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Distribution, Inference, and Event Structure

Fri October 12th 2018, 3:00pm
Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)
Aaron White
University of Rochester


What is the relationship between a predicate's semantic properties and the types of syntactic arguments it selects? This question has received surprisingly different answers for nominal and clausal selection: whereas accounts of nominal selection tend to be stated in event structural terms, accounts of clausal selection tend to be stated in terms of a distinct set of semantico-pragmatic properties – e.g. representationality, preferentiality, veridicality, factivity and neg-raising.

In this talk, I examine the relationship between this latter set of properties and clausal selection – focusing, in particular, on two properties that play a role in triggering inferences about the truth of a predicate's embedded clause: veridicality and factivity. On the basis of large-scale acceptability and veridicality judgment experiments as well as corpus data, I argue that the bifurcation between semantic properties associated with nominal selection and those associated with clausal selection may be artificial, and that a more fruitful way forward involves unifying explanations of nominal and clausal selection in event structural terms. 


Speaker bio

Dr. White is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Rochester, with secondary appointments in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. White obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Maryland, after which he was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, with affiliations in the Department of Cognitive Science and the Center for Speech and Language Processing. White is interested in how humans draw complex inference on the basis of linguistic expressions and what these inferences imply about how lexical and structural meaning interact. He co-leads two interconnected projects aimed at investigating these questions using both experimental and computational tools: the MegaAttitude Project and the Decompositional Semantics Initiative.