Welcome to the Meaning and Modality (M&M) Laboratory at Harvard Linguistics! We are interested in understanding the uniquely human capacity for language, especially the ability to convey abstract, infinite, specific meanings across a variety of modes for natural language, including both speech and sign. Our work spans the subfields of formal semantics, pragmatics, syntax, bilingualism, language acquisition, and psycholinguistics in an effort to understand the relationship between linguistic meaning, language mode, language development, and human cognition.
Multiple Wh-Questions in ASL: Focus movement and D-linking
Friday, March 30 | 10:30 am | 2 Arrow Street, Room 420 (Buzzer #427)
(Talk in ASL, with interpreters.)
Abstract: I discuss cross-linguistic strategies for the questioning of multiple wh-phrases, exemplified through the relationship between focus movement and D-linking. ASL exhibits an in-situ paradox, by which an object wh-phrase is allowed to remain in-situ in a single wh-question, but not in a multiple wh-question. I show that this in-situ paradox is related to rightward movement of the wh-phrase for focus and the inability of D-linked wh-phrases to undergo focus movement. Moreover, to understand why this is occurring, I argue that the mechanism of ‘unselective binding’ allows the wh-phrase to remain in-situ. These findings illustrate how ASL fits within the typological framework for the structure of wh-questions and how current theoretical approaches for wh-questions in the ASL research literature are not able to account for the in-situ paradox.
Abstract: Inspired by Schlenker’s (2003) seminal 'Plea for Monsters', linguists have been analyzing every occurrence of a shifted indexical by postulating a monstrous operator. I will show that Kaplan’s (1989) original strategy of explaining apparent shifting in terms of a quotational use/mention distinction offers a much more intuitive, parsimonious and empirically superior analysis of many of these phenomena. In this talk I focus on role shift in signed languages and free indirect discourse in literary narratives. The main ingredients of the formal analysis will be a semantics of direct quotation as event modification, and a pragmatic account of unquotation. On the empirical side I will discuss data from controlled elicitation tasks with DGS and NGT signers.