Category Archives: Semantics

Arregui in Semantics & Pragmatics

Anyone might but everyone won’t”, a new paper by Ana Arregui, has just been published by Semantics & Pragmatics.


This paper investigates the interaction between quantifiers and epistemic modals, focusing on the contrast between every and any. It builds on observations made in von Fintel & Iatridou 2003, who noted that quantifiers seem unable to take wide scope across an epistemic modal. The proposal at the heart of the paper is that modes of epistemic access to domains of quantification play a role in accounting for apparent restrictions on scope. The paper takes the characterization of conceptual covers in Aloni 2001 as a starting point to argue that in the context of epistemic modals, constraints on epistemic access to the domain of quantification can give rise to scope illusions.

Katia Vostrikova Joins University of Göttingen

We’re delighted to share the news that Ekaterina Vostrikova (PhD, 2019) will be joining the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in July as a DAAD scholar, and will then in September begin a three-year position there as a post-doctoral researcher. Katia’s post-doc position is funded by a DFG project grant titled ‘A Crosslinguistic Investigation Into Phrasal and Clausal Exceptive-Additive Constructions’, and will be supervised by Clemens Steiner-Mayr.

In addition, Katia’s paper “Conditional Analysis of Clausal Exceptives” has just appeared in the newest issue of Natural Langauge Semantics (NaLS 29:2 159-227).

Congratulations, Katia!

UMass linguists at SALT 31

Brown University will host the 31st meeting of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (virtually) on May 7-9. You will find the program here.

UMass linguists past and present will participate (see details below), with Seth Cable giving one of the invited plenary talks: Two Paths to Habituality: The Semantics of ‘Habitual Mode’ vs. ‘Imperfective Mode’ in Tlingit

In addition to SALT, this year will also have SALT(ED): a workshop on inclusive teaching in semantics organized by the SALT Equity and Diversity committee. Lisa Green will be one of the workshop panelists.

The Pop-Up Mentoring Program sponsored by the LSA’s Committee on Gender Equity in Linguistics will hold mentoring sessions at SALT.

UMass linguists (working with colleagues) at SALT 31:

Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Justin Royer: Modality in the nominal domain: The Chuj yalnhej + wh series

Andrea Beltrama and Florian Schwarz: Imprecision and speaker identity: How social meaning affects pragmatic reasoning

Justin Bledin and Kyle Rawlins: About what about: Topicality at the semantics-pragmatics Interface

Maria Biezma, Bettina Braun and Angela James: Prosody is adding what?

Kajsa Djarv and Maribel Romero: (Non-)factive islands from (non-)necessary triviality

Hary Chow and Marcin Morzycki: Zero, measurement, and nominal semantics in Cantonese

Franklin Institute Symposium in Honor of Barbara Partee (April 19th)

We are extremely happy to announce that, in honor of Professor Barbara Partee receiving the 2021 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, the Franklin Institute and the University of Pennsylvania are organizing a special symposium honoring her and her legacy in the field.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this symposium will be held remotely, and can be viewed publicly over Zoom. It will take place on Monday, April 19th, from 9:45AM to 3PM (EST), and will feature presentations by:

  • Barbara Partee (UMass Amherst)
  • Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard University)
  • Pauline Jacobson (Brown University)
  • Florian Schwarz (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Seth Cable (UMass Amherst)
  • Christopher Potts (Stanford University)

The website for the symposium, which includes the full program (with abstracts) as well as the Zoom link for the remote presentations, can be found at the link below:

Again, this event is entirely public, and all are welcome (and encouraged) to attend.

Biezma colloquium Friday March 26 at 3:30

Our own María Biezma will present “Life on the loose” in the Linguistics colloquium series at 3:30 Friday March 26. An abstract follows. All are welcome!

Register here:

Insubordinated clauses (see Evans 2007) across languages are often associated with a wide range of meanings not present in their subordinated counterparts. A given insubordinated clause is often said to be able to convey surprise, commands, reports etc., depending on the context of utterance. The disparity between the associated meanings has often led to proposals arguing that the original complementizer has acquired different meanings in insubordinated contexts and the speaker is then facing an ambiguity that is resolved in the context of utterance.

In this talk I will investigate a case of insubordination in Spanish that has been discussed in the literature in the terms described above. Instead of defending an ambiguity analysis, I will argue that a unified analysis is possible once we look beyond the sentence level and revisit the data from this perspective. At the theoretical level, the claim is that we can explain how potentially unrelated meanings are brought about by considering that utterances are proposals to update the context and taking into account the relation between utterances and the proposed update.

Deniz Özyıldız’s defense December 3 10am

Deniz Özyıldız will defend his dissertation at 10am EST, Thursday, December 3. The title of Deniz’s dissertation is “Attitude Events”. The advisors are Vincent Homer and Rajesh Bhatt, and the committee includes Maria Biezma, Seth Cable and Kristine Yu. A short abstract follows.

Register here:–spj8tHdSqeLytldtLoK11Oyw7z9PM


In this talk, we place the verb “think” and its complement clauses under the microscope and see that “think” with a declarative may describe a state, in (1), and that “think” with a question must describe an event, seen by comparing (2) and (3). The state is a belief, and the event, here, a deliberation.

(1) Anna thinks that she should invite Brian.
(2) #Anna thinks whether she should invite Brian.
(3) Anna is thinking whether she should invite Brian.

Aspectual properties of attitude reports, then, interact with properties that attitude verbs have in virtue of their ability to embed clauses, creating non-trivial differences in meaning as well as apparent restrictions in the distribution of embedded questions. To account for such interactions, we must structure attitude eventualities with structures provided by embedded clause denotations, and so, we work towards a system in which it is possible to do so.

Partee to zoom to Moscow for talk for logicians Nov 18

November 18, 2020, (8am EST, 4pm in Moscow) Barbara gives a Zoom talk “in Moscow” called “Language and Logic: Ideas and Controversies in the History of Formal Semantics”, as part of “Logical Perspectives Open Lectures” organized by Lev Beklemishev, Steklov Mathematical Institute, Moscow, for Nov 17-18. Open to all; Registration required at I’d be delighted to have linguists there too to join in the discussion after the talk. The other two lectures in the series are on Nov 17 – one by Anil Nerode at 4pm Moscow and one by Yuri Gurevich at 6pm Moscow. I think the talks are all intended for students and younger scholars, so I expect the other two to be interesting and accessible as well.

UMass linguists take to NELS 51

The Université du Québec à Montréal is hosting the 51st annual meeting of the Northeastern Linguistics Society this week(end), 11/6 – 11/8. There’s a great slate of events lined up, including a whole bunch of interesting talks and a range of social events (including a trivia social on Friday evening!).

Information about registration can be found here. Registration is on a sliding scale: Give what you can!

UMass linguists past and present are presenting at the conference, including:

Learning and the typology of word order: a model of the Final-over-Final Condition by Shay Hucklebridge

Numeral Any: In Favor of Viability by Jonathan Palucci and Luis Alonso-Ovalle

Binding through Agree in Turkish by Lefteris Paparounas and Faruk Akkuş

3-on-3 restrictions and PCC typology by Amy Rose Deal

A set-based representation of Person features: consequences for AGREE by Christopher Hammerly

Verb Height indeed determines prosodic phrasing: evidence from Iron Ossetic by Lena Borise and David Erschler

Partially activated morpheme boundaries in Japanese surnames by Yu Tanaka and Shigeto Kawahara

See you there!

Alex Göbel has made it to McGill!

When we last heard from Alex Göbel, he had just defended his dissertation. He has since been let into Canada to start his postdoc position at McGill with Michael Wagner. He writes from his quarantine in Montreal:

I’ll be at McGill on a Feodor Lynen Fellowship, sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation. The research project is aimed at investigating the interaction between Focus-particles – or Focus more generally – and intonation, specifically the role of pitch accents for the interpretation of ambiguous Focus-particles like ‘at least’. The idea is that ‘at least’ can be epistemic or concessive, and we want to see whether there’s a correlation between the interpretation and the type of pitch accent the Focused constituent receives. We’ll be running both production and comprehension experiments that will hopefully lead to lots of interesting implications for linguistic and psycholinguistic theory.

Sensus: Constructing Meaning in Romance

We are pleased to announce that the first meeting of Sensus, a workshop on the formal semantics and pragmatics of Romance languages, will take place virtually at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, on September 26-27 2020.

Our intention with this workshop is to bring together scholars in the growing community dedicated to the study of the construction of meaning within Romance languages. We hope this will become a regular venue for researchers with common interests in Romance semantics and pragmatics.

Invited speakers: Luis Alonso-Ovalle (McGill University), Mariapaola D’Imperio (Rutgers University), Donka Farkas (University of California, Santa Cruz).

Registration is free. Please register to obtain Zoom link shortly before conference.

– On behalf of your Sensus organizers: Ana Arregui, María Biezma, Vincent Homer and Deniz Özyıldız)