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Review of  The Construction of Meaning

Reviewer: Jennifer K Spenader
Book Title: The Construction of Meaning
Book Author: David I. Beaver Luis D.Casillas Martinez Stefan Kaufmann Brady Clark
Publisher: CSLI Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Quechua, Huaylla Wanca
Issue Number: 14.2412

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Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2003 11:34:53 +0200
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

Reviewed by Jennifer Spenader, Center for Language and Cognition Groningen,
University of Groningen, The Netherlands, [email protected]

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

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 deductions.

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

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 children.

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

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 Westerstål

Resumptive quantification is defined by Peters and Westerstål 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
Westerstål 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 Seppänen 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

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

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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.