February 19, 2015

Guest speaker: Walter Pedersen (University of Toronto)

Faculty member Walter Pedersen will be giving a talk on Friday the 27th in 560A, starting at 3:15 PM: "Again-st decomposition: a scalar analysis of 'again' ambiguities."

The idea that apparently mono-clausal sentences (e.g. 'The door opened') are analyzable as being underlyingly multi-clausal (e.g. [BECOME [the door open ] ] ) has been present in syntactic theory in some form or another since the time of the Generative Semantics movement. In this talk, I argue that the traditional BECOME/small-clause approach to inchoative verbs faces a number of insurmountable problems; these include, among others, the overgeneration of adverbial ambiguities, incorrect truth-conditions for sentences with adverbs in decomposition-internal attachment sites, and incompatibility with certain kinds of modifiers (like directional measure-phrases). A scalar approach, which does not require positing multiple clausal levels in the representation of what on the surface appears to be a mono-clausal sentence, is shown to avoid many of the problems inherent in the decompositional approach. However, moving from a decompositional analysis of inchoative verbs to a scalar one requires new explanations for phenomena, like 'again'-ambiguities, that have been previously handled in decompositional terms. It is shown that, in many ways, scale-sensitive meanings can take the place of decompositional structures in the explanations of such ambiguities, resulting in analyses that are preferable on both empirical and theoretical grounds.

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