C02

Limits of cross-linguistic variability in the interpretation of underspecified structures

PI(s): Prof. Dr. Malte Zimmermann

The project continues looking at the limits of variability in semantic interpretation across language users and languages (German, English, Akan, Hausa, Igbo, Medumba). The focus is on the interpretation of underspecified structures, such as found in doubly quantified sentences (scope ambiguities) and in sentences with missing functional elements (article drop in DP and Serial Verb Constructions). Such sentences provide a good testing ground for hidden variability in that identical surface configurations may involve different structural derivations, as diagnosed by differences in interpretation. We will collect data in direct elicitation and in experiments, and we will begin with computationally modelling the quantitative experimental data.

in phase 1:

Limits of Variability in Interpretation

PI(s): Prof. Dr Malte Zimmermann & Prof. Dr. Alexander Koller

Project C02 focuses on the grammatical, cognitive and communicative factors underlying variability in semantic interpretation. The central empirical goal is the experimental investigation of subtypes of variability and limits of variability in semantic interpretation. Adopting a cross-linguistic perspective (German, English, Akan/Kwa/Niger-Congo), the project addresses two central questions.

The first question concerns the limits of intra- and interspeaker variability in interpretation (variability subtypes 3&4): Which strategies do language users employ for adapting their interpretation of utterances to the communicative needs at hand, and for evaluating utterances as felicitous and true in a given communicative setting? The empirical and theoretical focus is on the (un-)availability of structural, lexical, and evaluative adaptation processes in four semantic phenomena, distributed over four work packages:

  • relative quantifier scope and the availability of inverse scope (WP1)
  • the felicity and interpretation of bare SG count arguments (WP2)
  • the accomodability of existence presuppositions (WP3)
  • and the interpretation of counterfactual conditionals (AP4).

We will test for the (un-)availability of interpretations and adaptation procedures in relation to differences in communicative setting, on the one hand, and in relation to constraints imposed by the underlying grammatical systems, on the other. We are interested in identifying (i.) interpretive procedures that are systematically blocked across speakers and trials; and (ii.) interpretive procedures that depend on structural reanalysis. The identification of such cases will shed light on the workings of the syntax-semantics interface. In particular, it will help in evaluating the hypothesis that syntax is a largely autonomous structure-building system, immune to the requirements of the interpretive system.

The second question serves the same goal by adding a cross-linguistic perspective. We investigate which aspects of variability in semantic interpretation are constant across languages, and which ones are language-specific and constrained by the grammars of the underlying linguistic systems (variability subtype 1). Here, we focus on differences in word order (rigid vs flexible), in the inventory of functional markers for expressing (in-)definiteness on NPs, and in the functional interpretation of definite markers across languages. The empirical data will be collected in a series of offline experiments and statistically analyzed.

In sum, the project will contribute to a better understanding of which aspects of variability in interpretation depend on non-linguistic factors (communicative needs, processing), and which ones are contingent on, or altogether blocked by grammatical constraints of the underlying linguistic system.

Member

Armenante
Giuliano Armenante
Campus GolmHaus 14, Raum 3.22/3.23
(+49) 331 977-2979
Struck
Anna Struck
Campus GolmHaus 14, Raum 3.22/3.23
Zimmermann
Prof. Dr. Malte Zimmermann
Campus GolmHaus 14, Raum 3.25
(+49) 331 977-2319

Publications

  • Peer-Reviewed: Papers, Journals, Books, Articles of the CRC
  • Talk or Presentation: Talks, Presentations, Posters of the CRC
  • SFB-Related: not produced in connection with the CRC, but are thematically appropriate
  • Other: Papers, Journals, Books, Articles of the CRC, but not peer-reviewed
Author(s)TitleYearPublished inLinksType
Paape, D., & Zimmermann, M.Conditionals on crutches: Expanding the modal horizon.2020M. Franke, N. Kompa, M. Liu, J. L. Mueller, & J. Schwab (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 24 (Vol. 2, pp. 108-126). Osnabrück University. * DOI: 10.18148/sub/2020.v24i2.889
Peer-Reviewed
Philipp, M., & Zimmermann, M.Empirical investigations on quantifier scope ambiguities in German.2020M. Franke, N. Kompa, M. Liu, J. L. Mueller, & J. Schwab (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 24 (Vol. 2, pp. 145-164). Osnabrück University. * DOI: 10.18148/sub/2020.v24i2.914
Peer-Reviewed
Renans, A., & De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P.Experimental Studies on it-Clefts and Predicate Interpretation.2019Semantics and Pragmatics, 12(Article 11), 1-50. DOI: 10.3765/sp.12.11
Peer-Reviewed
Destruel, E., & De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P.(Non-)Exhaustivity in French c’est-Clefts.2019C. Pinon (ed.), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 12 (pp. 91–120). Paris: CSSP.
Peer-Reviewed
De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P. Cleft exhaustivity: A unified approach to inter-speaker and cross-linguistic variability.2020Dr. phil. Dissertation, University of Potsdam, Potsdam: Universitätsverlag. DOI: 10.25932/publishup-44642
Other
Paape, D., & Zimmermann, M. Conditionals on crutches: Expanding the modal horizon.2020PsyArXiv Preprints. DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/tqg2eOther
Destruel, E., & De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P.On the interpretation and processing of exhaustivity: Evidence of variation in English and French clefts.2018Journal of Pragmatics, 138(December 2018), 1-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2018.09.009SFB-Related
Paape, D.Antecedent complexity effects on ellipsis processing.2018Dr. phil. Dissertation, University of Potsdam, Potsdam: Universitätsverlag.
SFB-Related
Zimmermann, M., De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P., Tönnis, S., & Onea, E.(Non-)exhaustivity in focus partitioning across languages.2020V. Hegedűs & I. Vogel (Eds.), Approaches to Hungarian (Vol. 16: Papers from the 2017 Budapest Conference, pp. 208-230 ). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.SFB-Related
Bombi, C., & De Veaugh-Geiss, J.Quantitative data in the field: Two case studies on Akan.2018Poster presented at the Linguistic Evidence 2018 - Experimental data drives linguistic theory, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. 15 February.
Talk or Presentation
De Veaugh-Geiss, J., & Destruel, E.(Non-)Exhaustivity in French c'est Clefts.2017Paper presented at the Colloque de Syntaxe et Sémantique à Paris (CSSP), Paris, France. 25 November.Talk or Presentation
De Veaugh-Geiss, J., & Philipp, M.Fictional contexts for shifting (i) perspectives and (ii) evaluation worlds: Two case studies.2018Invited talk at the Workshop on ''Reflections on Methodology: Empiricism and Fiction'', Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. 12 October.
Talk or Presentation
Paape, D., & Zimmermann, M.Conditionals on crutches: Expanding the modal horizon.2019Poster presented at the Sinn und Bedeutung 24, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany. 04 - 06 September.Talk or Presentation
Philipp, M.Cross-linguistic Investigations on Quantifier Scope Ambiguities - Experiments on German and English.2020Poster presented at the Linguistic Evidence 2020, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. 13 - 15 February.
Talk or Presentation
Zimmermann, M., & Philipp, M.Empirical Investigations on Quantifier Scope Ambiguities in German.2019Paper presented at the Sinn und Bedeutung 24, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany. 04-06 September.
Talk or Presentation
De Veaugh-Geiss, J. P.nà-Cleft (non-)exhaustivity: Variability in Akan.2021Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 6(1), 1-41. DOI: 10.16995/glossa.5698
Peer-Reviewed
Fanselow, G., Zimmermann, M., & Philipp, M.Accessing the availability of inverse scope in German in the covered box paradigm.2022Glossa: A journal of general linguistics 7(1), 1-24. DOI: 10.16995/glossa.5766
Peer-Reviewed
Philipp, M., & Zimmermann, M.On Trees Blocking Roads and Cameras Recording Burglars: An Experimental Comparison of the Availability of Inverse Scope in English and German.2022Linguistic Inquiry, Advance publication. DOI: 10.1162/ling_a_00493
Peer-Reviewed