The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 4/29 - Tanya Bondarenko & Itai Bassi (MIT

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko & Itai Bassi (MIT
Title: In favor of identity semantics of clausal embedding: Evidence from Russian
Time: Wednesday, April 29th, 1pm – 2pm

Abstract: In this talk we argue with evidence from CP disjunction and CP conjunction that complementizer that (and its counterparts in Russian and Hebrew) is not semantically vacuous, contra some theories of clausal embedding, and (therefore) that the meaning of ‘that TP’ isn’t equal to ‘TP’. Specifically, we show that CP disjunction lacks a reading it is expected to have if complementizer that were vacuous; likewise for conjunction (at least in Russian and Hebrew). We propose that these data call for a theory of clausal embedding that assigns meanings to complementizers, treats CPs as predicates of Contentful entities (Kratzer 2006, 2013) and takes the relation between the content of Contentful entities and embedded propositions to be that of equality (Elliott 2017). Such a theory gives the correct meaning for a CP disjunction, and predicts CP conjunctions to be strictly impossible: strings of the form “V COMP p and COMP q”, on this theory, could only arise from an underlying matrix-verb conjunction reduction parse: “V COMP p and V COMP q”. Finally, we will discuss that English is different from Russian in sometimes allowing unexpected readings for the “V COMP p and COMP q” strings. We will sketch a solution to this puzzle that links the unexpected reading to the ability of English CPs to undergo nominalization without any overt nominal morphology.