• Crosslinguistic evidence for a strong statistical universal: Phonological neutralization targets word-ends over beginnings

      Wedel, Andrew B; Ussishkin, Adam; King, Adam; Univ Arizona (LINGUISTIC SOC AMER, 2019-12-04)
      We report a statistical test of a long-standing hypothesis in the literature: that phonological neutralization rules are more common at the ends of lexical domains than the beginnings (Houlihan 1975 et seq.). We collected descriptive grammars for an areally and genetically diverse set of fifty languages, identified all active phonological rules that target the edge of a lexical domain (root, stem, word, phrase or utterance), and further coded each rule for whether it was phonemically neutralizing, that is, able to create surface homophony. We find that such neutralizing rules are strongly, significantly less common at the beginning of lexical domains relative to ends, and that this pattern is strikingly consistent across all languages within the dataset. We show that this pattern is not an artifact of a tendency for syllable codas to be a target for phonological neutralization, nor is associated with a suffixing or prefixing preference. Consistent with previous accounts, we argue that this pattern may be ultimately based in the greater average information content of phonological categories early in the word, which itself is a consequence of incremental processing in lexical access.
    • Donkeys under Discussion

      Champollion, Lucas; Bumford, Dylan; Henderson, Robert; Univ Arizona, Dept Linguist (LINGUISTIC SOC AMER, 2019)
      Donkey sentences have existential and universal readings, but they are not often perceived as ambiguous. We extend the pragmatic theory of non-maximality in plural definites by Kriz (2016) to explain how hearers use Questions under Discussion to fix the interpretation of donkey sentences in context. We propose that the denotations of such sentences involve truth-value gaps - in certain scenarios the sentences are neither true nor false - and demonstrate that Kri's pragmatic theory fills these gaps to generate the standard judgments of the literature. Building on Muskens's (1996) Compositional Discourse Representation Theory and on ideas from supervaluation semantics, we define a general schema for dynamic quantification that delivers the required truth-value gaps. Given the independently motivated pragmatic theory of Kriz 2016, we argue that mixed readings of donkey sentences require neither plural information states, contra Brasoveanu 2008, 2010, nor error states, contra Champollion 2016, nor singular donkey pronouns with plural referents, contra Krifka 1996, Yoon 1996. We also show that the pragmatic account improves over alternatives like Kanazawa 1994 that attribute the readings of donkey sentences to the monotonicity properties of the embedding quantifier.
    • Expressive updates, much?

      Gutzmann, Daniel; Henderson, Robert; Univ Arizona (LINGUISTIC SOC AMER, 2019-03)
      This article investigates a novel use of much in a construction that has not yet been recognized in the theoretical literature-as in Angry, much?-which we dub 'expressive much'. Our primary proposal is that expressive much is a shunting operator in the sense of McCready 2010, which targets a gradable predicate and adds a speaker's evaluative attitude about the degree to which an individual stands out on the relevant scale. In particular, we argue that it does so in a way that allows it to perform an 'expressive question', which can be understood as a counterpart to a polar question, but in the expressive meaning dimension. In doing so, we present the first example of a shunting expression in English and provide, based on Gunlogson 2008, a new model of the discourse context that allows us to account for the different ways that expressive and nonexpressive content enters the common ground.*