Universiteit van Amsterdam


Institute for Logic, Language and Computation

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23 April 2015, Crosslinguistic semantics XLSX seminar, Yaron McNabb (UU)

Speaker: Yaron McNabb (UU)
Title: Cross-categorial intensification: semblance or identity?
Date: Thursday 23 April 2015
Time: 16:30-18:00
Location: Room 001 (MFR), Philosophy Department, Vendelstraat 8, Amsterdam (aka Vendelstraat 001)


Recent analyses of cross-categorial intensifiers, such as really and definitely, take their flexible semantic selectional restrictions and shared features of semantic contribution across unrelated languages as support for a uniform semantics, whereby these modifiers are universal quantifiers over contexts (McNabb 2012, Beltrama & Bochnak, forthcoming). However, Bylinina & Sudo (forthcoming) have raised concerns regarding the overgeneration of such analyses, for example in the case of quantifiers and in cases in which intensification is non-truth-conditional. Moreover, in most analyses, a systematic comparison between (non-degree) intensifiers within a language is absent, and so additional observations are missed regarding semantic and pragmatic properties of these expressions that aren't accounted for by the uniform analyses.

The goal of this talk is twofold: First, I propose a set of diagnostics I argue should be applied in any empirical investigation of intensification, illustrating it with several Hebrew intensifiers. These tests don't only evaluate the semantic versatility of the intensifiers in question but also examine the intensification effect on the discourse status of the proposition. Second, I argue that in addition to quantifying over contexts, similar intensifiers affect the management of propositions, namely in settling Questions Under Discussion (Ginzburg 1996, Roberts 1996 and Büring 2003) and participants' discourse commitments, and updating the common ground, couching my analysis in Farkas & Bruce's (2009) definitions of discourse components. The empirical and analytical picture that emerges questions the viability of a uniform semantics but support the idea of shared semantic components with different effects on the discursive context.

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