Research

PhD project & current research

I recently (March 2015) defended my dissertation at Utrecht University. My PhD project was part of Yoad Winter’s VICI project ‘Between Logic and Common Sense’, which brought together semanticists, computational linguists and psycholinguists in an attempt to bridge the gap between conceptual and formal semantics. Visit the project website here.

My project explored the various guises of number – morphosyntactic, semantic and conceptual – and the relations between them. In my dissertation, I argue that the interpretation of referential NPs as singular or plural is not determined by their morphosyntactic form: both morphologically plural NPs (like the girls) and morphologically singular group NPs (like the group of girls) may receive either a singular or a plural semantics. The different interpretations are related by a type-shifting mechanism, whose application is regulated by both formal factors (fixing type mismatches) and lexical-conceptual ones (the degree of animacy of the NP in question). Specific topics I explore in my dissertation are the distinction between lexical and quantificational distributivity, including a number of ways to tell these two mechanisms apart; the interpretation of group nouns in various dialects of English; non-quantificational analyses of indefinites and the relation between lexical distributivity and ‘semantic incorporation’; and the way that the interpretation of NPs reflects the ‘Animacy Hierarchy’ familiar from the typological literature even in languages that do not have grammaticalised animacy distinctions.

The most exciting discovery to come out of my project is the link between animacy and semantic number. I am currently exploring this topic further, and hope to set up a bigger research project on the formal semantics of animacy/individuation in the near future.

Please contact me if you want to know more, or are interested in a paper copy of my dissertation (I have some spare copies left that I’d be happy to mail to you).

Research interests

Plurality, distributivity, group nouns, animacy and individuation from a formal semantic perspective, genericity, indefinites, gradability & degree semantics, syntax/semantics interface.

I’m also interested in bridging the gap between academia and the general public, and in academic issues in general.

Papers/publications

[2016] Two kinds of distributivity (preprint version). To appear in Natural Language Semantics.

[2016] Licensing distributivity: the role of plural morphology (preprint version). To appear in: Lisa L.S. Cheng, Maarten Hijzelendoorn, Hilke Reckman and Rint Sybesma (eds.), Crossroads Semantics: Computation, Experiment and Grammar. John Benjamins.

[2015] Shifting sets, hidden atoms: the semantics of distributivity, plurality and animacy. PhD dissertation, Utrecht University.

[2014] Lexical distributivity with group nouns and property indefinites. In: Huang, Hsin-Lun, Ethan Poole & Amanda Rysling (eds.). Proceedings of NELS 43 (2012).

[2013] De geesteswetenschapper als ontmaskeraar van machtsmythes. Radix 39:3.

[2013] Distributivity and agreement: new evidence for groups as sets. Proceedings of the 19th Amsterdam Colloquium.

[2012] Syntax and semantics of evaluative degree modification. In: Daniel Lassiter & Marija Slavkovik (eds): New Directions in Logic, Language and Computation. Series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 7415, Springer.

My MA thesis, Evaluative Degree Modification of Adjectives and Nouns, can be downloaded here or here.

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