Congratulations to Masashi Harada, who successfully defended his dissertation “Locality effects in composition with plurals and conjunctions” in July, supervised by Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner. The abstract is below.
Masashi with co-supervisors, Michael and Bernhard
Masashi will start a position as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Grinnell College in Iowa in fall 2022, where he will be teaching Japanese language and linguistics. Congratulations Masashi!
Abstract: This dissertation investigates semantic composition of sentences with a conjunction and/or a non-conjunctive plural such as the boy typed the two recipes. While it is standardly assumed that plural nouns like the two recipes denote pluralities like { recipe1,recipe2 } , there is no consensus about the meanings of expressions including a plural like typed the two recipes. A traditional approach assumes that such expressions as typed the two recipes denote singularities like { type( { recipe1,recipe2 } ) } (e.g., Link 1983, Krifka 1989, Beck and Sauerland 2000). On the other hand, a more recent approach assumes that such expressions denote pluralities like { type(recipe1), type(recipe2) } (e.g., Gawron and Kehler 2004, Kubota and Levine 2016, Schmitt 2020). Note that under the second approach, the part structures of plural nouns ‘project’ to the meanings of the expressions including the plurals; typed the two recipes denotes a doubleton set just like the two recipes does. As a result, recipe1 and recipe2 in { type(recipe1), type(recipe2) } continue to be accessible in composition (as a part of a function) under the second approach. In this dissertation, I observe that this is why the second approach can capture some semantic ‘non-local’ interpretations unlike the first approach, but it is also more likely to fail to respect locality. After Section 1 introduces some background about the semantics of plurals, Section 2 first illustrates the second approach’s failure to respect locality in the so-called cumulativity phenomenon, i.e., a phenomenon in which sentences with multiple plurals like the two boys typed the two recipes have very weak truth conditions. Section 2 also develops an analysis of cumulativity under the first approach, in which the relevant sentences receive very weak truth conditions that are compatible with ‘cumulative scenarios’. It will be shown that the proposed analysis is independently needed to capture a different type of cumulativity with a singular DP and the so-called collectivity phenomenon. Thus, Section 2 supports the validity of the first approach. This being argued, however, Section 3 demonstrates that the second approach should be available sometimes. I will present some minimal pair sentences with either a conjunction or a non-conjunctive plural (e.g., Abe and Bert interviewed the runner who took the first spot and the second spot respectively vs. Abe and Bert interviewed the runner who took the first two spots respectively), and show that only the former allows non-local interpretations. Given this, Section 3 argues that the second approach should sometimes be available for composition with conjunctions. While it remains to be seen how exactly the second approach can be formalized and how it should be restricted, this dissertation sketches some possible analysis.