LINGUIST List 8.297

Sat Mar 1 1997

Books: Semantics and Pragmatics

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <suelinguistlist.org>


Additional information on the following books, as well as a short backlist of the publisher's titles, may be available from the Listserv. Instructions for retrieving publishers' backlists appear at the end of this issue.

Directory

  1. Kristi Long, Semantics
  2. Kristi Long, Semantics
  3. Kristi Long, Semantics/Pragmatics

Message 1: Semantics

Date: 03 Feb 97 15:11:57 +0100
From: Kristi Long <kristi_longgarland.com>
Subject: Semantics


New book-Semantics

McNally, Louise; A Semantics for the English Existential Construction;
0-8153-2557-6; cloth; 240 pages; $62; Garland Publishing

The philosopher P.H. Strawson observed that there are two ways to
characterize the semantics of existence statements: as existentially
quantified propositions involving particular individuals, or as
subject-predicate propositions in which the subject is a property, or
description of an individual, the predicate affirming the
instantiation of this property or description. This work presents a
new semantics for English existential-there sentences which, unlike
most previous analyses of the construction, advocates the latter of
these two characterizations of existence statements. 
The interpretation for the construction is developed in both a
property-theoretic semantics and a version of File Change Semantics,
and is accompanied by a complete syntactic analysis. Perhaps the most
significant consequence of the proposal is that the well-known
restriction on the sorts of noun phrases that can appear in
existential sentences (the so-called definiteness effect) cannot be
treated as a unified phenomenon; rather, it must result from a
combination of semantic and pragmatic factors. This nonunified account
is argued to be more successful than previous treatments at handling
certain problematic data, at capturing similarities between
existential and copular sentences, and at predicting cross-linguistic
variation in the definiteness effect.

E-mail: infogarland.com
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Message 2: Semantics

Date: 03 Feb 97 15:14:21 +0100
From: Kristi Long <kristi_longgarland.com>
Subject: Semantics


New book-Semantics

de Hoop, Helen; Case Configuration and Noun Phrase Interpretation;
0-81532560-6; cloth; 272 pages; $67; Garland Publishing

 This study examines the relationship between the Case of a noun
phrase (NP) and its quantificational character. It develops a
hypothesis about strong and weak readings of NPs on the one hand, and
type of Case assignment on the other, based on two types of structural
Cases, strong structural Case, licensed at S-structure, and weak
structural Case, licensed at D-structure. Morphological realizations
of the distinction between weak and strong Cases are found in Finnish,
Turkish, and Inuit. According to the hypothesis that links these two
types of structural Cases to different interpretations, an object is
considered a generalized quantifier only if it bears strong Case.
 The theory is further extended by applying it to several
linguistic environments. The constructions under discussion are
sensitive to either syntactic or semantic restrictions. The study
shows that these constructions can be accounted for by both types of
restrictions, and offers an analysis of object-scrambling in Dutch;
the fact that only NPs on a strong reading can be scrambled is
attributed to the type of Case that is licensed at different
structural positions at different levels of representation. The
assumption that scrambling is an instance of A-movement explains the
fact that NPs that bear weak Case cannot scramble, although they can
topi calize. The hypothesis concerning the relation between Case and
interpretation is furthermore extended to subjects to account for the
differences in subject interpretations in standard as well as
VP-internal positions in English and Dutch. The theory also explains
another instance in which a weak-strong effect plays a role, namely
PP-extrapolation in English and Dutch.

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Message 3: Semantics/Pragmatics

Date: 03 Feb 97 15:09:07 +0100
From: Kristi Long <kristi_longgarland.com>
Subject: Semantics/Pragmatics


New book-Semantics/Pragmatics

Birner, Betty J.; The Discourse Function of Inversion in English;
0-8153-2556-8; cloth; 208 pages; $55; Garland Publishing

 The author argues that inversion (exemplified by such clauses as
in the garden sat a rabbit) serves an information-packaging function,
linking relatively unfamiliar and relatively familiar information in
the discourse. An examination of over 1,700 naturally-occurring
inversions shows that the preposed constituent in a felicitous
inversion never represents newer information within the discourse than
does the postposed constituent. Moreover, information that has not
been explicitly evoked in the prior discourse but which isnonetheless
inferable in context is found to have the same distribution in
inversion as does explicitly evoked information; both are treated as
familiar within the discourse. Furthermore, the main verb in an
inversion is shown to be subject to a pragmatic constraint to the
effect that it not represent new information within the discourse.
 By demonstrating a rigorous correlation between a well-defined
type of giveness and constituent position within a particular
syntactic construction, this study sheds light on the complex
relationship between information status and word order. This detailed
study of discourse-functional constraints on the use of a marked
syntactic construction, it will be of interest to researchers in both
syntax and discourse.

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