The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 11/14 - Frank Staniszewski (MIT)

Speaker: Frank Staniszewski (MIT)
Title: Deriving the properties of until phrases
Date and time: Wednesday, November, 13, 1-2 pm
Location: 32-D461


     The well-known paradigm in (1-2) presents a challenge for a semantic analysis of until phrases.

(1)      a. He was angry until the end of the conference
           b. He wasn’t available until the end of the conference.
(2)      a. *The bomb exploded until yesterday.
           b. The bomb didn’t explode until yesterday.
          Condoravdi (2008)

Stative/progressive predicates can appear with until phrases with or without negation, as in (1a-b). Perfective predicates, however, can appear with until phrases only under negation, as shown in (2a-b).
Most analyses of this paradigm fall into two basic camps. One proposes that there is only one until, which selects for “durative” predicates. This means that without negation, it can combine only with stative/progressive predicates, thus explaining the badness of (2a) (Klima (1964), Mittwoch (1977), a.o.). In this system, the acceptability of (2b) is a consequence of the assumption that negation is a predicate modifier that can create a durative predicate.
      The other camp proposes that until is lexically ambiguous between two untils. One is a “durative” until that combines only with statives/progressives, and another is a “punctual” until that combines with perfectives, and is additionally assumed to be an NPI (Horn (1970, 1972, Karttunen (1974), Condoravdi (2008), a.o.). Here, the NPI property of “punctual” until derives the ungrammaticality of (2a).
      In this presentation of work in progress, I explore another possible approach. I propose that there is only one until, with a basic meaning similar to before, that is compatible with both stative/progressive as well as perfective predicates. I then hypothesize that this basic meaning of until is obligatorily strengthened in positive environments to its “durative” interpretation by exhaustification, adopting a mechanism similar to ones that have been proposed for obligatory strengthening of other quantificational elements (Bar-Lev & Margulis (2014), Bowler (2014) a.o.). Given this strengthening, until phrases will be incompatible with perfective predicates in upward-entailing environments, thus deriving the badness of (2a).
      I will discuss some arguments for the various approaches, and then develop an analysis that builds on a presuppositional entry for until (Karttunen (1974), Condoravdi (2008)), which in turn interacts with an exhaust operator as proposed in Bar-Lev & Fox (2017) in an attempt to derive the attested empirical patterns.