Functional categories, dimensions of meaning, and expletiveness (FCDME2024)

June 12, 2024 - June 14, 2024

Date: June 12-14, 2024

Location: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, SPAIN

When building meaning compositionally, the bricks are lexical categories (N, V, A) and the mortar are functional categories (D, Num, Tens, Asp, v, Neg, Top, Foc, etc.). In this respect it is wise to think that, while lexical categories contribute to the propositional content of a sentence, functional categories constrain it by articulating the relations that lexical categories may have.
In this workshop we aim at exploring the hypothesis that functional categories also contribute to the expressive meaning associated with sentences/utterances, and therefore contribute to the grammar of speech acts. We can think of several phenomena supporting this hypothesis: (1) polydefinites and plural mass nouns in Greek, (2) high negation in English, (3) overt first-person pronouns with psychological verbs and impersonal sentences in Catalan, (4) deverbal discourse markers in Spanish, (5) expletive complementizers in exclamative sentences, etc. What these constructions all have in common is the use of functional categories to convey expressive meanings, that is, the emotions and attitudes of the speaker at the time of performing a speech act.
While some of these phenomena have received attention in the linguistics literature, they have been typically factored out of syntax, and placed in a separate representation level dedicated to not at-issue meaning (Gutzmann and Gaertner 2013; Potts 2005, 2007) or, alternatively, they have been integrated in the left-periphery of the sentence (Krifka 2015a, 2019, 2021; Wiltschko 2017, 2021). We would like to discuss these views and investigate the role of expressive meaning in the process of updating the common ground.
This conference will bring together researchers from a variety of fields to explore the relationship between functional categories and meaning, with a focus on three specific topics:
1. Functional categories and speech act information. The influential work by Krifka on the topic of questions (Krifka 2001, 2015a, 2015b), as well as his recent work on Commitment-based Semantics ((Krifka 2018, 2019, 2021); see also (Geurts 2018, 2019, 2022)) has paved the way for a better understanding of the role of interrogative sentences at the time of different sorts of updates of the common ground, and involving various sorts of commitments of speakers and a variety of forms to restrict future discourse developments. However, such a seminal work has not yet been extended to provide a detailed analysis of the full gamut of interrogative sentences in Romance and Germanic languages, where interrogatives display a rich set of syntactic forms, interpretative nuances and prosodic contours. Moreover, exclamations and exclamative sentences are still understudied and new proposals are necessary for analyzing their differences with interrogatives at the level of private and public commitment and articulating a detailed map of active functional categories.
2. Strengthening and dimensions of meaning. The question of what (in)definiteness means and how it is expressed in languages that do not possess overt articles still presents an unresolved problem in formal approaches. In recent research on Russian (Seres 2020; Seres et al. 2021; Seres and Borik 2021) it is argued that the default interpretation of bare nominals in Russian is indefinite, whereas definiteness results from a pragmatic strengthening mechanism. This hypothesis is corroborated by existing (although still scarce) experimental evidence (Serés et al. 2023; Šimík and Demian 2020). Some questions, though, are yet unanswered, such as what kind of mechanisms give rise to this pragmatic strengthening and how precisely they bring out a definite interpretation for a bare nominal, and what is the role of anaphoricity, ontological uniqueness, and topicality. This topic is also worth investigating in relation to the gesture / sign interface (especially on different dimensions of meaning and expressiveness).
3. Expletiveness and expressive Speech Acts. While syntactic expletives do not affect the truth-conditions of propositions by definition, recent works on semantic expletive elements have systematically remarked the existence of special meaning nuances associated with the use of expletives (Delfitto et al. 2019; Greco et al. 2018; Tsiakmakis and Espinal 2022). This topic raises several theoretical questions: Are expletives always linked to an expressive meaning? Can this expressive meaning be accounted for with a commitment-based semantics approach? Which functional elements are more prone to become expletives?
Delfitto, D., Melloni, C., & Vender, M. (2019). The (en)rich(ed) meaning of expletive negation. Evolutionary Linguistic Theory, 1(1), 57–89.
Geurts, B. (2018). Convention and common ground. Mind and Language, 33(2), 115–129.
Geurts, B. (2019). Communication as commitment sharing: speech acts, implicatures, common ground. Theoretical Linguistics, 45(1–2), 1–30–1–30.
Geurts, B. (2022). Evolutionary pragmatics: From chimp-style communication to human discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 200, 24–34.
Greco, C., Haegeman, L., & Phan, T. (2018). Expletives and speaker-related meaning. In M. Sheehan & L. Bailey (Eds.), Order and structure in syntax II: Subjecthood and argument structure (pp. 69–93). Berlin: Language Science Press.
Gutzmann, D., & Gaertner, H.-M. (2013). Beyond Expressives: Explorations in Use-Conditional Meaning. (D. Gutzmann, Ed.). Brill Academic Publishers.
Krifka, M. (2001). Quantifying into question acts. Natural Language Semantics, 9(1), 1–40.
Krifka, M. (2015a). Bias in commitment space semantics: Declarative questions, negated quetions, and question tags. In Proceedings of SALT (Vol. 25, pp. 328–345).
Krifka, M. (2015b). For a structured meaning account of questions and answers. In C. Féry & W. Sternefeld (Eds.), Audiatur Vox Sapientia. A Festschrift for Arnim von Stechow (pp. 287–319). De Gruyter.
Krifka, M. (2018). Imperatives in Commitment Spaces : Conjunction , Disjunction , Negation and Implicit Modality.
Krifka, M. (2019). Commitments and beyond. Theoretical Linguistics, 45(1–2), 73–91.
Krifka, M. (2021). Layers of Assertive Clauses: Propositions, judgements, commitments, acts. In J. M. Hartmann & A. Wöllstein (Eds.), Propositionale Argumente im Sprachvergleich: Theorie und Empirier. /Propositional Arguments in Cross-Linguistic Research: Theoretical and Empirical Issues. (pp. 1–42). Gunter Narr Verlag.
Potts, C. (2005). The Logic of Conventional Implicatures. The Logic of Conventional Implicatures. Oxford University Press.
Potts, C. (2007). The expressive dimension. Theoretical Linguistics, 33(2), 165–198–165–198.
Seres, D. (2020). The Expression of Genericity in Languages with and without Articles (PhD dissertation). Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Seres, D., & Borik, O. (2021). Definiteness in the absence of uniqueness: The case of Russian. In Advances in formal Slavic linguistics 2018 (pp. 339–363).
Seres, D., Borràs-Comes, J., & Espinal, M. T. (2021). Uniqueness in languages with and without articles: Catalan vs Russian. Beyond Philology An International Journal of Linguistics, Literary Studies and English Language Teaching, 18(3), 163–195.
Seres, D., Borràs-Comes, J., & Espinal, M. T. (2023). Bridging Inferences and Reference Management: Evidence from an Experimental Investigation in Catalan and Russian. Language and Speech.
Šimík, R., & Demian, C. (2020). Definiteness, uniqueness, and maximality in languages with and without articles. Journal of Semantics, 37(3), 311–366.
Tsiakmakis, E., & Espinal, M. T. (2022). Expletiveness in grammar and beyond. Glossa (Vol. 7).
Wiltschko, M. (2017). Beyond English Sentences. Theoretical Linguistics, 43(3–4), 271–283–271–283.
Wiltschko, M. (2021). The Grammar of Interactional Language. The Grammar of Interactional Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Funded by the project grant The Interpretation of Functional Categories II: Expressive Meanings and Meaning Hierarchies (INTERCAT II- PID2020-112801GB-I00) from the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación.

Submission instructions:

Abstracts for talks or posters should be anonymous and no longer than two A4 pages, including references and examples, with 2.5 cm margins, font size 12, single-spaced. The file should be anonymous both in the body of the text and in the filename. At most two submissions per (co-)author are allowed and only one may be single-authored. Once accepted it will not be possible to introduce changes in authorship after submission. Accepted oral presentations will be 20 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

Submissions open: Oct. 15, 2023 - Jan. 31, 2024

Abstract review period: Feb. 1, 2024 - Feb. 18, 2024

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