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LINGUIST List 18.1162

Mon Apr 16 2007

Diss: Syntax: Brasoveanu: 'Structured Nominal and Modal Reference'

Editor for this issue: Hunter Lockwood <hunterlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Adrian Brasoveanu, Structured Nominal and Modal Reference

Message 1: Structured Nominal and Modal Reference
Date: 15-Apr-2007
From: Adrian Brasoveanu <abrsvngmail.com>
Subject: Structured Nominal and Modal Reference

Institution: Rutgers University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Adrian Brasoveanu

Dissertation Title: Structured Nominal and Modal Reference

Dissertation URL: http://abrsvn.googlepages.com/diss.html

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director:
Maria Bittner
Hans Kamp
Roger Schwarzschild
Matthew Stone

Dissertation Abstract:

The dissertation argues that discourse reference in natural language
involves two equally important components with essentially the same
interpretive dynamics, namely reference to values, i.e. non-singleton sets
of objects (individuals and possible worlds), and reference to structure,
i.e. the correlation / dependency between such sets, which is introduced
and incrementally elaborated upon in discourse.

To define and investigate structured discourse reference, a new dynamic
system couched in classical (many-sorted) type logic is introduced which
extends Compositional DRT (CDRT, Muskens 1996) with plural information
states, i.e. information states are modeled as sets of variable assignments
(following van den Berg 1996a), which can be can be represented as matrices
with assignments (sequences) as rows. A plural info state encodes both
values (the columns of the matrix store sets of objects) and structure
(each row of the matrix encodes a correlation / dependency between the
objects stored in it). Given the underlying type logic, compositionality at
sub-clausal level follows automatically and standard techniques from
Montague semantics (e.g. type shifting) become available.

The idea that plural info states are semantically necessary is motivated by
examples with morphologically singular anaphors, in contrast to the
previous literature that argues for plural info states based on plural
anaphora. Plural Compositional DRT (PCDRT) enables us compositionally
account for a variety of phenomena, including: (i) mixed weak & strong
donkey anaphora, e.g. Every person who buys a computer and has a credit
card uses it to pay for it, (ii) quantificational subordination, e.g.
Harvey courts a girl at every convention. She always comes to the banquet
with him (Karttunen 1976), (iii) modal anaphora and modal subordination,
e.g. A wolf might come in. It would eat Harvey first (based on Roberts
1989) and (iv) naturally-occurring discourses exhibiting complex
interactions between modalized conditionals, donkey anaphora, modal
subordination and the entailment particle therefore, e.g. [A] man cannot
live without joy. Therefore, when he is deprived of true spiritual joys, it
is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures (Thomas Aquinas).

The PCDRT account of these phenomena explicitly and systematically captures
the anaphoric and quantificational parallels between the individual and
modal domains.

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