Author: Stefan Kaufmann

Meeting on 09/10: Muyi Yang

The Meaning Group will meet on Friday, September 10, 1:15-2:15pm, in Oak 338. Our own Muyi Yang will present her work on Japanese nara-conditionals.

Sensitive to future: the discourse dynamics of Japanese nara-conditionals

This study investigates the felicity condition of Japanese nara-conditionals. It has been observed that such conditionals require discourse-saliency in the sense that the antecedent “always expresses new information that has just entered the consciousness of the speaker at the discourse site” (Akatsuka 1985: 628). Based on novel observations about the sensitivity of nara to different types of preceding discourse moves (e.g., assertions, questions), I show that Akatsuka’s view is not fine-grained enough. I argue that nara-conditionals require that the antecedent be in some possible future context set provided by the actual context, and implement the idea in Farkas & Bruce’s (2010) Table model. The proposed account makes correct predictions for the interaction between nara-conditionals and (i) directive speech acts, (ii) contrastive strategy of question-answering, and (iii) evidentiality.

For online participation, contact Magdalena Kaufmann.

Workshop on conditionals

Jointly with collaborators in Japan, we are hosting a series of online presentations showcasing ongoing work on conditionals and related topics. This event is part of an ongoing collaboration sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science*. Presentations are spread out over several days in June, 2021. See the schedule on this webpage (subject to change). For login information or other details, please contact Magdalena Kaufmann or Stefan Kaufmann.

*Conditionals and topology – the origins of non-monotonicity, Grant No. 17K02699; Constructing a semantic theory of modal expressions without the concept of possible worlds – evidence from Japanese, Grant No. 20K00586; both Ikumi Imani, PI.



Talk of interest on 05/07: Sandro Zucchi

The UConn Logic Colloquium on Friday, 7 May 2021, at 10am EST (online) will feature Alessandro Zucchi (University Of Milan). Title, abstract and zoom information below.

Minimal Change Theories Of Conditionals: The Import-Export Law And Modus Ponens

Abstract: Stalnaker’s minimal change semantics for conditionals fails to support the import-export law according to which (a) and (b) are logically equivalent:

(a) if A then if B then C
(b) if A and B then C

However natural language conditionals seem to abide by the law. McGee (1985) outlines a minimal change semantics for conditionals that supports it. I argue that in fact the equivalence between (a) and (b) does not hold unrestrictedly and I suggest that the facts follow from the interaction between the semantics of conditionals and the ways suppositions may affect the context. I conclude by describing the consequences of my account for the issue of the validity of modus ponens.

Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 845 2665 9736
Passcode: 753658

Meeting on 04/23: Teru Mizuno

The Meaning Group will meet online on Friday, April 23, 1-2pm. Our own Teru Mizuno will be presenting his work:

Q-particles in embedded declaratives, mood, and clausal complementation

Abstract: ‘Q-particles’ are cross-linguistically attested functional items that play a role in forming questions, disjunctions and indefinites (Hagstrom 1998; Cable 2010; Uegaki 2018; a.o.). This study investigates the hitherto understudied phenomena in which the Japanese Q-particle ka appears in embedded declarative. It will be shown that those Q-particles, which I call `Modally Functioning Q-particles (MFQs)’, can appear only under a certain class of attitude predicates. I will argue that MFQs are syntactically  Mood heads, functioning as the exponents of the `unsettledness presupposition’. I propose a formal semantic account that captures their behavior and distribution, and consider the implications they bring to the theory of Q-particles, mood and clausal embedding.

Zoom information will be distributed by email and can be obtained from Stefan Kaufmann.

Talk of interest Friday, 4/9: Floris Roelofsen

The UConn Logic Colloquium will feature Floris Roelofsen (ILLC Amsterdam) on Friday, 9 April 2021, 10am EST. Title, abstract and zoom info below.

Interacting alternatives: referential indeterminacy and questions

Abstract: One of the major challenges involved in developing semantic theories is that many constructions in natural language given rise to alternatives. Different sources of alternatives have been identified—e.g., questions, indeterminacy, focus, scalarity—and have been investigated in quite some depth. Less attention, however, has been given so far to the question how these different kinds of alternatives interact. I will focus in this talk one one such interaction, namely between referential indeterminacy and questions. Several formal semantic frameworks have been developed to capture referential indeterminacy (dynamic semantics, alternative semantics) and the content of questions (e.g., alternative semantics, structured meanings, partition semantics, inquisitive semantics). I will report on ongoing work with Jakub Dotlacil, which aims to merge dynamic and inquisitive semantics in a principled way. I will present a basic system and suggest some potential applications and extensions.

Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 845 2665 9736
Passcode: 753658

Meeting on 02/26: Éno Agolli

The Meaning Group will meet online on February 26, 1-2pm. Éno Agolli will present his recent work.


Standardly, proper names are taken to be rigid designators, while definite descriptions are taken to be flaccid designators. This is due to the contrast between 1, which is unambiguously false, and 2, which can receive a true (de re) reading.

  1. Joe Biden might not have been Joe Biden.
  2. The President of the U.S. in 2021 might not have been the President of the U.S. in 2021.

However, the standard story has neglected the full range of data. The modal operators involved in these sentences are plausibly metaphysical. When we turn to epistemic modals, it seems that the equivalent constructions yield unambiguously false readings for both names and definite descriptions:

  1. Joe Biden might not be Joe Biden.
  2. The President of the U.S. in 2021 might not be the President of the U.S. in 2021.

To complicate the situation, sentences like 5 below show that at least some names cannot be rigid, for if all names were rigid, then the sentence should come out necessarily false, though it isn’t:

  1. Elon Musk might be Satoshi Nakamoto, but then (again) Elon musk might not be Satoshi Nakamoto.

In this presentation, I aim to offer a semantic story that accommodates all of these data. One such account exists (Ninan, 2019), but relies heavily on the dynamic semantics account of epistemic modality to yield the right predictions. I attempt a static account instead. The static account I favor requires two-dimensional semantics, but the true innovation consists in re-imagining how variables work in the semantic framework. I argue that the right predictions are delivered on the assumption that variables do not range over individuals, but rather over two dimensional individual concepts. Questions are raised as to the philosophical consequences of this formal move, quantification, and singular terms under iterated modalities.

Zoom information will be sent by email and can be obtained from Stefan Kaufmann.

Meeting on 02/19: Ahmad Jabbar

The Meaning Group will meet online on February 26, 1-2pm. Ahmad Jabbar will present his recent work on expressivist communication


At a level of idealization, we communicate with each other to find out what the world is like. Normative sentences (e.g. ‘Tax evasion is wrong’), Expressivists believe, are such that they don’t describe the world. A question (Q1) arises: what purpose does normative talk serve then? It seems like rational activity, and resembles descriptive talk; we assert normative claims, debate about them, etc. Recently, Perez-Carballo and Santorio (2016) have provided an answer to (Q1), which helps build a model of normative communication in analogy with the Stalnakerian model for descriptive communication. I present a few formal challenges for this approach.

Zoom information will be sent by email and can be obtained from Stefan Kaufmann.

Talk of interest on 12/04: Nadine Theiler (UConn)

The UConn Logic Colloquium will feature Nadine Theiler (UConn Linguistics Department) on Friday, 12/04/2020, at 2pm EST (online).

An Epistemic Bridge for Presupposition Projection in Questions

Semantic presuppositions are certain inferences associated with words or linguistic constructions. For example, if someone tells you that they “recently started doing yoga”, then this presupposes that they didn’t do yoga before.

A problem that has occupied semanticists for decades is how the presuppositions of a complex sentence can be computed from the presuppositions of its parts. Another way of putting this problem is, how do presuppositions project in various environments?

In this talk, I will discuss presupposition projection in one particular linguistic environment, namely in questions, arguing that it should be treated pragmatically. I will motivate a generalized version of Stalnaker’s bridge principle and show that it makes correct predictions for a range of different interrogative forms and different question uses.

Please contact Marcus Rossberg for log-in information.