Madeleine Butschety: Topics at the Syntax-Semantics Interface

We will mainly focus on four topics in this course: Quantifiers, polarity items, plurals, and complement anaphora. We will gain a thorough insight into the (formal) properties of quantificational determiners such as all, few, some, many, no; and explore scope ambiguities that these elements give rise to when they appear together with other scope-taking elements. The discussion on formal properties will then lead us to the next topic, polarity items, and in particular to the question as to why some natural language expressions like ever are felicitous only in some specific syntactic and semantic environments. Regarding plurals, we will see how reference to a plurality (and which) is marked in natural languages, and what kinds of plurals there are cross-linguistically. Moreover, we will briefly examine why some verbs such as gather, be a cute couple, be numerous are only compatible with subjects that denote a plurality (of individuals); in contrast to verbs like smile, believe (in something). Finally, we will see why 3rd person plural pronouns sometimes do not refer to the referent denoted by their antecedent (involving a quantificational determiner expression), but rather, to its complement — a phenomenon known as complement anaphora (CA). After a close look at the related puzzling data, we will discuss some of the approaches to CA from the literature.