The interaction of compositional semantics and event semantics

Abstract

Davidsonian event semantics is often taken to form an unhappy marriage with compositional semantics. For example, it has been claimed to be problematic for semantic accounts of quantification (Beaver and Condoravdi, in: Aloni et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the 16th Amsterdam Colloquium, 2007), for classical accounts of negation (Krifka, in: Bartsch et al. (eds.) Semantics and contextual expression, 1989), and for intersective accounts of verbal coordination (Lasersohn, in Plurality, conjunction and events, 1995). This paper shows that none of this is the case, once we abandon the idea that the event variable is bound at sentence level, and assume instead that verbs denote existential quantifiers over events. Quantificational arguments can then be given a semantic account, negation can be treated classically, and coordination can be modeled as intersection. The framework presented here is a natural choice for researchers and fieldworkers who wish to sketch a semantic analysis of a language without being forced to make commitments about the hierarchical order of arguments, the argument-adjunct distinction, the default scope of quantifiers, or the nature of negation and coordination.

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Correspondence to Lucas Champollion.

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A 30-minute video of a talk that summarizes and complements this paper is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21KxSsIceNg and has been posted as a supplemental material to this paper, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10988-014-9162-8. The video walks through the derivations in the paper by using the Lambda Calculator (Champollion et al. 2007). This software application has also been used to check the derivations for correctness and to generate the figures in this paper. Information on the calculator, as well as a basic version of the tool, is available at http://www.lambdacalculator.com. Please contact me via email at champoll@gmail.com for a more advanced version of the calculator, along with a file that implements the formal system and derivations presented here.

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Champollion, L. The interaction of compositional semantics and event semantics. Linguist and Philos 38, 31–66 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-014-9162-8

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Keywords

  • Event semantics
  • Thematic roles
  • Quantifiers
  • Negation
  • Coordination
  • Conjunction
  • For-adverbials