Hadas Kotek will present in this week’s Ling-Tea, Tuesday 3/8 from 1pm–2:30 in room 117. Note that this will be an extended 90 minute Ling-Tea for a practice talk.
Title: Most: architecture, evidence, and variation
Abstract: Formal semantic analyses often take words to be minimal building blocks for the purposes of meaning composition. However, work on syntax and morphology has converged on the view that the unit of the “word” should not receive a special status. In this talk, I argue for the same conclusion for the compositional semantics of superlatives, concentrating in particular on the superlative quantifier most. I present a series of experimental studies supporting the conclusion that most is decomposed into a gradable predicate many and a superlative morpheme –est, and uncover a previously unnoticed micro-variation among English speakers in their interpretation of most. I argue that these findings lend support to the unified analysis of “most (of the)” as in Mary climbed most of the mountains and “the most” as in Mary climbed the most mountains in Heim (1999) and Hackl (2009). More broadly, I discuss questions of modularity and methodology in linguistics, and conclude that investigating the interaction between the meaning, structure, and real-time use of language can illuminate underlying theoretical primitives in the architecture of grammar.
**This is a practice job talk, all are welcome!**