Author: Stefan Kaufmann

Talk of interest on 03/31: Maria Aloni

Each year the UConn Logic Group chooses invites a distinguished “scholar of consequence” to deliver our Annual Logic Lecture. This year’s speaker is Maria Aloni (ILLC, University of Amsterdam). Her lecture will take place this Friday, March 31, 11am-1pm in ITE 336. This is an in-person event, but a zoom option will be available for those who cannot come (zoom link to be shared  by email).

Nothing is Logical

People often reason contrary to the prescriptions of classical logic. In the talk I will discuss some cases of divergence between everyday and logical-mathematical reasoning and propose that they are a consequence of a tendency in human cognition to neglect models which verify sentences by virtue of an empty configuration [neglect-zero tendency, Aloni 2022]. I will then introduce a bilateral state-based modal logic (BSML) which formally represents the neglect-zero tendency and can be used to rigorously study its impact on reasoning and interpretation. After discussing some of the applications, I will compare BSML with related systems (truthmaker semantics, possibility semantics, and inquisitive semantics) via translations into Modal Information Logic [van Benthem 2019].

Maria Aloni. Logic and conversation: The case of free choice, Semantics and Pragmatics, vol 15 (2022)
Johan van Benthem. Implicit and Explicit Stances in Logic, Journal of Philosophical Logic, vol 48, pages 571–601 (2019)

Seminar of interest on 03/30: Maria Aloni

Maria Aloni (ILLC, University of Amsterdam), the Logic Groups “scholar of consequence” this year, will make an appearance in the semantics seminar on Thursday, March 30, 9:30-12:15 in HBL 2153. The session will begin with a presentation and discussion of her work on (non-)specific indefinites (title and abstract below). The latter part of the session will be devoted to the topic of her Annual Logic Lecture the following day. This is a paper which was discussed in the seminar earlier in the semester. Contact the instructors, Jon Gajewski and Magdalena Kaufmann, for details.

(Non-)specificity across languages: constancy, variation, -variation – Maria Aloni and Marco Degano

Abstract: Indefinites are known to give rise to different scopal (specific vs nonspecific) and epistemic (known vs unknown) uses. Farkas and Brasoveanu [2020] explained these specificity distinctions in terms of stability vs. variability in value assignments of the variable introduced by the indefinite. Typological research [Haspelmath, 1997] showed that indefinites have different
functional distributions with respect to these uses. In this work, we present a formal framework where Farkas and Brasoveanu [2020]’s ideas are rigorously formalized. We develop a two-sorted team semantics which integrates both scope and epistemic effects. We apply the framework to explain typological variety of indefinites, their restricted distribution and licensing conditions, and some diachronic developments of indefinite forms.

D. Farkas and A. Brasoveanu. Kinds of (Non)Specificity. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, pages 1–26, 2020.
M. Haspelmath. Indefinite Pronouns. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Meeting on 03/02: Muyi Yang

The Meaning Group will meet on Thursday, March 2, 1:45-2:45 in Oak 338. Muyi Yang will present her new work. Title and abstract below. There will be an online option; for login instructions, see the email announcement or contact us.

Back to Boolean: Propositional conjunction in attitude ascriptions revisited

Abstract: Pluralities (i.e. sums of atomic objects) have been argued to be necessary for domains of a wide range of objects other than entities, such as predicates (Krifka 1990), worlds (Schlenker 2004) and propositions (Marty 2019 a.o.). This paper reexamines the view that propositions can be pluralized (Marty 2019, Schmitt 2019, 2020), and shows that this view runs into an overgeneration problem of propositions embedded under attitude predicates. Based on novel data of nominal and propositional conjunction in Japanese, I propose a solution based on a system without propositional pluralities.

Talk of interest on 02/24: Bar-Asher Siegal

The UConn Logic Colloquium will feature a talk on semantics by Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; currently Yale University) on Friday, February 24, 2pm. The talk will be in hybrid form.

Modeling Linguistic Causation

This talk introduces a systematic way of analyzing the semantics of causative linguistic expressions, and of how natural languages express causal relationships. For this purpose, I will employ the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) framework and demonstrate how this method offers a rigorous model-theoretic approach to examining the distinct semantics of causal expressions. This paper introduces formal logical definitions of different types of conditions using SEM networks, and illustrates how this proposal, along with its formal tools, can help to clarify the asymmetric entailment relationship among different causative constructions.


Talk of interest on 02/17: Stalnaker

The UConn Linguistics Colloquium on Friday, February 17, 4-6pm will feature Robert Stalnaker (MIT Philosophy). A few things:

  • Please fill out this form before this Wednesday if you decide to join the buffet after the talk
  • Title & Abstract of the talk (below)
  • Handout (we’ll also provide printed copies at the talk)
  • Zoom link (see the email announcement or contact the organizers)



My main concern in this talk will be about the relation between pragmatic and semantic elements in an analysis of ascription of belief and other propositional attitudes, with an eye on more general methodological issues concerning pragmatic explanations of linguistic phenomena.  My discussion will focus on two papers by Saul Kripke, one about the logical relation between de dicto and de re belief sentences (sentences of the form, ‘x believes that a is F’ and sentences of the form ‘x believes of a that it is F’ or ‘x believes a to be F’) and one that raises, but does not solve, a puzzle about de dicto beliefs about particular individuals.

Talk of interest on 09/16: Florio, Shapiro and Snyder

The UConn Logic Colloquium will feature a talk on language semantics by Salvatore Florio, Stewart Shapiro, and Eric Snyder on Friday, September 16, 11:45am. The talk will be in hybrid form.

Semantics and logic; logic and semantics

It is widely (but not universally) held that logical consequence is determined (at least in part) by the meanings of the logical terminology. One might think that this is an empirical claim that can be tested by the usual methods of linguistic semantics. Yet most philosophers who hold views about logic like this do not engage in empirical research to test the main thesis. Sometimes the thesis is just stated, without argument, and sometimes it is argued for on a priori grounds. Moreover, many linguistic studies of words like “or”, the conditional, and the quantifiers run directly contrary to the thesis in question.

From the other direction, much of the work in linguistic semantics uses logical symbols. For example, it is typical for a semanticist to write a biconditional, in a formal language, whose left hand side has a symbol for the meaning of an expression in natural language and whose right hand side is a formula consisting of lambda-terms and other symbols from standard logic works: quantifiers ∀, ∃ and connectives ¬, →, ∧, ∨, ↔. This enterprise thus seems to presuppose that readers already understand the formal logical symbols, and the semanticist uses this understanding to shed light on the meanings of expressions in natural language. This occurs even if the natural language expressions are natural language terms corresponding to the logical ones: “or”, “not”, “forall”, and the like.

The purpose of this talk is to explore the relation between logic and the practice of empirical semantics, hoping to shed light, in some way, on both enterprises.

Talk of interest on 03/11: Yimei Xiang (Rutgers)

The UConn Logic Colloquium will feature Yimei Xiang (Rutgers Linguistics) on Friday, March 11, 2:30-4:00pm. The talk will be held online. For login information, watch the email announcements or contact Stefan Kaufmann.

Relativized Exhaustivity: Mention-Some and Uniqueness

Wh-questions with the modal verb can admit both mention-some (MS) and mention-all (MA) answers. This paper argues that we should treat MS as a grammatical phenomenon, primarily determined by the grammar of the wh-interrogative. I assume that MS and MA answers can be modeled using the same definition of answerhood (Fox 2013) and attribute the MS/MA ambiguity to structural variations within the question nucleus. The variations are: (i) the scope ambiguity of the higher-order wh-trace, and (ii) the absence/presence of an anti-exhaustification operator. However, treating MS answers as complete answers in this way contradicts the widely adopted analysis of uniqueness effects in questions of Dayal 1996, according to which the uniqueness effects of singular which-phrases arise from an exhaustivity presupposition, namely that a question must have a unique exhaustive true answer. To solve this dilemma, I propose that question interpretations presuppose ‘Relativized Exhaustivity’: roughly, the exhaustivity in questions is evaluated relative to the accessible worlds as opposed to the anchor/utterance world. Relativized Exhaustivity preserves the merits of Dayal’s exhaustivity presupposition while permitting MS; moreover, it explains the local-uniqueness effects in modalized singular wh-questions.

The speaker also has a relevant manuscript on Lingbuzz: