LINGUIST List 14.969

Wed Apr 2 2003

Diss: Semantics: Whitman "Category..."

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  1. nwhitman, Semantics: Whitman "Category neutrality..."

Message 1: Semantics: Whitman "Category neutrality..."

Date: Tue, 01 Apr 2003 14:54:03 +0000
From: nwhitman <nwhitmaninsight.rr.com>
Subject: Semantics: Whitman "Category neutrality..."


Institution: Ohio State University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Philip Neal Whitman 

Dissertation Title: 

Category neutrality: A type-logical investigation


Dissertation URL: http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?osu1023679306

Linguistic Field: Syntax, Semantics

Dissertation Director 1: David R. Dowty
Dissertation Director 2: Carl J. Pollard
Dissertation Director 3: W. Detmar Meurers


Dissertation Abstract: 

In formal grammars, there has come to be more and more emphasis on the
lexicon as the location of grammatical information, and more emphasis
on how to structure the lexicon. A fundamental question is when two or
more senses of a word correspond to multiple lexical entries, and when
they correspond to a single one. A conventional assumption is that if
a word's different meanings require different syntactic categories,
then multiple lexical entries exist (a situation usually referred to
as AMBIGUITY). On the other hand, it is usually assumed that if a word
can be used with more than one sense at once, then a single lexical
entry covers those senses (a situation known as VAGUENESS or
GENERALITY). However, there are several cases in English where a word
with different meanings and different syntactic categories can be used
with both meanings simultaneously, and would thus be ambiguous by the
first assumption, and vague by the second. These cases thus defy
conventional wisdom about the lexicon, and the term CATEGORY
NEUTRALITYis introduced to refer to them.

The framework of type-logical grammar (TLG) is used in developing the
analyses for these cases. Specifically, the conjunction constructor /\
is used to encode category neutrality. Whereas other type-logical
discussions of category neutrality have also employed a disjunction
constructor \/, category neutrality here is encoded exclusively by /\.

Empirically informed analyses are developed for several English
linguistic phenomena that have remained underanalyzed, using naturally
occurring data (including corpus data) where possible, and in some
cases, psycholinguistic experimentation. The linguistic phenomena are:

- Mixed-wh interrogatives, a class of coordinated-wh interrogatives. 
- Verbs participating in various argument alternations. 
- Predicative phrases. 
- Adverbial nouns. 

The existence of category neutrality in natural language raises
troubling questions about the nature of ambiguity and neutrality. It
turns out that it is theoretically impossible to distinguish ambiguity
from neutrality in TLG as currently defined. Therefore, either TLG
needs to be redefined to allow this distinction, or there is no real
difference between ambiguity and neutrality that needs to be
captured. It is concluded that the latter possibility should be
considered.
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