The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 12/3 - Aron Hirsch

Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)
Title: A case for conjunction reduction — Part II
Time: Thursday, December 3rd, 12:30-1:45 pm
Place: 32-D461

The conjunction operator ‘and’ can apparently conjoin a range of different expressions:

(1) a. [John danced] and [John sang]
b. b. John [hugged] and [pet] the dog.
c. John saw [every student] and [every professor]

A possible starting hypothesis about the semantic analysis of and holds that and makes a parallel contribution to the connective & of propositional logic. If so, ‘and’ must compose with two expressions denoting truth-values. This is consistent with (1a), but incorrectly predicts (1b) and (1c) to be uninterpretable. This talk will focus on examples like (1c), and address the question: what mechanisms does the grammar make available to parse (1c), and do they localize in the syntax or in the semantics?

The semantic approach rests on type-ambiguity: and has a flexible type and so can directly conjoin a range of expressions, including quantificational DPs (‘DP analysis’; e.g. Partee & Rooth 1983). The syntactic approach holds that and in (1c) does not conjoin DPs, but rather larger constituents of type t (‘Conjunction Reduction; CR’; e.g. Ross 1967, Schein 2014).

The goal of the talk is to build a case for CR. Theoretically, I demonstrate that a CR analysis of (1c) “follows for fee” from independently proposed syntactic mechanisms, in particular Johnson’s (1996, 2009) syntax for gapping (Wilder 1994, Schwarz 1998, 1999, 2000). Empirically, I introduce data which CR can account for, but the DP analysis cannot, supporting the theoretical prediction that CR is available. Finally, I discuss empirical arguments for a strengthened conclusion that CR is not only an ‘available’ analysis of apparent DP conjunction, but is the only available analysis.