We are having a guest speaker event this week (November 29th) in Sid Smith 560A at 3pm (=3:10 U of T time). A reception in the department lounge will follow.
Elizabeth Allyn Smith (Université du Québec à
Montréal)works on the semantic-pragmatic interface
cross-linguistically and how it
is influenced by a range of other factors, from syntactic to
psycholinguistic to socio-phonetic. Her talk is entitled:
"Cross-linguistic differences in direct refutation and what they say about
the interaction of grammar and context"
Most sentences contain multiple kinds of meanings: the main point of the assertion, things you presuppose,
things you imply, various secondary points or ‘asides’, the source of your
information, your commitment to it, how you feel about it, etc.
Participants in a conversation can take issue with any of these meanings,
but not always in the same way. For example, most researchers believe,
following, e.g. von Fintel 2004 and Simons et al. 2011, that a contrast
exists between (1b), which refutes the assertion in (1a), and (1c), which
refutes its presupposition.
(1) a. Person 1: John is at the zoo again.
b. Person 2: No, that’s not true, he’s home sick.
c. Person 2: #No, that’s not true, he’s never been to the zoo until
This talk attempts to answer the questions (i) what kinds of meanings can
really be directly refuted (and whether it differs cross-linguistically),
and (ii) what properties determine whether something can be directly
refuted. I review previous proposals before presenting experimental
results from English, Spanish and Catalan showing more heterogeneity than
expected in the literature. I then present necessary revisions to theories
of structured contexts to accommodate these results, explaining how
syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties are all at play.