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Article

Bert Le Bruyn, Henriëtte de Swart, and Joost Zwarts

Bare nominals (also called “bare nouns”) are nominal structures without an overt article or other determiner. The distinction between a bare noun and a noun that is part of a larger nominal structure must be made in context: Milk is a bare nominal in I bought milk, but not in I bought the milk. Bare nouns have a limited distribution: In subject or object position, English allows bare mass nouns and bare plurals, but not bare singular count nouns (*I bought table). Bare singular count nouns only appear in special configurations, such as coordination (I bought table and chairs for £182). From a semantic perspective, it is noteworthy that bare nouns achieve reference without the support of a determiner. A full noun phrase like the cookies refers to the maximal sum of cookies in the context, because of the definite article the. English bare plurals have two main interpretations: In generic sentences they refer to the kind (Cookies are sweet), in episodic sentences they refer to some exemplars of the kind (Cookies are in the cabinet). Bare nouns typically take narrow scope with respect to other scope-bearing operators like negation. The typology of bare nouns reveals substantial variation, and bare nouns in languages other than English may have different distributions and meanings. But genericity and narrow scope are recurring features in the cross-linguistic study of bare nominals.

Article

Florian Schwarz

While both pragmatic theory and experimental investigations of language using psycholinguistic methods have been well-established subfields in the language sciences for a long time, the field of Experimental Pragmatics, where such methods are applied to pragmatic phenomena, has only fully taken shape since the early 2000s. By now, however, it has become a major and lively area of ongoing research, with dedicated conferences, workshops, and collaborative grant projects, bringing together researchers with linguistic, psychological, and computational approaches across disciplines. Its scope includes virtually all meaning-related phenomena in natural language comprehension and production, with a particular focus on what inferences utterances give rise to that go beyond what is literally expressed by the linguistic material. One general area that has been explored in great depth consists of investigations of various ‘ingredients’ of meaning. A major aim has been to develop experimental methodologies to help classify various aspects of meaning, such as implicatures and presuppositions as compared to basic truth-conditional meaning, and to capture their properties more thoroughly using more extensive empirical data. The study of scalar implicatures (e.g., the inference that some but not all students left based on the sentence Some students left) has served as a catalyst of sorts in this area, and they constitute one of the most well-studied phenomena in Experimental Pragmatics to date. But much recent work has expanded the general approach to other aspects of meaning, including presuppositions and conventional implicatures, but also other aspects of nonliteral meaning, such as irony, metonymy, and metaphors. The study of reference constitutes another core area of research in Experimental Pragmatics, and has a more extensive history of precursors in psycholinguistics proper. Reference resolution commonly requires drawing inferences beyond what is conventionally conveyed by the linguistic material at issue as well; the key concern is how comprehenders grasp the referential intentions of a speaker based on the referential expressions used in a given context, as well as how the speaker chooses an appropriate expression in the first place. Pronouns, demonstratives, and definite descriptions are crucial expressions of interest, with special attention to their relation to both intra- and extralinguistic context. Furthermore, one key line of research is concerned with speakers’ and listeners’ capacity to keep track of both their own private perspective and the shared perspective of the interlocutors in actual interaction. Given the rapid ongoing growth in the field, there is a large number of additional topical areas that cannot all be mentioned here, but the final section of the article briefly mentions further current and future areas of research.

Article

Switch reference is a grammaticalized system for marking continuity or discontinuity of reference between two clauses. It is therefore not surprising that switch reference has received a lot of attention from syntacticians. From the syntactic discussions of switch reference, it has become clear that switch reference is far from a unified phenomenon, as it seems to range between a strictly syntactic system in some languages and a pragmatically driven marker of discourse cohesion in others. Switch reference involves the marking of (dis)continuity, and switch reference markers are more often than not morphological units. This means that, apart from the syntactic side, switch reference has a morphological side as well. The morphology of switch reference has received far less attention than its syntax and semantics. Although there are clear tendencies with respect to the morphological characteristics of switch reference markers (they tend to be inflectional suffixes that take a verb as their host), their characteristics are by no means uniform across languages. Switch reference is not always clearly an inflectional category, nor is it always expressed strictly morphologically, but rather by clitics or phonologically free words. Languages may furthermore have dedicated switch reference marking, but in many cases, switch reference is expressed in combination with other categories sharing the exponent. Paradigms of switch reference markers may show several types of asymmetries, whether to do with markedness, (co-)exponence, or different morphosyntactic behavior. A possible reason for the diversity found in switch reference markers, sometimes within the same language, may be the diverse origins of the markers: they may for instance stem from gapping structures, nonfinite verb morphology, pronouns, deictic elements, conjunction markers, or case markers.

Article

Phoevos Panagiotidis

Determiners are a nominal syntactic category distinct from both adjectives and nouns; they constitute a functional (aka closed or ‘minor’) category and they are typically located high inside the nominal phrasal structure. From a syntactic point of view, the category of determiners is commonly understood to comprise the word classes of article, demonstrative, and quantifier, as well as non-adjectival possessives and some nominal agreement markers. From a semantic point of view, determiners are assumed to function as quantifiers, especially within research informed by Generalized Quantifier Theory. However, this is a one-way entailment: although determiners in natural language are quantificational, their class contains only a subset of the logically possible quantifiers; this class is restricted by conservativity and other factors. The tension between the ‘syntactic’ and the ‘semantic’ perspective on determiners results to a degree of terminological confusion: it is not always clear which lexical items the Determiner category includes or what the function of determiners is; moreover, there exists a tendency among syntacticians to view ‘Determiner’ as naming not a class, but a fixed position within a nominal phrasal template. The study of determiners rose to prominence within grammatical theory during the ’80s both due to advances in semantic theorizing, primarily Generalized Quantifier Theory, and due to the generalization of the X' phrasal schema to functional (minor) categories. Some issues in the nature and function of determiners that have been addressed in theoretical and typological work with considerable success include the categorial status of determiners, their (non-)universality, their structural position and feature makeup, their role in argumenthood and their interaction with nominal predicates, and their relation to pronouns. Expectedly, issues in (in)definiteness, quantification, and specificity also figure prominently in research work on determiners.

Article

Sónia Frota and Marina Vigário

The syntax–phonology interface refers to the way syntax and phonology are interconnected. Although syntax and phonology constitute different language domains, it seems undisputed that they relate to each other in nontrivial ways. There are different theories about the syntax–phonology interface. They differ in how far each domain is seen as relevant to generalizations in the other domain, and in the types of information from each domain that are available to the other. Some theories see the interface as unlimited in the direction and types of syntax–phonology connections, with syntax impacting on phonology and phonology impacting on syntax. Other theories constrain mutual interaction to a set of specific syntactic phenomena (i.e., discourse-related) that may be influenced by a limited set of phonological phenomena (namely, heaviness and rhythm). In most theories, there is an asymmetrical relationship: specific types of syntactic information are available to phonology, whereas syntax is phonology-free. The role that syntax plays in phonology, as well as the types of syntactic information that are relevant to phonology, is also a matter of debate. At one extreme, Direct Reference Theories claim that phonological phenomena, such as external sandhi processes, refer directly to syntactic information. However, approaches arguing for a direct influence of syntax differ on the types of syntactic information needed to account for phonological phenomena, from syntactic heads and structural configurations (like c-command and government) to feature checking relationships and phase units. The precise syntactic information that is relevant to phonology may depend on (the particular version of) the theory of syntax assumed to account for syntax–phonology mapping. At the other extreme, Prosodic Hierarchy Theories propose that syntactic and phonological representations are fundamentally distinct and that the output of the syntax–phonology interface is prosodic structure. Under this view, phonological phenomena refer to the phonological domains defined in prosodic structure. The structure of phonological domains is built from the interaction of a limited set of syntactic information with phonological principles related to constituent size, weight, and eurhythmic effects, among others. The kind of syntactic information used in the computation of prosodic structure distinguishes between different Prosodic Hierarchy Theories: the relation-based approach makes reference to notions like head-complement, modifier-head relations, and syntactic branching, while the end-based approach focuses on edges of syntactic heads and maximal projections. Common to both approaches is the distinction between lexical and functional categories, with the latter being invisible to the syntax–phonology mapping. Besides accounting for external sandhi phenomena, prosodic structure interacts with other phonological representations, such as metrical structure and intonational structure. As shown by the theoretical diversity, the study of the syntax–phonology interface raises many fundamental questions. A systematic comparison among proposals with reference to empirical evidence is lacking. In addition, findings from language acquisition and development and language processing constitute novel sources of evidence that need to be taken into account. The syntax–phonology interface thus remains a challenging research field in the years to come.

Article

The aim of this article is to present the morphology and morphosyntax of Trans New Guinea (TNG) languages to a wide audience of linguists. The TNG languages are a family of several hundred languages spoken across much of the New Guinea mainland. The morphology of TNG languages shows a high degree of diversity, from mildly polysynthetic to almost isolating. Language data from virtually all subgroups of TNG can be found here, giving preference to recent descriptions and new data. TNG languages display a clear categorial divide between nouns and verbs. In terms of word formation, they typically allow N-N and V-V compounding. Category-changing derivational processes usually involve overt morphological means. TNG languages are rich in nominalization processes; verbalization processes are less common. Valency-changing derivational processes (causatives, applicatives) are widespread and involve affixation or verb serialization. Many TNG languages have a reduced inventory of verb roots, in extreme cases comprising only as few as 60 recorded roots. Serial verb constructions and light-verb constructions are used to increase the expressive power of the verb lexicon. Besides nouns and verbs, TNG languages have sizable classes of adjectives, small classes of adverbs, and pronouns, directionals, numerals, postpositions, and conjunctions. Nouns have restricted inflectional morphology, with inflection for the possessor being the most widespread. Nominal number is expressed less often and gender is very rare. Peripheral case roles are signaled by postpositions. Many TNG languages show optional ergativity where transitive subjects can be marked by a special case depending on certain semantic or pragmatic factors, such as animacy, agentivity, or focus. Verb morphology is extensive, yielding large paradigms. TNG languages use verbal affixes to express core arguments. Subjects are almost universally indexed with a suffix on the verb. The majority of TNG languages also index the object on the verb, either with a prefix or a suffix. The majority alignment pattern in the clause is accusative. Most TNG languages employ distinct constructions for bodily and mental processes, depending on whether they are controlled by an animate agent (e.g., think) or whether they are manifestations of a stimulus beyond the control of the experiencer (e.g., be angry). Tense, aspect, and mood categories can all be found in TNG languages with one of them usually being dominant. For the expression of aspect, serial verb constructions are common in which the last verb in the serialization has undergone grammaticalization into an aspect marker—for example, a progressive marker which has developed from the verb ‘stay’. In clause chains, almost all TNG languages distinguish between medial and final verbs. Medial verbs morphologically indicate co-reference or disjoint reference of key participants in the discourse, and final verbs provide morphosemantic information like tense, mood, or illocutionary force, which typically applies to the whole clause chain. Since this type of tracking system of continuity in discourse is highly characteristic of TNG in general and less common worldwide, it is treated in more detail here.

Article

The five languages of the Northwest Caucasian family (also known as West Caucasian or Abkhaz-Adyghe), namely West Circassian, Kabardian, Ubykh, Abkhaz, and Abaza, are remarkable for their high degree of polysynthesis. This manifests itself in complex words that bear a lot of information on arguments and the characteristics of a situation, and which presumably can be constructed in the course of speech. Content words usually consist of several morphological zones within which certain permutations of morphemes are possible. Both prefixes and suffixes occur, with some morphemes being capable of appearing either as a prefix or a suffix, depending on the form. The predicate shows ergative-based cross-reference of core arguments and indirect objects introduced by applicatives, extensive use of the causative (including double causativization), highly developed means of expressing locational semantics within the predicate, and intricate tense-modality-aspect and polarity systems. Although classical noun-to-verb incorporation does not occur, there are constructions akin to incorporation, especially in the nominal domain. Nouns constitute a subclass of a broad class of predicates (both morphologically and syntactically) and hence may take the basic predicate morphology. At the same time, they form word-like nominal complexes with their attributes, and show specific head-marking possessive morphology (in West Circassian even distinguishing alienable and inalienable possession). Definiteness/specificity is regularly expressed either by articles (in Abkhaz, Abaza and Ubykh) or by the presence/absence of core case marking (in West Circassian and Kabardian). Morphemes demonstrate features that are not typical of morphemes in Standard Average European languages, including a high degree of autonomy reflected in affix order variation, widespread morphological recursion, occasional reduplication and even the ability to attach to complex syntactic constituents.

Article

Willem F. H. Adelaar

Quechuan is a family of closely related indigenous languages spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, in the central part of the Andean cordilleras, in what used to be the Empire of the Incas and adjacent areas. It is divided into two main branches, commonly denominated Quechua I and II, and comprises 15 or more spoken varieties and several extinct ones that can be considered separate languages, although an exact number cannot easily be established. Quechuan shares a long and intense contact history with the neighboring Aymaran languages, but a genealogical relationship between the two families has never been demonstrated, nor a relationship with any other language family in the area. Quechuan languages are mainly agglutinative. All grammatical categories are indicated by suffixes with very few exceptions. The order in which these suffixes occur within a word form is governed by rules and combinatory restrictions that can be rigid but not always explicable on a basis of scope and function. Portmanteau suffixes play a role in verbal inflection and in mutually interrelated domains of aspect and number in the Quechua I branch. In Quechuan verbal derivation affixes may be semantically polyvalent, depending on the combinations in which they occur, pragmatic considerations, the nature of the root to which they are attached, their position in the affix order, and so on. Verbal derivational affixes often combine with specific verbal roots to denote meanings that are not fully predictable on the basis of the meaning of the components. Other verbal affixes never occur in such combinations. Verbal morphology and nominal morphology tend to overlap in the domain of personal reference, where subject and possessor markers are largely similar. Otherwise, the two morphological domains are almost completely separate. Not only the morphological inventories but also the formal constraints underlying the structure of verbs and nouns differ. Nominal expressions feature an elaborate but relatively instable system of case markers, some of which appear to be of recent formation. Transposition from one class to another, nominalization in particular, is indicated morphologically and occupies a central place in Quechuan grammar, particularly in interaction with case. Finally, there is a class of Independent suffixes that can be attached to members of all word classes, including adverbial elements that cannot be classified as verbs or nominals. These suffixes play a role at the organizational level of larger syntactic units, such as clauses, nominal phrases, and sentences.

Article

Béatrice Godart-Wendling

The term “philosophy of language” is intrinsically paradoxical: it denominates the main philosophical current of the 20th century but is devoid of any univocal definition. While the emergence of this current was based on the idea that philosophical questions were only language problems that could be elucidated through a logico-linguistic analysis, the interest in this approach gave rise to philosophical theories that, although having points of convergence for some of them, developed very different philosophical conceptions. The only constant in all these theories is the recognition that this current of thought originated in the work of Gottlob Frege (b. 1848–d. 1925), thus marking what was to be called “the linguistic turn.” Despite the theoretical diversity within the philosophy of language, the history of this current can however be traced in four stages: The first one began in 1892 with Frege’s paper “Über Sinn und Bedeutung” and aimed to clarify language by using the rules of logic. The Fregean principle underpinning this program was that we must banish psychological considerations from linguistic analysis in order to avoid associating the meaning of words with mental pictures or states. The work of Frege, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), George Moore (1873–1958), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1921), Rudolf Carnap (1891–1970), and Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) is representative of this period. In this logicist point of view, the questions raised mainly concerned syntax and semantics, since the goal was to define a formalism able to represent the structure of propositions and to explain how language can describe the world by mirroring it. The problem specific to this period was therefore the function of representing the world by language, thus placing at the heart of the philosophical debate the notions of reference, meaning, and truth. The second phase of the philosophy of language was adumbrated in the 1930s with the courses given by Wittgenstein (1889–1951) in Cambridge (The Blue and Brown Books), but it did not really take off until 1950–1960 with the work of Peter Strawson (1919–2006), Wittgenstein (1953), John Austin (1911–1960), and John Searle (1932–). In spite of the very different approaches developed by these theorists, the two main ideas that characterized this period were: one, that only the examination of natural (also called “ordinary”) language can give access to an understanding of how language functions, and two, that the specificity of this language resides in its ability to perform actions. It was therefore no longer a question of analyzing language in logical terms, but rather of considering it in itself, by examining the meaning of statements as they are used in given contexts. In this perspective, the pivotal concepts explored by philosophers became those of (situated) meaning, felicity conditions, use, and context. The beginning of the 1970s initiated the third phase of this movement by orienting research toward two quite distinct directions. The first, resulting from the work on proper names, natural-kind words, and indexicals undertaken by the logician philosophers Saul Kripke (1940–), David Lewis (1941–2001), Hilary Putnam (1926–2016), and David Kaplan (1933–), brought credibility to the semantics of possible worlds. The second, conducted by Paul Grice (1913–1988) on human communicational rationality, harked back to the psychologism dismissed by Frege and conceived of the functioning of language as highly dependent on a theory of mind. The focus was then put on the inferences that the different protagonists in a linguistic exchange construct from the recognition of hidden intentions in the discourse of others. In this perspective, the concepts of implicitness, relevance, and cognitive efficiency became central and required involving a greater number of contextual parameters to account for them. In the wake of this research, many theorists turned to the philosophy of mind as evidenced in the late 1980s by the work on relevance by Dan Sperber (1942–) and Deirdre Wilson (1941–). The contemporary period, marked by the thinking of Robert Brandom (1950–) and Charles Travis (1943–), is illustrated by its orientation toward a radical contextualism and the return of inferentialism that draws strongly on Frege. Within these theoretical frameworks, the notions of truth and reference no longer fall within the field of semantics but rather of pragmatics. The emphasis is placed on the commitment that the speakers make when they speak, as well as on their responsibility with respect to their utterances.