The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 10/5 - Sarah Zobel (Tübingen & MIT)

Speaker: Sarah Zobel (University of Tübingen and MIT)
Title: On the semantic variability of weak adjunct “as”-phrases
Date/Time: Thursday October 5, 12:30-1:50pm
Location: 32-D461

Stump (1985) discusses the behavior of free adjuncts, like the sentence-initial adjuncts in (1). He observes that certain free adjuncts (which he calls “weak”) are interpreted as restrictors of co-occurring quantifiers (i.e., modals, adverbs of quantification, Gen/Hab), see (1a), while others (which he calls “strong”) only allow for a non-restrictive, causal interpretation, see (1b).

(1) a. Playing with his toys, Peter is often content. (weak)
   (Possible: When Peter is playing with his toys, he is often content.)

 b. Having three toy cars, Peter is often content. (strong)
   (Not possible: When Peter has three toy cars, he is often content.)

My work focuses on English “as”-phrases (and German “als”-phrases), which are weak adjuncts according to Stump’s distinction. Compare (1a) and (2).

(2) As a passenger of Lufthansa, Peter is often content. (weak)
  (Possible: When Peter is a passenger of Lufthansa, he is often content.)

Starting out with a straightforward analysis of the interactions between “as”-phrases and co-occurring operators (inspired by Stump 1985), I take a closer look at the restrictive possibilities of “as”-phrases (and weak adjuncts in general), and I show that these are in fact more restricted than previously assumed.