Definiteness, uniqueness, and maximality in languages with and without articles
Radek Šimík and Christoph Demian
To appear in Journal of Semantics
We report on experiments looking into the interpretation of definite descriptions in German (a language with articles) and bare NPs in Russian (a language without articles). By manipulating what we call definiteness correlates in Russian (grammatical number and - via word order and prosody - topicality), we address the question whether bare NPs can have the same semantics as definite descriptions (as is often assumed). Our answer is in the negative - definiteness correlates do not contribute uniqueness or maximality, as definite descriptions do.
Doubling unconditionals and relative sluicing [published version]
To appear in Natural Language Semantics
I show that what I call doubling unconditionals, illustrated by the Spanish [Venga quien venga], estaré contento `Whoever comes, I'll be satisfied', can be semantically brought in line with Rawlins' (2013) analysis of English unconditionals if one recognizes that (i) the part that follows the wh-word is a free relative and (ii) that this free relative is focused, giving rise to entity-type alternatives, which in turn give rise to a set of proposition-based semantics for the unconditional. I further hypothesize that standard (non-doubling) wh-based unconditionals could be derived from the doubling ones by the process of (focus movement plus) relative sluicing.
To appear in the Semantics Companion (Wiley-Blackwell, eds. Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann)
This is a survey article about the semantics of free relatives and ever free relatives. It contains a discussion of a previously unnoticed crosslinguistic variation in the semantics of ever free relatives.
Definiteness of bare NPs as a function of clausal position: A corpus study of Czech
Radek Šimík and Markéta Burianová
To appear in Proceedings of FASL 26
We give corpus evidence (i) that the effect of clausal position of bare NPs on their (in)definiteness is real and (ii) that what matters is absolute position (clause-initial vs. clause-final) rather than relative position to the verb (preverbal vs. postverbal). The strongest effect found is a restriction on clause-initial indefinite bare NPs (in line with Geist 2010), which are almost 5x less likely to occur as compared to the null hypothesis.
Inherent vs. accidental uniqueness in bare and demonstrative nominals
Under minor revision for Advances in formal Slavic linguistics 2018 (Berlin: Language Science Press)
A new semantics for bare NPs and demonstrative NPs. I argue that the traditional contrast between uniqueness vs. anaphoricity is not sufficient and that we need two types of uniqueness - what I call inherent and accidental uniqueness, whereby the latter subsumes anaphoricity.
Czech binominal každý 'each'
(Mojmír Dočekal & Radek Šimík)
To appear in Advances in formal Slavic linguistics 2018 (Berlin: Language Science Press)
A description and a PCDRT-based analysis of Czech binominal each and its interaction with collective predicates.
Ever free relatives crosslinguistically
Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22
In this paper I show that there are many languages that do not allow for so called modal (ignorance and/or indifference) readings of ever free relatives. On the other hand, so called non-modal (quasi-universal) readings are shown to be universally available. I further provide arguments that ever free relatives (of any kind) should be analyzed as (un)conditionals + donkey definites (a la Hirsch 2016).
Expression of information structure in West Slavic: Modeling the impact of prosodic and word-order factors [published version] [bibtex]
(Radek Šimík and Marta Wierzba)
We show that information structure-motivated word order alternations in Czech, Polish, and Slovak are largely due to phonological constraints (particularly *STRESS GIVEN) and only to a lesser extent due to word order-related constraints (particluarly GIVEN>NEW). Methodologically, the paper is based on gradient acceptability judgments and multiple regression, which allows us to evaluate whether generalizations like “given expressions precede new ones” or “given expressions lack stress” are empirically adequate in the languages under investigation - i.e., whether violations lead to a consistent decrease in acceptability - and to quantify the size of their respective effects.
The morphosyntax of exhaustive focus: A view from Awing (Grassfields Bantu) [published version] [bibtex]
(Henry Fominyam and Radek Šimík)
Natural Language & Linguistic Theory
In Awing, an exhaustively focused constituent is immediately preceded by the morpheme LE. Based on a detailed analysis of the language verbal morphosyntax and word order patterns, we argue that this morpheme occupies a left-peripheral head - what we call the “Exh” head, which is located between Agr and T. We further show that Closeness (see Büring & Hartmann 2001) is an important component of the Awing exhaustive focus construction.
Existential wh-constructions [published version] [bibtex]
Oxford bibliographies in linguistics
An annotated bibliography on existential wh-constructions, i.e., (non-headed) wh-constructions which are interpreted existentially. It contains references on modal existential wh-constructions, existential free relatives, modal possessive constructions, future wh-clauses, transparent free relatives, and relevant references on standard free relatives.
Stress shift, focus, and givenness in Czech [offprint] [bibtex]
(Lena Groeben, Radek Šimík, and Frank Kügler)
Proceedings of FASL 24
We propose a new experimentally supported generalization about stress shift in Czech, noting that stress shift to focus is more acceptable than stress shift merely away from a given element. In order to account for the generalization, we propose a new constraint relating stress and focus - the Stress Focus Rightmost constraint (a more specific version of the classical Stress Focus), which requires stress to be placed on the rightmost element of the focused constituent.
17 entries in Nový encyklopedický slovník češtiny. See the online version.
On pragmatic demonstratives: The case of pragmatic discourse anaphora in Czech [bibtex]
Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 20
I provide an analysis of Czech demonstratives which have an anaphoric capacity but fail to contribute any uniqueness implications. I argue that the two basic semantic components of demonstratives (relationality and uniqueness; Elbourne 2008) should be decomposed into two mutually independent heads. I suggest how the analysis could be extended to so called affective (emotive) demonstratives (Lakoff 1974).
On the semantics of Czech free relatives [bibtex]
Linguistica Brunensia 64/1: Festschrift for Petr Karlík
I show that Czech ever free relatives are very close to what one would expect from "dependent definites" (after Farkas' 1997 dependent indefinites; cf. Lauer 2009), i.e., definites whose denotation depends on/covaries with a variable bound by a clause-mate quantifier.
The role of givenness, presupposition, and prosody in Czech word order: An experimental study [bibtex]
(Radek Šimík and Marta Wierzba)
Semantics & Pragmatics 8:3
Based on acceptability judgment experiments, we argue for the following conclusions: (i) givenness is related to prosody in Czech (no stress on given constituents) and not to word order; (ii) givenness in Czech is independent of definiteness and existential presupposition; (iii) existential presupposition is related to word order in Czech (presupposed elements tend to precede non-presupposed ones).
Epistemic indefinites under epistemic modals in Czech [bibtex]
Proceedings of FDSL 10
I observe that epistemic -si indefinites in Czech are unacceptable under epistemic modals. I argue that the unacceptability results from a vacuous shift in the method of identification of the referent introduced by the indefinite (after Aloni & Port 2013). The shift produces a statement that is already entailed by the semantics of the epistemic modal (as analyzed by von Fintel & Gillies 2010).
Givenness and the position of the direct object in the Czech clause [bibtex]
(Radek Šimík, Marta Wierzba, and Beste Kamali)
Proceedings of FASL 22
We study the impact of givenness on the position of object with respect to subject, verb, and VP-modifying PP. Our two experiments yield the following results: (i) objects in all-new clauses are less acceptable in preverbal positions, (ii) given objects are free to occur anywhere except in the final position. We argue that condition that given objects not bear sentence stress is sufficient to model the latter finding. No given-before-new ordering requirement (e.g. Kučerová's work) is warranted.
Pronominal F-markers in Basaá [bibtex]
(Tim Leffel, Radek Šimík, and Marta Wierzba)
Proceedings of NELS 43
Based on data from the Bantu language Basaá, we explore the hypothesis that F(ocus)-markers should be represented as variables of sorts (Kratzer 1991, Wold 1996). The evidence for this hypothesis comes from the generalization that A-bar fronted constituents in Basaá are interpreted contrastively if and only if they are accompanied by what we call a left peripheral pronoun. We analyze this pronoun as the spell-out of an F-marker.
The PRO-wh connection in modal existential wh-constructions: An argument in favor of semantic control [published version] [bibtex]
Natural Language & Linguistic Theory
The argument provided comes from a strong parallelism between obligatorily controlled PRO and wh-expressions in MECs. It is revealed that PRO and wh-words form a natural class, to the exclusion of all other types of nominal expressions. This is then turned into an argument of treating PRO and wh-words essentially as logical lambda-operators, naturally leading to the property theory of control and, by transitivity, to a semantic (rather than syntactic) resolution of the control relation. It is also argued that at least one class of MECs (so called "control MECs") is selected by a complex predicate BE+FOR, where BE states the availability of its argument and FOR (a kind of applicative head) states that its argument profits from the event characterized by the MEC.
Modal existential wh-constructions as affordance descriptions [bibtex]
Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 17
In this paper I argue that modal existential wh-constructions (MECs) denote a special type of "eventive properties" which for some object x correspond to the set of events that x affords/makes possible. Hence, MECs are called affordance descriptions. It is shown that this approach has a range of welcome predictions, predicting the morphosyntactic shape of MECs, the kind of modality they exhibit, and even the distribution that they have.
Peeling, structural Case, and Czech retroactive infinitives [bibtex]
(Jakub Dotlačil and Radek Šimík)
Formal Desription of Slavic Languages: The Ninth Conference
We characterize a newly observed type of embedded infinitive in Czech which we call the "retroactive infinitive". From a distributional, semantic, and to some extent syntactic point of view, retroactive infinitives correspond to English retroactive nominals and gerunds. We argue that the syntactic behavior of retroactive infinitives supports the view that Dative can be a structural Case, that structural Dative is licensed higher than Accusative, and that so called "peeling" is the default mechanism of structural deficiency.
Quantificational properties of neg-wh items in Russian [bibtex]
(Natalia Kondrashova and Radek Šimík)
Proceedings of NELS 40
We provide a novel solution to a "persistent problem of Russian syntax" (Rappaport 1986), the syntax and semantics of the so-called ne-wh items. We argue that ne-wh items are non-canonical quantificational entities combining the syntax of unselective binding and the semantics of generalized quantification.
Teoreticko-metodologické výhledy současné lingvistiky
Answers to questions related to theoretical and methodological aspects of linguistics.
The property analysis of control constituents: An argument from modal existential wh-constructions
Selected Papers from SinFonIJA 3
This is an older version of the paper to appear in NLLT.
Semantics and pragmatics of indefinites:
Methodology for a synchronic and diachronic corpus study
(Ana Aguilar-Guevara, Maria Aloni, Angelika Port, Radek Šimík, Machteld de Vos, and Hedde Zeijlstra)
Proceedings of the workshop Beyond semantics: Corpus-based investigations of pragmatic and discourse phenomena
Interpretation of multiple interrogatives: An information structure
Proceedings of FASL 18
Hagstrom's (1998) semantics of (multiple) interrogatives is made information structure sensitive. The placement of the Q-particle, the main determinant of different kinds of multiple question readings in Hagstrom's account, is argued to be focus-sensitive. I show how three types of readings can be derived: standard pair list readings, "reciprocal" single pair readings (Who hit who?), and "default" single pair readings.
Free relatives at the interface
Structure preserved: Studies in syntax for Jan Koster
A squib arguing against the D+CP analysis of free relatives and in favor of a bare CP analysis. The definiteness/maximality is derived by a type-shifting rule applied at the interface. This derives the observation that free relatives are definite if they are finite and indefinite if they are non-finite.
Lambda abstrakce a neurčitá zájmena v úzkém a širokém ohnisku
Slovo a slovesnost 70
I explore the idea that lambda-abstraction is categorematic (lambdas have a semantic type) and that the wh-part of indefinite pronouns (such as `(some)where') is an instance of a lambda. The evidence comes from Czech, which gives us some reasons to believe that wh-based, indefinite pronouns cannot be interpreted in situ.
pronouns in modal existential wh-constructions
Proceedings of FASL 17
I argue that wh-words in Slavic modal existential wh-constructions ('I have with who to speak') lack standard operator properties (e.g. successive cyclic movement) and that they should be treated on a par with indefinite pronouns ('something'). Then I provide an analysis in terms of Hamblin semantics. I argue that the "matrix" verb ('have') is a modal that closes off the proliferation of Hamblin alternatives. It follows that the wh-indefinite scopes below modality.
syntax, semantics, and
pragmatics of the focus
particle to in Czech
Proceedings of FDSL 7
A paper about cleft-like focus constructions and wh-questions in Czech. The prominent role is played by the invariable demonstrative to, which is shown to be a morphological and semantic cousin of the definite article in the verbal/propositional domain.
modal existential wh-constructions as vP-level
Linguistics in the Netherlands 2008
This paper contains arguments that despite their superficial resemblance to embedded questions and free relatives, Czech modal existential wh-constructions are vPs rather than CPs. The paper is a syntactic counterpart to the more semantically oriented paper in the FASL 17 proceedings.
source of wh-morphology in questions and relative clauses
Proceedings of ConSOLE 15