The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 9/30 - Tanya Bondarenko

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko
Title: A problem with Content
Time: Wednesday, September 30th, 1pm – 2pm

Abstract: Under Kratzer’s approach to the semantics of clausal embedding (Kratzer 2006; 2016, Moulton 2009; 2015, Bogal-Allbritten 2016;2017, Elliott 2017), embedded clauses denote not propositions (2), but individuals with content (1).

(1) [[that it is raining]] = λxe. Content(x) = λws. it is raining in w (2) [[that it is raining]] = λws. it is raining in w

In this talk I show some evidence that the meaning in (1) is not sufficient to account for the range of what CPs can mean: CPs across different languages are ambiguous between (1) and another meaning, which I illustrate in (3) with an example from Russian. In (3) the CP describes not a contentful individual, but the kind of a situation that took place.

(3) Složilas’ takaja situacija, [čto ja utopil svoj telefon] happened such situation that I sunk self’s phone ‘A situation in which I sunk my phone happened.’

I would like to argue that the meaning of the CP in (3) is not reducible to (1) or (2). I sketch out a more abstract meaning for CPs, which is dependent on whether the argument that CP modifies is a contentful individual or a situation, and show a syntactic diagnostic in Russian that allows to distinguish between the two interpretations.

This work is at the very beginning stage, and I am very much looking forward to your feedback!