Memorial 148. Our speaker is Timothy Grinsell, a PhD student in the Linguistics Department at the University of Chicago. Tim’s talk is entitled “Votes for vagueness: why the English progressive is vague, and what Congress can do about it”. Please join us!
Our full fall schedule is here.
The Workshop will have its planning meeting for the year on Friday, October 5th, 9.30-10 am in the Linguistics Department Lounge (CL 312). The theme for the year is Vagueness. Regular meetings of the workshop will likely not begin until mid-November due to Hans Kamp’s seminar (see below). Graduate students and others interested in presenting at the workshop this year should write to Dhananjay Jagannathan, the student coordinator, with a topic or title and the quarter in which they’d prefer to present.
We are pleased to announce that Hans Kamp, Professor of Formal Logic and Philosophy of Language at the University of Stuttgart and White’s Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, will teach a six-week seminar on “Vagueness: its nature, its semantics, its logic”. The seminar meets Mondays, 4.30-7.20p in Cobb 101 and Wednesdays, 11.30a-2.20p in Cobb 304 in weeks 1-6 (beginning October 1st and 3rd and ending November 5th and 7th). A description of the class follows.
LING 50111/PHIL 50111: In this class we will draw together work on vagueness that has been done, over the last forty years, within philosophy, linguistics and formal logic. The overarching aim is to develop a coherent picture of what may appear to be (increasingly) diverging approaches to a single central theme. Among those from whose work we will draw are (in alphabetical, not thematic, order): Dummett, Edgington, Fine, Graff-Fara, Greenough, Raffman, Shapiro, Van Rooy, Varzi, Williamson, Wright. I will also draw on my own work, distant as well as more recent. Through much of the course the context dependence of vague predicates will play a prominent part. Students enrolled in the course will be expected to write an essay (of about 3000 words), which will be due at the end of the quarter.
The Semantics and Philosophy of Language Workshop is pleased to welcome Scott AnderBois (Connecticut) for the fourth talk of the quarter.
DATE: May 4, 2012
PLACE: Cobb 107
‘Alternative unconditionals in Yucatec Maya’
Unconditionals are sentences which intuitively serve to indicate that a proposition will hold regardless of how some other issue is resolved. Despite their connections to well-studied constructions like conditionals, questions, free relatives, and subjunctive mood, they are relatively understudied in English and even more so cross-linguistically. Focusing on alternative unconditionals like (1), I propose an analysis where unconditionality arises from the collision of two conflicting properties: (i)unconditional antecedents (underlined) are expressions whose only at-issue contribution to discourse is to evoke alternatives (i.e. they are purely inquisitive); (ii) topics are inherently `anti-inquisitive’ environments.
(1) xíiimbal-nak wáa áalkab-nak Maribel-e’ k-u k’uchul tu yora’ij
walk-SUBJ or run-SUBJ Maribel-TOPIC IMPERF-3S arrive on time
`Whether Maribel walks or runs, she will arrive on time.’
While property (i) is reflected directly in English by the interrogative form of unconditional antecedent (as argued by Rawlins (2008)), I argue that it nonetheless holds of YM as well. Property (ii), on the other hand, is more readily apparent in YM since the topic morpheme -e’ occurs in a wide variety of superficially unrelated constructions. Despite the absence of a robust topic construction in English, I argue that we can nonetheless provide independent evidence for this property in English based on two observations about if-conditionals.
The Semantics and Philosophy of Language Workshop is pleased to welcome Seth Yalcin (Berkeley) for our third talk of the quarter.
DATE: Friday, April 27, 2012
PLACE: Stuart 102
“Alternatives in the analysis of epistemic and deontic modalities”
Various motivations have been offered for treating epistemic modal clauses as somehow sensitive to a space of alternatives. Various motivations have also been offered for treating deontic modal clauses as somehow sensitive to a space of alternatives. To what extent do the motivations in each case have a common source? To what extent can a single model of alternatives serve to explain the relevant data? When does alternative-sensitivity for these modals belong to pragmatics, and when to compositional semantics? I investigate these questions in this talk.
The Semantics and Philosophy of Language Workshop is very happy to welcome Will Starr (Cornell) for our second talk of the quarter.
DATE: Friday, April 13, 2012
PLACE: Cobb 107
“A preference semantics for imperatives”
While there is a long tradition in philosophy dedicated to understanding the meaning of imperative sentences, e.g. ‘Dance!’, recent research by linguists has made its own advances. In this paper, I argue that three observations about English imperatives are problematic for approaches from both traditions. In response, I offer a new analysis according to which the meaning of an imperative is identified with the characteristic effect its uses have on the agents’ attitudes. More specifically, I propose that an imperative changes what the agents’ take to be preferred. Using preferences rather than previously proposed structures achieves a desirable theoretical unity. Work on rationality in decision theory and artificial intelligence relies heavily on the idea that preference is key to understanding how rational agents decide what to do. This unity is essential for bridging the gap between a semantics for imperatives and an explanation of how imperatives are used to inform what we do. It also provides a more precise way of articulating Grice’s fundamental insight that pragmatics and rationality are deeply interconnected. I will conclude by describing how this approach can be used not only to understand the relationship between imperatives and modals.
The Semantics and Philosophy of Language Workshop is happy to welcome Friederike Moltmann (ENS, Paris) for our first meeting of the Spring term.
DATE: Friday, March 30, 2012
PLACE: Cobb 107
`The semantics of ‘cases’‘
The noun ‘case’ in English (and corresponding nouns in other European
languages) appears in a number of related constructions:
(1) a. In case it rains, we won’t go. In that case we stay home.
b. This is a case of a strange illness
c. The case of the stolen statue is a puzzling one.
d. In this country, it is rarely the case that it rains.
I will outline a unified semantic analysis of the constructions in (1a-c) on the basis of a distinctive ontology of ‘cases’ as ‘filtered’ objects. Moreover, I will argue that the construction in (1d) involves the relation of truthmaking, relating a sentence to a ‘case’.