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Conference Information

Full Title: Workshop 'Specificity in the Grammar: Form and Interpretation'

Short Title: Specificity
Location: Trento, Italy
Start Date: 12-Feb-2014 - 12-Feb-2014
Contact: Michelangelo Falco
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: While a number of formal notions of specificity have been proposed by semanticists and philosophers of language, many facets of the use and referential status of different indefinite noun phrases still remain unclear.

Researchers who worked on (non-)specificity have proposed to characterise this dimension of meaning either as a property of indefinite noun phrases and their modifiers (e.g. presence of 'certain/specific', absence of overt determiners), or as a phenomenon that encompasses the whole sentence or even the discourse. In the first approach, understanding specificity requires formulating an explanatory description of the set of lexical, morphological and structural cues that signal (non-)specificity, in different languages. In the second, specificity also interacts with many well-studied phenomena in sentential semantics and discourse, such as sentential genericity, verbal aspect, operator scope, and topic/focus.

In addition, the topic of specificity has been explored by researchers from different traditions of language study. Scholars interested in the syntax/semantics interface have tried to capture it using the rich functional structure put forth by the Italian 'cartographic' tradition, insofar this encodes features of context and discourse (D-linking, topic/focus). A second perspective, mostly advocated by philosophers of language, resorts to a rich semantic encoding of crucial aspects of the context of utterance, at some linguistic level (LF?). Yet others have argued in favour of a purely pragmatic account. An important general question is thus whether some of these approaches can or should be integrated.

Beyond its intrinsic theoretical interest, a better understanding of the cues and features of (non-)specificity would have an impact on the possibility to carry out automatic mark-ups of different types of indefinites in large corpora, and would bear on studies of the acquisition of noun phrases by children which go beyond the definite/indefinite divide.

This workshop aims to address the following questions:

- Which types of specificity do actually exists, and to what extent the many notions advanced in the literature can be derived one from the other?
- What are the observable morpho-syntactic phenomena related to the different notions of specificity in different languages, and what do they tell us about indefinites in general?
- How does specificity interact with non-specificity, referentiality, definiteness, genericity?
- Which cues for specificity might lead to computationally viable tools for marking it automatically?
- What can acquisition studies tell us about the notion of specificity?

Invited Speakers:

Adriana Belletti (Università di Siena)
Valentina Bianchi (Università di Siena)
Manuel Leonetti (Universidad de Alcalá)
Yoad Winter (Utrecht University)

The workshop will be followed by the 40th Incontro di Grammatica Generativa (IGG40):
Linguistic Subfield: Linguistic Theories; Philosophy of Language; Pragmatics; Semantics; Syntax
LL Issue: 25.506

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