June 9: Floris Roelofsen (ILLC)

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We are happy to announce that on Thursday, June 9th, Floris Roelofsen (ILLC) will give a talk in the Rose series. We hope to see you all there!

Date: Thursday, June 9, 2016
Time: 15:00-17:00
Location: Trans 10, room 0.19 (A.W. de Grootkamer)
Speaker: Floris Roelofsen
TitleHighlighting in discourse and grammar

 
Abstract
Highlighting in discourse and grammar
Floris Roelofsen (ILLC)
 
In uttering a sentence, a speaker typically makes a number of individuals, properties, and propositions particularly salient. We say that these individuals, properties, and propositions are highlighted by the sentence. It is possible to construct two declarative sentences that have the same truth conditions but differ in what they highlight (e.g., Barbara Partee’s marble examples). It is also possible to construct two questions that have the same resolution conditions but differ in what they highlight (e.g., Is the door open? versus Is the door open or closed?). It is clear that these differences in highlighting matter for anaphora. For instance, one of Partee’s marble sentences licenses anaphoric reference to the missing marble with the pronoun it, while the other sentence doesn’t. Similarly, Is the door open? can be answered with yes, making anaphoric reference to the proposition that the door is open, while this is not possible in response to Is the door open or closed?.
 
This talk explores whether the notion of highlighting may also be useful beyond the domain of anaphora. We will suggest that this is indeed the case, focussing on two phenomena, one at the level of discourse and one at the level of grammar.
 
A) Felicity conditions of response questions. Why, for instance, is (1) good but (2) bad? (I use / and \ here for rising and falling intonation).
 
(1) Alan: Is Bill going to the party?
     Chris: Is the party during the week/ or during the weekend\?
     Alan: During the week.
     Chris: Then I don’t know.
 
(2) Alan: Is Bill going to the party?
     Chris: Is the party on Tuesday/ or on Thursday/?
     Alan: It’s on Tuesday.
     Chris: # Then I don’t know.
 
B) Embedding under emotive factive verbs like be surprised and be happy. Why do these verbs embed wh-questions but not polar questions or alternative questions?
 
(3)  a. Jane is surprised what Bill has done.
      b. # Jane is surprised whether Bill has broken the vase.
      b. # Jane is surprised whether Bill has broken the vase or the plate.

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