Projects in Previous Years

1st Semester 2008/09: Indefinites and Beyond

Maria Aloni, Katrin Schulz, Angelika Port
If you are interested in this project, please contact Maria and Katrin by e-mail.
Project Area. This is a logic and language project. It combines formal semantics with empirical research.
Description of the scientific framework. This project is situated in the VIDI project of Maria Aloni. Focusing on indefinite expressions the VIDI project tries to explain how pragmatic (Gricean) inferences can become part of literal meaning in historical processes of conventionalization. To this aim the project includes a number of synchronic and diachronic studies of indefinite words in various languages and develops formal models of their variation in meaning and use. At this stage we are focusing on the synchronic part, studying indefinite expressions in Italian, Spanish, German and Czech. The goal is to get, based on corpus work, a clear picture of the uses and readings of indefinite expressions in these languages. This empirical research serves as input for the development of a formal semantics of indefinite expressions. The objective of the theoretical work is to describe the observed interpretations and, hopefully, also explain the cross-linguistic variation.
Description of the project. The MoL project consists of two parts. One part is empirical work and involves a small corpus study on the diversity of uses and interpretations of one or two indefinite items in a particular language. The theoretical part of the project involves getting familiar with some central articles on the semantics of indefinites (Haspelmath 1997, Kratzer & Shimoyama 2002, Aloni 2002). The student is asked to verify theories proposed in the literature for the results of the corpus study. If the existing literature is not able to explain the data the student is encouraged to develop an improved proposal.