Syntax and Semantics

A new kind of epistemic indefinite

Virginia Dawson
2018

Tiwa (Tibeto-Burman; India) has two series of epistemic indefinites: one whose epistemic effects arise via an anti-singleton constraint similar to Spanish algúun (Alonso-Ovalle and Menéndez-Benito, 2010), and another, wide-scope indefinite whose epistemic effects must be derived differently. I propose that for these latter indefinites, ignorance arises not through domain constraints, but as a result of their choice functional nature through competition with other indefinites.

Articulated Definiteness without Articles

Peter Jenks
2018

While it lacks a definite article, Mandarin makes a principled distinction between unique and anaphoric definites: unique definites are realized with a bare noun, and anaphoric definites are realized with a demonstrative, except in subject position.

Clefts and anti-Superiority in Moken

Kenneth Baclawski Jr.
Peter Jenks
2016

We describe an extraction asymmetry in Moken that presents apparent Anti-Superiority effects. We then show that this asymmetry is not rooted in Superiority at all. Evidence from island effects is used to demonstrate that the left-dislocation of wh-phrases is not the result of wh-movement as standardly conceived. Furthermore, the same Anti-Superiority effect obtains for non-wh-phrases and clefts. At the same time, standard Superiority effects in Moken do arise in certain environments.

Color naming reflects both perceptual structure and communicative need

Noga Zaslavsky
Charles Kemp
Naftali Tishby
Terry Regier
2018

Gibson et al. (2017) argued that color naming is shaped by patterns of communicative need. In support of this claim, they showed that color naming systems across languages support more precise communication about warm colors than cool colors, and that the objects we talk about tend to be warm-colored rather than cool-colored. Here, we present new analyses that alter this picture. We show that greater communicative precision for warm than for cool colors, and greater communicative need, may both be explained by perceptual structure.

Efficient compression in color naming and its evolution

Noga Zaslavsky
Charles Kemp
Terry Regier
Naftali Tishby
2018

We derive a principled information-theoretic account of cross-language semantic variation. Specifically, we argue that languages efficiently compress ideas into words by optimizing the information bottleneck (IB) trade-off between the complexity and accuracy of the lexicon.