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LINGUIST List 20.1183

Tue Mar 31 2009

Diss: Semantics: Scheffler: 'Semantic Operators in Different ...'

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        1.    Tatjana Scheffler, Semantic Operators in Different Dimensions

Message 1: Semantic Operators in Different Dimensions
Date: 31-Mar-2009
From: Tatjana Scheffler <tatjana.schefflerdfki.de>
Subject: Semantic Operators in Different Dimensions
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Tatjana Scheffler

Dissertation Title: Semantic Operators in Different Dimensions

Dissertation URL: http://www.dfki.de/~tasc/dissertation.html

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            German, Standard (deu)

Dissertation Director:
Maribel Romero

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis studies the interface of truth-conditional and
non-truth-conditional meaning by investigating constructions whose meaning
and use differ because their semantic contributions are distributed
differently over the semantic dimensions. The constructions in question are
certain clausal adjuncts and complements.

For clausal adjuncts, I argue that two words for 'because' in German
('weil' and 'denn') contribute the same semantic operator (causality), but
on different semantic dimensions. While 'weil' operates in the assertion
(or at issue) dimension, 'denn' instead contributes a side comment (or
conventional implicature). Consequently, the two words differ both in their
range of use as well as in their semantic behavior as part of larger
sentences. I point out the same empirical dichotomy for other adjuncts such
as regular and relevance conditionals, 'although'-clauses, and different
kinds of adverbs. I show that for each of the constructions similar
semantic differences result because an operator is contributed on the at
issue dimension in one case, and as a conventional implicature in the other.

In the realm of complement clauses I investigate complements of attitude
verbs. Of the large range of constructions that express the semantic
arguments of attitude verbs, I study two in this thesis: slifting and
embedded verb-second clauses. I show that these two constructions again
mirror the situation as with 'weil' and 'denn' above: I propose that the
two constructions contribute the same semantic pieces, but distribute them
differently over the semantic dimensions of assertion and conventional

In multiple case studies, this thesis thus addresses some of the most
important questions in linguistic semantics: What are the semantic pieces
associated with a certain word or construction? How are these semantic
pieces distributed over the known dimensions of meaning? And what effects
does the individual distribution of meaning parts over semantic dimensions
have for the overall meaning, function, and discourse effects of complex

The issue of the dimensionality of semantic entailments is not bound to a
particular language (group), and the phenomena I study are generally
cross-linguistically well-attested. For practical reasons, though, the
discussion in this dissertation concentrates mostly on examples from German
and English.

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