I work on lexical semantics (word meaning), compositional semantics (sentence meaning), and pragmatics (inferences drawn in context) from a rich empirical perspective, using corpus data and experiments. I am particularly interested in how our knowledge of the (physical, social) world affects our interpretation of language.
Which normally-transitive verbs appear without objects ("Alice ate __") to what extent, and why?
- Verbs describing routines facilitate object omission in English (Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 2020, ed. by Patrick Farrell)
- English verbs can omit their objects when they describe routines (manuscript, comments welcome, please email me for a copy)
- Verbs describing routines facilitate object omission (slides used for various talks, 2019-2020)
- Verbs describing routines facilitate object omission (poster from LSA 2020)
- What does it mean for an implicit object to be recoverable? (paper from Penn Linguistics Colloquium 37, 2013) -- old; superseded by the more recent papers
Which predicates are understood distributively (true of each member of a plural subject), nondistributively (true of a plural subject but not each member), or in both ways - and why?
- Distributivity: Debates, advances, questions (Introductory course at the European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information, August 2019, at the University of Latvia in Riga)
- Distributivity, lexical semantics, and world knowledge (2018 Stanford dissertation)
- Distributivity, lexical semantics, and world knowledge (slides used for various talks, 2018-2019)
- Using lexical semantics to predict the distributivity potential of verb phrases in a large dataset (Proceedings of Linguistic Evidence 2018)
- Deriving the distributivity potential of adjectives via measurement theory (Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 2018, ed. by Patrick Farrell)
- Exploring the relation between argument structure and distributivity (Proceedings of Berkeley Linguistics Society 43)
Mandarin 'yiwei' 以为 -- a negatively biased belief verb
This verb strongly suggests that the belief it embeds is false. Where does this sense of negative bias come from, semantically or pragmatically?
- Talk given at Semantics & Philosophy in Europe, December 2018
- The negatively biased Mandarin belief verb YIWEI (manuscript under revision; comments welcome)
Compounds (with Beth Levin and Dan Jurafsky)
Exactly how does world knowledge help us identify the relationship between the two words (head and modifier) in a compound like "water carafe" or "water spinach"? How does the nature of the referent (in particular, whether it is an artifact like "carafe" or a natural kind like "spinach") influence the head-modifier relationship?
Determiner + Adjective
How do we derive the two distinct uses of Det+Adjective, as in "the cute are given more attention by teachers" (cute people) vs. "the cute is the dominant aesthetic in Japan" (cuteness)?
- Adjectives relate individuals to states: Evidence from the two readings of English Determiner + Adjective (Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 2019)
- Deriving the two readings of English Determiner+Adjective (Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 18; superseded by Glossa paper)
Here are some photos of the "mass" reading of Determiner + Adjective in action! (A visual complement to the corpus data in my paper.)
- I mention these when I lecture about morphology, as well as language & advertising! (Why do advertisers like this construction so much?)
Corpora that I've created
- (with Nanjiang Jiang) - Distributivity Ratings Dataset (2338 VPs rated for their distributivity potential)
- Corpus of The Office, compiled from officequotes.net
- Corpus of user writings on 50 communities of Stack Exchange, each tagged with user reputation
- Corpus of scripts of all the Disney Princess films 1937--2013