Speaker: Aron Hirsch (MIT)

When: Thursday February 4, 3:30pm

Where: MAASS Building, room 217

Title:  A case for conjunction reduction


And can apparently conjoin constituents of any syntactic category.  This distribution seems at odds with a possible hypothesis about the semantics of and: that and has a parallel semantics to the connective ‘&’ of propositional logic and composes with arguments denoting truth-values (type t). Given this hypothesis, examples where and appears to conjoin constituents not of type t are puzzling.  I focus on examples like (1), where and apparently conjoins object DPs.

(1) John saw [every student] and [every professor].

I provide new evidence that the grammar makes available a mechanism of conjunction reduction (‘CR’; e.g. Ross 1967, Schein 2014) by which and may conjoin constituents of type t, even when it appears to conjoin constituents not of type t.  CR is supported empirically: the extra structure associated with CR is required to host adverbs, derive scope readings, and license ellipsis.  CR is also supported theoretically: CR is a predicted epiphenomenon of independently needed syntactic mechanisms.

After arguing that CR is available, I discuss data which are most straightforwardly understood if (1) must be parsed with CR, i.e. consistent with the semantic hypothesis, every student and every professor cannot be directly conjoined.  This result has implications for a broad set of constructions, as I illustrate in the final part of the talk with clefts and right node raising.