LINGUIST List 14.2412

Fri Sep 12 2003

Review: Pragmatics/Semantics: Beaver, et al. (2002)

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  1. Spenader J.K., The Construction of Meaning

Message 1: The Construction of Meaning

Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 18:47:28 +0000
From: Spenader J.K. <>
Subject: The Construction of Meaning

Beaver, David I., Luis D. Casillas Martnez, Brady Z. Clark and Stefan
Kaufmann, eds. (2002), The Construction of Meaning, Center for the
Study of Language and Information, (CSLI) Publications, Stanford,
California. paperback ISBN 1-57586-376-6 ix+254pp, $25.00

Announced at

Jennifer Spenader, Center for Language and Cognition Groningen,
University of Groningen, The Netherlands


This book is a selection of 11 papers written by visiting speakers to
Stanford university, participants in the Construction of Meaning
Workshop, and the Stanford University 'Semantics fest' day of
talks. Thus, the authors are all either students or faculty at
Stanford University, or visitors or guests to Stanford University
working on some topic related to semantics.

Below, in alphabetical order (the same order they have in the book), I
give short summary of the main points of each of the papers as I
understood them.

A Resource-Sensitive Semantics for Equi and Raising
Ash Asudeh

Equi-NP deletion verbs, such as 'try', and a subset of raising verbs,
such as 'seems', differ in their semantics in that equi-NP deletion
verbs involve structural sharing. In equi-NP deletion verbs the
subject of the matrix sentence and the subject of the complement are
the same, but are only represented once in the output form. Raising
verbs differ in that their subject arguments are only needed for their
complements. These types of verbs have been analyzed as having an
empty category, either PRO or trace, in the syntactic structure. LFG
doesn't allow empty categories, so both verb types get a similar
c-structure analysis. However, equi-NP verbs are considered to have
their subject inside their VP, a so called thematic subject, while
raising verbs have their subject outside the complement verb, a
non-thematic subject. Raising verbs have non-thematic subjects and do
not involve shared arguments. The fact that raising verbs can take
expletive subjects, while equi-verbs cannot provides further support
for this analysis.

Linear logic has been used in a glue semantics in recent work in
LFG. Linear logic is a resource-sensitive logic, which means that in
deduction, all the premises must be used, and used only once
(e.g.,'linear-logic deduction is resource sensitive: each premise is
consumed as it is used and all premises must be consumed in reaching a
conclusion.', p. 12). This would seem to be a problem in constructions
that have shared structure, such as in equi-NP deletion
constructions. Asudeh's aim is to show that this is actually not a
problem for this semantics, and even in equi constructions the subject
argument is only needed once. The crucial point is that the
information contributed by the complement is not considered to be a
proposition, but a property, i.e. in an expression about trying to
leave, the property of leaving, rather than the proposition that some
specific individual leaves is the contribution of the complement. By
analyzing the complement as a property, the subject is only required
once. Complements of equi constructions have been analyzed as
properties previously by Chierchia (1985), who showed that analyzing
the complement as contributing a proposition leads to incorrect

Presupposition Projection and DRT
David I. Beaver

This chapter looks at the binding theory of presupposition of van der
Sandt (1992) and extensions of it that treat presuppositions in
Discourse Representation Theory (DRT; Kamp & Reyle, 1990). These
theories consider presuppositions as anaphors at the level of
representation. Presupposed information can be bound with discourse
given information, or if no such information is present, it can be
accommodated. Accommodation can occur at the level of the main
Discourse Representation Structure (DRS), also called global
accommodation, at the DRS where the presupposed material is triggered,
also called local accommodation, or anywhere in between, termed
intermediate accommodation.

Beaver looks at a number of examples of triggered presuppositions
where the binding theory is vague on how they should be handled, or
where it seems to make wrong predictions, and then he gives some
suggestions for how these problems might potentially be
overcome. Problematic examples include cases where the presupposition
is locally entailed in an embedded context, cases where the
presupposed information seems to be redundant, examples where the
theory predicts binding but binding seems to lead to the wrong
interpretation, as well as cases where local accommodation seems to be
preferred over intermediate accommodation, in contrast with the
proposed preference for higher levels of accommodation over lower. In
the final section, Beaver also questions the feasibility of treating
all presuppositions as anaphora, arguing that the differences found in
e.g. pronouns cannot be explained convincingly by the theory.

Making Use of Pragmatic Inference in the Acquisition of Meaning
Eva V. Clark

This work presents observations about children's lexical acquisition
based on the author's study of longitudinal data made up of recorded
conversations between six children and their parents. It shows that
one way in which children learn the meaning of new words is by a
process of elimination. In one example the children could learn the
name of a new animal by observing that all the other toy animals
except one were already familiar. When an adult referred to the animal
with an unknown name, the child was able to infer that the unknown
word must refer to the unfamilar animal. Clark presents several
similar examples of lexical acquisition, and also examines evidence of
the learning of the word in the repetitions and uptakes made by the

Temporal Interpretation of Modals
Modals for the Present and for the Past
Cleo Condoravdi

This paper looks at the intepretation of non-root modals (epistemic
and metaphysical: may, might, may have, might have, etc.). In
particular, 'might have' (e.g. 'He might have won the race.') can be
used both with an epistemic and a metaphysical modal interpretation,
and one of the aims of the paper is to explain this ambiguity.

Condoravdi argues that modals contribute directly to their temporal
interpretation. The ambiguity for 'might have' is explained as a
result of the time at which the property the modal is applied to is
initialized. Application of the modal to a property in the present or
past presupposes that the issue that the property relates to is
settled, and thereby excludes a metaphysical reading - but both a
metaphysical and an epistemic reading are possible when the time of
instantiation is in the future.

Remarks on Evidential Hierarchies
Martina Faller

Evidentiality has to do with the linguistic marking of the source of
information, e.g. whether it is secondhand or thirdhand reported
information or visually attested information, or the result of
inference-- are all evidence types. Evidentials are the grammatical
markers available in languages that code one (or more) of these
evidence types. Faller compares several different hierarchies of
evidentiality. The analysis is from a typological perspective, and
Faller considers evidential expression in Tuyuca, Kashay and
Quechuan. Faller aruges that proposed evidential hierarchies are not
cross-linguistically valid. Instead she proposes a partial ordering,
with a non-linear hierarchy based on the directness of the
information, and further that the hierarchy should be based on
evidence types, not evidentials.

Event Structure and the Perfect
Paul Kiparsky

This article examines the English perfect and five uses that have been
attributed to it. There are two conflicting views on these uses: the
'Reichenbachian' view is that the perfect is not polysemeous, but
rather pragmatic factors distinguish between its different
interpretations. Other researchers have argued that some of these uses
are in fact semantically different, and in favor of this latter view
is typological evidence that all the different uses can be
distinguished with distinct forms in other languages.

Kiparsky argues that the resultative and existential/universal
meanings are distinct and tries to unify the Reichenbachian view with
this proposed semantic difference. He uses tense semantics so that
event structures are mapped differently into the temporal
structure. If an event continues for the entire duration of the event
time, the perfect gets a universal reading. If, on the other hand, the
event is contained in only part of the event time then we often get
the existential reading. The resultative reading is only available
with change of state predicates.

Subject-Oriented 'with'-phrases in Event Semantics
David A. McKercher

This paper looks at the analysis of subject-oriented adverbials, such
as 'with reluctance', 'with glee', 'reluctantly' and
'intentionally'. These adverbials are used in sentences like 'Kim ate
the pudding with enthusiasm' where the enthusiasm is attributed to the
subject. The author tries to give the 'with'-phrases an analysis in
Event Semantics, arguing that these modifiers code a relation between
individuals and an event. These types of adverbials display two
unusual properties. First, when passivized, the adverbial becomes
ambiguous as to whether it refers to the subject or to the object,
e.g. 'John was kissed by Sue with enthusiasm' is ambiguous between an
interpretation where John is enthusiastic or one where Sue is
enthusiastic. Second, the use of a subject-oriented adverb induces
opacity on the object and it is no longer possible to make identity
substitutions. McKercher argues against an analysis proposed by Wyner
(1998), which would require doubling the size of the lexicon and
adding proto-role properties to logical form. Instead the author uses
a lambda calculus to analyze the two readings found in the passivized
forms as the result of different underlying constituent analyses.
This cannot be done completely compositionally however, and McKercher
suggests that another meta-language may be more apt for analyzing
these constructions. Further, McKercher points out that referential
opacity of subject oriented modifiers occurs in other constructions
where the direct object is the stimulus for a psychological state.

Spatial Representation and Shape Classifiers in Japanese and Korean
Kyonghee Paik and Francis Bond

This paper gives a brief survey of shape classifiers used in Japanese
and Korean. In Japanese and Korean, referring to a certain number of
objects often means using a noun that classifies that object according
to shape, such as 'ni-hon no manga' (Japanese, gloss: 2-book-shape GEN
comic books). These classifiers can be described according to whether
they are used with items that extend in one, two or three dimensions,
or according to the rigidity of the object. Japanese and Korean differ
as to what aspects they consider relevant in shape classification, and
as to where they draw a distinction between what is considered small,
or long enough to receive a certain classification. Paik & Bond use
Jackendoff's (1996) work on incorporating information about spatial
relationships into lexical entries. These relationships are defined
using parameters functioning in human vision. This means that there is
no need to argue for relevant shape information to be a part of
conceptual structure because the relevant parameters are already
identified as key aspects of vision. Differences in classification
systems that show up between languages, such as those between Korean
and Japanese, have to do with how certain parameters are set, and
where distinctions are made along those parameters, with for example,
Korean treating rigidity as a relevant feature.

Does English Really Have Resumptive Quantification?
And Do 'Donkey Sentences' Really Express It?
Stanley Peters and Dag Westerst�l

Resumptive quantification is defined by Peters and Westerst�l as 'the
meaning expressed by employing a monadic quantifier to bind multiple
variables simultaneously in order to quantify over tuples of the
entities the variables range over' (p. 182). The main claim of the
paper is that determiners in English (D-quantification) can never bind
multiple variables and express resumptive quantification. However,
many have argued that Donkey Sentences actually are a case of
resumptive quantification by a determiner. Peters and Westerst�l
argue that this is incorrect, that the readings found with donkey
sentences can actually all be interpreted in a way that doesn't appeal
to resumptive quantification, and that resumptive quantification in
English is actually only found in quantification coded by adverbs.

Extended Postposing and Focus Structure in Mandarin Locatives
Shiao Wei Tham

In languages with freer word order focusing can license certain word
order variations. Locative expressions can occur with the location
(LOC) preceding or following the thing whose location is being
described, the locatum (LCM). Tham studies how word order and
phonetic focus are related to the choice of verbs in locative
expressions in Mandarin Chinese.

The copula 'shi' and the verb 'you' both occur with LOC > LCM word
order while 'zai' occurs with LCM > LOC word order. The author
analyses the LOC > LCM orders as a right word displacement, or
'extended postposing' of the LCM argument, defining postposing as a
structure where the argument is realized post-verbally rather than as
more normally pre-verbally. The LOC > LCM order is alway felicitious
when the LCM is focussed, and Tham proposes as a condition for this
that postposed material must be focused. The choice of the verbal
element has to do with the preceding discourse context. In locative
sentences with LOC and LCM arguments, the new argument tends to occur
post-verbally. Thus, if the location is new, it occurs post-verbally
and 'zai' is the preferred verb. If the locatum is new, then it is
preferrably realized post-verbally, and then 'you' or 'shi' are
preferred. Tham also argues that this analysis, which attributes the
difference to postposing of an argument that is focussed, is
preferable to an analysis based on preposing of the thematic element,
that is, preposing of the more given argument.

I Wonder What Kind of Construction That This Example Illustrates
Arnold M. Zwicky, 

Zwicky's chapter looks as examples of interrogative WH-constructions
that have a 'that'-complementizer, sentences similar to the one in his
title. He has gathered a small corpus of 27 examples from speech and
compares it with a number of examples collected by Sepp�nen and
Trotta (2000). These constructions are considered ungrammatical by
some speakers, but fine by others, and Zwicky attempts to analyze
their properties, showing that they generally only involve
interrogative WH-constructions, only involve finite clauses, are not
inverted, are mainly subordinate, must have a lexical head which is
generally a noun, (but for some speakers seems to be able to be an
adverb, in which case it is optional), and there is no restriction on
the syntactic function that the WH+that clause can have. The only
previous analysis of the construction is from Radford (1988) who
argues that they are parallel to constructions in several other
languages. Zwicky believes that there are several reasons to reject
this analysis. His own analysis is that the constructions are the
result of perception and production needs of speakers and hearers
where they attempt to add to structure to prevent possible confusion
with similar constructions. A hearer may, on hearing a
WH-interrogative clause with a lexically headed subordinate
WH-interrogative, misparse the sentence as the head having a
postnominal zero relative. This misparse could have been avoided if
the subordinate WH-interrogative had been explicitly marked for the
relative clause. Speakers then may decided to explicitly mark the
relativization with that, using a WH+that clause when using a
lexically headed subordinate WH-question. Hearers hear this and may be
inclined to do the same thing. This analysis explains why the
construction is limited to interrogative constructions, why it is
excluded from relative ones, why it always involves finite
constructions, and why these constructions are mainly subordinate and
do not involve inversion. It also explains why the construction only
occurs with WH-expressions with lexical heads.


The papers were all well written, there are only a few minor typos in
the text, and most ideas are explained compactly or references are
given. The book as a whole gives the reader an overview of the
surprisingly broad range of semantic work that is currently being done
at Stanford University, and the reader is able to learn something
about a large number of topics. In the editorial introduction by David
Beaver he writes 'All the papers here manifest what I would
characterize as theoretical feedom to explore what different
frameworks have to offer and to allow phenomena rather than
theoretical predilictions to dictate the form of analysis.' (p. ix) I
certainly agree.

This same strength is, however, the biggest drawback of the book. In
the directions giving by Linguist list to reviewers, they advise that
when reviewing an edited collection of papers the reviewer should try
to point out 'how they [the papers] go together'. As far as I can
tell, the papers in the collection have only two things in common,
they relate to some semantic issue, and the authors are all affiliated
with or were guests at Stanford University at some time. Semantics is
a large field, and even the semantics work being done at one
university can vary widely, further Stanford University surely
attracts a great number of visitors as well as having a large faculty
and a great number of students, so these two features were not highly
unifying. Examining the index of the book clearly illustrates the
problem: in the six page, two column index, I was only able to find
nine instances of indexed terms that appeared in more than one
chapter. This is because nearly all the index terms only appear in the
chapter in which they are introduced; in other words, there is very
little, if any, overlap in the topics or ideas discussed in the
different chapters.

Because of the wide range of topics, I found the book rather
challenging to review, and because I only felt able to give critical
remarks on one of the papers, I decided not to single this particular
paper out and have just given a short summary of all papers. Some of
the papers can be read and enjoyed without the benefit of a great deal
of background (Clark, Faller, Paik & Bond, Tham and Zwicky), while the
others were quite demanding, in part because they were very compact,
averaging at 15 pages each.

Anyone who does indeed read all eleven papers in the book will get a
good idea of exactly how great the range of semantic work is, as well
as a perspective on what ideas and problems are being discussed at
Stanford University.


Chierchia, Gennaro (1985). Formal semantics and the grammar of
predication. Linguistic Inquiry, 16(3):417-443.

van der Sandt, Rob (1992). Presupposition projection as anaphora
resolution. Journal of Semantics, 9:333-377.

Kamp, Hans & Uwe Reyle (1990). From Discourse to Logic: Introduction
to Modeltheoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Kluwer Academic

Wyner, Adam Zachary (1998). Subject-oriented adversb are thematically
dependent. In Susan Rothsetain ed., Events and Grammar,
pp. 333-348. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Kamp, Hans (1981). A theory of truth in semantic
reprsentation. Reprinted in Jeroen Groenendijk et al. (eds.), 1984,
Truth, Interpretation and information, Groningen-Amsterdam Studies in
Semantics (GRASS) 2, Foris, Dordrecht.

Heim, Irene (1983) The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite Noun
Phrases. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kanazawa, Makoto (1994). Weak vs. strong readings of donkey sentences
and monotonicity inference in a dynamic setting. Linguistics and
Philosophy, 17:109-158.

Radford, Andrew (1988). Transformational Grammar. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge.

Seppanen, Aimo and Joe Trotta (2000). The wh- + that pattern in
present-day English. In John M. Kirk, ed., Corpora galore: Analyses
and techniques in describing English, pp. 161-175. Rodopi, Amsterdam.


Jennifer Spenader received her Ph.D. in Computational Linguistics from
Stockholm University in 2002 with a dissertation entitled
'Presuppositions in Spoken Discourse'. She is currently a
post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Language and Cognition at
the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, working on a project
studying sluicing and other types of clausal ellipsis.
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