Olga Borik: The semantics of nominal reference

The course provides an overview of empirical and theoretical issues related to referential expressions: on the one hand, we will look at the most important linguistic means to express referential properties of nouns, e.g., articles, demonstratives, indefinite markers, etc.  On the other hand, we will examine most prominent tools in the formal semantic inventory used to capture nominal reference, e.g. types of referential expressions and type shifting operations. We will restrict our discussion to referential (as opposed to quantificational) nominal arguments (as opposed to predicates), and look at typologically different languages like English, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, Mandarin and some other. We will further examine the role of bare nominal arguments cross-linguistically and explore their role in assessing the explanatory power of formal semantic theories of nominal reference, of which we particularly explore the so-called kind approach, based on Carlson (1977) and subsequent work. Time permitting, we will briefly discuss weak referentiality (e.g., weak definiteness and pseudo-incorporation).

Crucial references for this course include:

Chierchia, G. 1998. Reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language Semantics 6(4). 339–405. DOI: 10.1023/a:1008324218506.

Dayal, V. (2004). Number marking and (in) definiteness in kind terms. Linguistics and philosophy27(4), 393-450.

Krifka, M. (2004). Bare NPs: kind-referring, indefinites, both, or neither?. In Semantics and linguistic theory (Vol. 13, pp. 180-203).

Partee, B. (1987). Noun Phrase Interpretation and Type-shifting Principle’, in Groenedijk and Stokhof (eds.), Studies in Discourse Representation Theory and the Theory of Generalized Quantifiers, GRASS 8, Foris, Dordrecht