The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 5/15 - Gregor Williamson (UCL/MIT) & Jacopo Romoli (Ulster)

Two presenters at LFRG this week: Gregor Williamson (UCL/MIT) and Jacopo Romoli (Ulster University, joint work with Lyn Tieu and Cory Bill). The details of their presentations are below.

Speaker: Gregor Williamson (UCL/MIT)
Title: Conditional Antecedents as Polar Free Relatives
Time: Wednesday, May 15th, 1-2PM
Location: 32-D461

Kratzer (1986, 2012), building on Lewis (1975), develops one of the most successful accounts of conditionals to date: the if-clause-as-restrictor account. It maintains that if contributes no meaning to a conditional construction. Rather, the antecedent of a conditional simply denotes a proposition, which may act as a restrictor for a (covert) modal operator in the consequent. A popular alternative to this account, the if-clause-as-a-definite-description-of-worlds account (Schlenker, 2001), has been argued by Bhatt & Pancheva (2006) to be supported by syntactic facts which suggest that if-clauses are free relatives which denote a definite description of worlds. We propose a syntax-semantics for if-clauses which treats them as free relatives formed via a polar question operator (see also Arsenijević, 2009). We show that such an account provides a more transparent syntax-semantics mapping than that of Bhatt & Pancheva. The proposed account maintains a Kratzerian semantics, while nonetheless capturing the well-established syntactic behavior of if-clauses.


Speaker: Jacopo Romoli (Ulster, joint work with Lyn Tieu and Cory Bill)
Title: Homogeneity or implicature: An experimental study of free choice

A sentence containing disjunction in the scope of a possibility modal, such as (1a), gives rise to the free choice inference in (1b). This inference presents a well-known puzzle in light of standard treatments of modals and disjunction (Kamp 1974 and much subsequent work). To complicate things further, free choice tends to disappear under negation: (2a) doesn’t merely convey the negation of (1a), but rather the stronger dual prohibition reading in (2b). There are two main approaches to the free choice-dual prohibition pattern in the literature, based on implicature and homogeneity. We present experimental findings that favour the homogeneity approach, and further discuss how the implicature approach could be developed to account for the results.

(1) a. Sue is allowed to buy the boat or the car. b.Sue is allowed to buy the boat and is allowed to buy the car

(2) a. Sue is not allowed to buy the boat or the car. b. Sue is not allowed to buy the boat and is not allowed to buy the car