‘Conditional Analysis of Clausal Exceptives’ accepted with minor revisions to Natural Language Semantics

In this paper I argue that English exceptive constructions introduced by 'except' can be derived from full clauses by ellipsis. I offer a compositional analysis for this clausal exceptive construction. I propose that an 'except'-clause introduces quantification over possible situations and provides the restriction for this quantification. I show how the analysis developed here derives the inferences 'except' contributes to sentences it occurs in and the restriction on its use. I also show how the approach developed here captures the cases traditional approaches to the semantics of exceptives cannot capture such as cases where an 'except'-phrase contains a PP or multiple syntactic constituents. The approach I propose correctly captures the NPI licensing facts inside 'except'-phrases. In addition, this is the first approach to the semantics of exceptives that correctly captures the contribution of modal phrases such as 'possibly' inside 'except'-phrases.

Besides exceptives’ in Maggie Baird, Duygu Göksu, and Jonathan Pesetsky (eds.), the Proceedings of NELS 49, 2019, pp. 265-275.

In this paper, I provide a formal semantic analysis of the English additive construction introduced by besides. I observe that besides contributes the additive inference with wh-questions, focus associates, and existentials. I provide a unified treatment of besides in those three contexts. I built on existing approaches to the semantics of exceptives where an exceptive subtracts a set from the domain of an operator. From this perspective, the most difficult case to capture is a case where besides operates on a focus associate because in that context there is no visible operator the domain of which besides can restrict. I propose that in those contexts besides operates on a silent variable - a question under discussion. A focus value of a sentence tells us what this question is.

‘Compositional analysis for clausal exceptives’ in Katherine Blake and Forrest Davis(eds.), Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 29, 2019, pp. 420-440

In this paper I argue that English exceptive constructions introduced by except that appear to have a phrasal structure can be underlyingly clausal. I offer a compositional analysis for such exceptive constructions. I propose that an except-clause introduces quantification over possible situations and provides the restriction for this quantification. I show how this analysis derives the inferences exceptives come with and the known restrictions on their use.

‘Concealed Superlatives in Russian’ in Tania Ionin & Jonathan MacDonald (eds.), Proceedings of Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics (FASL) 26, Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Publications (in press).

In this paper, I study the properties of Russian superlatives that are morphologically expressed as genitive comparatives with all things/people as the standard of comparison. I observed that they do not have the same properties as Russian genitive comparatives. In particular comparative+vsego (all things) can have PP correlate readings, they cannot be paraphrased with the corresponding čem–comparatives, in certain contexts they become ungrammatical when all-things/people is modified by “others” and they do not take measure phrases. I argued that we can account for all of those properties if we make an assumption that comparative+all are superlatives and their morphological form is misleading. I proposed that comparative+vseh (all people) is ambiguous between a comparative and a superlative structure.

[with Petr Kusliy] ‘De Re Attitude Reports about Disjunctive Attitudes’ in Ava Creemers and Caitlin Richter (eds.), University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (the proceedings of PLC-42), 2019, vol. 25, iss.1, article 17, pp. 147-157

In this paper, we discuss so-called 'de re' attitude reports (i.e. reports that contain at least one referential term inside the clausal complement of an attitude verb). Common treatments of such reports follow the lines of Kaplan (1968) and assume that there is a unique guise under which the 'res' (the object) denoted by the referential term is given to the attitude holder in the described situation. Technically speaking, attitude verbs are believed to introduce existential quantification over acquaintance relations or concepts above the universal quantification over possible worlds. We argue that there are cases that cannot be captured by Kaplanian accounts. We construct a case of a 'de re' report about a disjunctive desire. Its truth conditions can be correctly predicted only by a system in which guises are allowed to vary from one desire-alternative to another. We build on a particular version of a 'de re' account, namely, the theory of concept generators (Percus and Sauerland 2003). We propose a modified version of this theory where, instead of variables over concept generators, variables over generators of concept sets are used. Such generators are functions that take an individual and generate all possible concepts of this individual for the attitude holder. In different desire-alternatives, different concepts can be picked from this set. The job of picking is done by choice functions, variables over which are merged in the syntax. Those variables can be existentially closed at any sentential level. We demonstrate that the revised theory also has a technical advantage over the more standard approaches. It allows us to dispense with type-flexibility of attitude predicates that has been assumed for cases like "John thinks that Clark Kent is not Superman", where one 'res' is referred to with different terms.

[with Petr Kusliy] ‘Hard cases of third readings in terms of the Standard Solution’ in Uli Sauerland and Stephanie Solt (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB) 22, 2018, vol. 2, ZASPiL 61, pp. 37–52. ZAS, Berlin

Schwager (2011) and Sudo (2014) argued that there are cases of the so-called third readings of attitude reports, initially discovered by Fodor (1970), that cannot be accounted for in terms of a theory of indexed world variables (Percus, 2000), which is often referred to as the Standard Solution. More complicated alternatives to the Standard Solution have been recently formulated in the literature in a number of papers. We argue that all the seemingly problematic cases can be naturally accounted for in terms of the Standard Solution, if we take into account the existence of previously unrecognized elided material in these reports.

‘A puzzle about adverbials in simultaneous readings of present and past-under-past in Russian’ in Denisa Lenertová, Roland Meyer, Radek Šimík & Luka Szucsich (eds.), Advances in formal Slavic linguistics, 2018. Berlin: Language Science Press, pp. i-xxii

The present and past tense can both get the simultaneous interpretation in complement clauses when they are embedded under the past tense in Russian. However, I observe that the adverbials that are allowed with present tense in such contexts (for example, sejčas ‘now’) are not allowed with the past tense and vice verse (for example, togda ‘then’ is not allowed with the present). I show that simply restricting the meaning of those adverbials does not help due to the fact that tenses can be interpreted de re. In de re construals, tenses are interpreted outside of the clause they originate in, so no meaning conflict between the tense and the adverbial in the embedded clause is predicted. I propose that when a tense is interpreted de re, an adverbial has to be interpreted de re together with it. I show that under this assumption the observed restriction follows in a direct way.

‘On the similarity between unless and only-if-not’ in Rob Trusswell (ed.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21 (SuB21), 2018, pp.1271-1288

This paper discusses the semantics of unless-conditionals and compares them to only-if-not-conditionals. I propose that the meaning of unless-conditionals can be derived from the same ingredients as the meaning of only-if-not-conditionals: a negative conditional (where conditionals are understood as restrictors on quantifier domains as in the Kratzer-Lewis tradition) and an exhaustifier that, like only, negates all of the focus alternatives for a modal claim built by substitution of the element marked with focus with other elements of the same semantic type (but unlike only also asserts its prejacent). I propose that the two constructions are similar in the following sense. First, in both cases a negative conditional and the exhaustifier are separated syntactically. Secondly, focus alternatives are constructed in the same way: a set of focus alternatives for a proposition denoted by an if-clause (or a complement of unless) includes any other possible proposition. I suggest that this way of constructing alternatives resolves a long-standing puzzle about only with conditionals: it allows us to derive the right interpretation for only with conditionals in a compositional manner without making any special assumptions about the nature of the covert modal.

[with Sakshi Bhatia & Leland Kusmer] ‘Indirect interaction of person & number in Ojibwe’ in Megan Keogh (ed.), Proceedings of WSCLA 21, 2018, pp. 56-72

Agreement on Ojibwe embedded verbs shows a complicated interdependence of person and number features: Agreement is with the object exactly when it is both plural and a speech-act participant, and with the subject otherwise. Previous accounts of agreement (e.g. Béjar & Rezac 2009, Preminger 2011) cannot straightforwardly account for this pattern. Instead of stipulating an interaction between person and number features, we show it can be derived by an indirect interaction in which movement to the specifier of a lower probe feeds agreement with a higher one. This proposal relies on a locality condition in the spirit of Relativized Minimality allowing ϕ-probes themselves to intervene for higher agreement. This system extends previous analyses to account for Ojibwe, but is still relatively restrictive, ruling out unattested agreement patterns.

©2018 by Ekaterina Vostrikova.