Projects

 

I am the PI of a project called VASTRUD (Variation in the structuring of discourse: the grammar of perspective, clause typing and common ground management) for the next 3 years (2019-2021). It is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MiCIU) and the Spanish Research Agency (AEI), with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER, EU), with reference PGC2018-096870-B-I00. Its team members are Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria and Nerea Madariaga (UPV/EHU), and it also includes Maia Duguine, Ricardo Etxepare and Aritz Irurtzun (IKER-CNRS) as collaborators, and Katherine Fraser, Aitor Lizardi and Laura Vela-Plo as PhD Students. Additionally, we have been granted a 4-year PhD fellowship to hire a student.
The purpose of VASTRUD is to explore the interface between grammar and discourse across three axes (cross-linguistic variation, diachronic change, and neuro-diversity). Discourse is the study ground of semantics viewed as the discipline that is concerned with how the utterances of interlocutors in conversation affect the body of shared commitments and beliefs. In parallel, through the analysis of an increasing number of under-represented languages and varieties, some syntacticians have proposed to incorporate not only information structure notions and sentential force specifications in the architecture of grammar, but also information regarding the epistemic state of the agents in conversation, the interpretive effect of prosody or instructions as encoded in speech acts. Along with this, population with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is characterized by having difficulties with pragmatics. However, not much is known about whether/how this impairment is linked to grammar. All this makes the syntax-discourse interface a critical domain to understand how languages vary (in the three axes).
The overarching goal of this project is to i) gain a better understanding of (the nature of) the elements that play a role in structuring discourse, and ii) to study how languages vary in their grammatical coding of discourse-related notions. Our study ground is thus not just the clause but rather more complex meaning units that can receive formal treatment, such as complex sentences and even larger portions of discourse, where notions such as rhetorical relations, the (old-new) status of the information that is conveyed, and the perspective of the discourse participants (speaker and addressee) are not only relevant, but also obey restrictions that can be scrutinized and modeled.

 

 

I was the PI of a project called MEAT (Interaction between Meaning Types) for 3 years and a halff (2016-2019). It was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Ref. FFI2015-66732-P, EUR. 23,716. MEAT counts with Laia Mayol and Berit Gehrke as its researchers, as well as Zoltan Zato and Katherine E. Fraser as PhD students. The general purpose of MEAT is to gain a better understanding of the linguistic mechanisms that underlie the interaction of content types (at-issue, implicated, presupposed) in the semantic composition of complex expressions of natural language. In order to do so, we aim to provide detailed and precise, formally and explanatorily-adequate analyses of the building blocks of linguistic expressions that fall within three main case studies, namely gradability and evaluativity (subjective and presupposed meaning components denoted by degree expressions), dispositionality (effort and willful readings in abilitative modals) and discourse structure (speech acts, rhetorical relations and information packaging). Our focus will be on the meanings that are not asserted but implicated or presupposed, and the way they interact with asserted meaning components. We aim to address research questions that concern three axes: compositionality (How do different meaning types interact across dimensions?), our theoretical framework (What is the most adequate model to represent such interaction?) and our methodology (How should we collect empirical evidence that provides crisp answers to the previous questions?). By taking into consideration both cross-linguistic and experimentally-collected data, and by remaining faithful to the broad theoretical framework of formal semantics, we hope to provide critical evidence that leads us to challenge or refine current formal models of the structure of discourse, as well as to increase and disseminate our scientific knowledge of natural language. For timely information about or scientific activities, please visit our blog at https://ffi2015meat.wordpress.com/.

 

 

I was the PI of a project called MOSCA (At the intersection of modification and scalarity: the semantic mapping of scale structure onto the interpretation of modifiers), Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Ref. FFI2012-34170, 2013-2016, EUR. 15,000. The MOSCA team includes Berit Gehrke (CNRS), Fabienne Martin (Universität Stuttgart), Galit Sassoon (Bar Ilan University) and myself. The topic of this project falls under the greater enterprise of understanding how lexical semantics and syntactic structure engage in determining the meaning of complex structures. MOSCA's object of study is modification, and its overall goal is to provide the truth- and felicity conditions of a series of modification constructions that are affected by scalarity in several ways. We will concentrate on how scalarity plays a role in the interpretation of gradable adjectives, intensifiers, adverbs that are sensitive to the scale structure of verbs, nominals with cumulative reference, or gradable constructions without apparent modification, such as exclamatives. With the aid of the formal apparatus of static and dynamic semantics we will undergo research that will consider cross-linguistic data from Romance, Germanic, Slavic and Semitic retrieved via introspection, corpora and experimental methods. We hope that this project will shed light not only on the compositional semantics of various modifiers and modifiees, but also on the properties of different kinds of scales as well as on the current debate regarding the at-issue content vs. projective content distinction. Success in achieving the goals of this project will yield both a better understanding of natural language and a refinement of the tests and tools that constitute our current methodology for the study of semantics and pragmatics.

 

 

Along with Laia Mayol (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Elizabeth A. Smith (Université du Québec à Montréal), I am involved in the project An experimentally-based theory of direct and indirect denial, which has been awarded a travel grant by the Euro-Xprag network from the European Science Foundation, EUR. 3,000. Our proposed project will delve more deeply into the question of what direct and indirect denials are actually tests of. We will conduct three studies in English, Spanish, and Catalan to see whether there are cross-linguistic differences with respect to the denials used or deemed felicitous. We will then revise and develop new theories of denial on the basis of our experimental results. Our proposed project will delve more deeply into the question of what direct and indirect denials are actually tests of. We will conduct each of three studies in English, Spanish, and Catalan to see whether there are cross-linguistic differences with respect to the denials used or deemed felicitous. We will then revise and develop new theories of denial on the basis of our experimental results. Click here for a longer summary of the proposal.