Semantics 4, LING 665 /

Seminar in Semantics, LING 765

Winter 2015, Bernhard Schwarz

“Semantic disasters (in weak islands and elsewhere)”  

In this year’s edition of LING 665 (Semantics 4)/LING 765 (Seminar in Semantics), we will explore semantic explanations of apparent grammatical constraints, with a focus on wh-movement. The first part of the course will provide a hands-on introduction to classic approaches to the semantics of wh-questions, applying and extending the tools and notions introduced in Semantics 3. Building on this background, we will in the second part study recent ideas about so-called weak islands. “Weak island” is a cover term for a class of constraints illustrated by the contrast between How many children does Jones have? and *How many children doesn’t Jones have? (where negation is said to create a weak island for extraction of the how many-phrase). We will study various types of weak islands and various types of “semantic disasters” that have been held responsible for their existence. As a guide in this exploration, we will use Marta Abrusán’s 2014 book Weak Island Semantics. Our study of weak islands will also prepare us for examining semantic disasters in the analysis of other phenomena prominently discussed in recent literature (including work by several members of our department), such as semantic constraints on other cases of overt movement and so-called blocking effects.


LING 665: homework assignments, short class presentation, final paper

LING 765 (Pass/Fail): homework assignments, short class presentation

Main reference

Abrusán, Marta: 2014, Weak Island Semantics, Oxford University Press