Research

Current research

I’m currently a postdoc within the Leverhulme project ‘Plurals & Mass Nouns across Languages‘, a collaboration between researchers at Ulster University and the University of York (PI: George Tsoulas). The project combines typological research, acquisition experiments and theoretical work in formal semantics and syntax. (Some) of our experimental work has now been published in Glossa, and (some) of the theoretical work I did with George is under review with another journal. George and I have also been working on a new analysis on the way mass/count properties, number (non-)neutrality and stuff versus object reference are determined in the early syntactic derivation of nominal predicates, combining insights from disjointness semantics (in particular Fred Landman’s Iceberg Semantics) and exoskeletal syntax. We’re hoping to turn this into a book, so stay tuned!

PhD project

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, mass/count distinction, 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

(draft, comments welcome) de Vries, Hanna & George Tsoulas. Portions and countability: a crosslinguistic investigation. Under review.

(prefinal draft) Collective nouns. To appear in: Cabredo-Hofherr, Patricia & Jenny Doetjes (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Grammatical Number. OUP.

[2018] Renans, Agata, Jacopo Romoli, Maria-Margarita Makri, Lyn Tieu, Hanna de Vries, Raffaella Folli & George Tsoulas. The abundance inference of pluralised mass nouns is an implicature: Evidence from Greek. Glossa 3:1.

[2018] Gradable nouns as concepts without prototypes. In: Castroviejo, Elena, Louise McNally & Galit Weidman Sassoon (eds). The Semantics of Gradability, Vagueness, and Scale Structure. Springer.

[2017] Two kinds of distributivityNatural Language Semantics 25:2.

[2017] 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.

[2016] (unpublished ms) Group distributivity and the interpretation of indefinites.
[This manuscript is an extended version of De Vries (2017, NLS). I originally intended to rework the second half into another journal paper, but never got around to it. I’d still recommend it to anyone interested in the relation between semantic incorporation and non-quantificational distributivity, as its analysis of the indefinite data makes much more sense than the one I proposed in my 2014 NELS proceedings paper.]

[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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