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Linguistics Colloquium: Angelika Kratzer (UMass)

MAY 01, 2014 | 4:15 PM TO 6:15 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




May 01, 2014: 4:15 PM-6:15 PM




Speaker: Angelika Kratzer (UMass)

Title: The Semantics of Embedding

The syntactic shape of a sentential complement has a systematic influence on the meaning of embedding constructions. Sentences (1) to (8) are representative examples:
(1) I saw her jump over the fence.
(2) I saw that she jumped over the fence.
(3) I can’t see her jumping over the fence.
(4) I saw how she jumped over the fence.
(5) I saw who jumped over the fence.
(6) She was seen to enter the corral.
(7) She was seen to have entered the corral.
(8) She was seen to have enough power and strength to do such things.
In the best of all possible worlds, the meaning differences illustrated in (1) to (8) can be derived from the meanings of the complements, and the meanings of the complements can be derived from the semantic properties of smaller or larger segments of the verbal projection spine. Is that our world?
In my talk, I will try to make progress towards answering that question. In standard semantics textbooks, verbs embedding sentential complements (attitude verbs, verbs of speech, and so on) are treated as modal operators introducing quantification over possible worlds. I will point out a number of serious problems with this analysis and argue that the modal semantics of embedding constructions doesn't come from the embedding verb, but from various types of modal elements located in the left periphery of embedded
sentences: complementizers, mood, apparently redundant modal auxiliaries, and what have you.