September 18, 2014

Guest speaker: Andrea Wilhelm (University of Victoria)

We are pleased to have Andrea Wilhelm of UVic visiting our department next week. Andrea's research is focused on typology on the semantic and syntactic levels; she has a special interest in the Athapaskan languages, and in language endangerment and documentation in general.

She will be giving a talk on Tuesday, September 23 in ES B142, starting at 2 PM: Semantics and syntax of Dënesųłiné nouns:

In this talk I explore a well-known trait of Dënesųłiné and other Dene (Athabaskan) languages, the fact that nouns show almost no grammatical markings while intricate grammatical and other expression of noun-related concepts (such as shape or number an event participant) occurs on verbs. I propose that this pattern is a logical consequence of Dënesųłiné nouns being inherently of type , entities. While better-known languages use grammatical elements in the nominal domain, such as number marking or determiners, to turn nouns into type , I argue that in the absence of these elements, Dënesųłiné nouns start out and remain as type throughout the syntactic-semantic derivation. Once this idea is accepted, syntactic properties seemingly unrelated to noun semantics fall out as well: the finiteness of all clauses, the fact that most adjectival concepts are expressed by verbs, the obligatoriness of copulas, the reluctance to use PPs to modify nouns, and the fact that so-called relative clauses are nominalized full clauses without gap. I use basic model-theoretic semantics to give a precise account of these properties, relying strongly on the Carlsonian idea that nouns are names of kinds (Carlson 1977, Chierchia 1998).

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