It was about one and a half years ago that I finally I arrived where I had always wanted to be and do what I had always wanted-- teach students, support small language communities and conduct research on African languages on my doorstep. The University of Cape Town and my new colleagues welcomed my efforts to establish the Centre for African Language Diversity-- CALDi as well as The African Language Archive-- TALA and I was recently appointed the Mellon Research Chair: African Language Diversity this initiative. The main aim of CALDi is to train young African scholars in descriptive linguistics and open up space for research into African languages at UCT with the hopes of countering the dominance of African linguistics outside the continent. It has been a great challenge for which my whole career has been a form of preparation...Read more
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A Semantics for the English Existential Construction
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.