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Recent manuscripts and presentations

Quantity superlatives in Germanic, or, Life on the fault line between adjective and determiner
Elizabeth Coppock · submitted to Journal of Germanic Linguistics

Abstract: This paper concerns the superlative forms of the words many, much, few, and little, and their equivalents in other Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dalecarlian, Icelandic, and Faroese). It demonstrates that every possible relationship between definiteness and interpretation is attested. It also demonstrates that agreement mismatches are found with relative readings and with proportional readings, but different kinds of agreement mismatches in each case. One consistent pattern is that a quantity superlative with adverbial morphology and neuter singular agreement features is used with relative superlatives. On the other hand, quantity superlatives with proportional readings always agree in number. I conclude that quantity superlatives are not structurally analogous to quality superlatives on either relative or proportional readings, but they depart from a plain attributive structure in different ways. On relative readings they can be akin to pseudopartitives (as in a cup of tea), while proportional readings are more closely related to partitives (as in a piece of the cake). More specifically, I suggest that the agreement features of a superlative exhibits depend on the domain from which the target is drawn (the target-domain hypothesis). When the target is a degree, as it is with adverbial superlatives and certain relative superlatives, default neuter singular emerges. Definiteness there is driven by the same process that drives definiteness with adverbial superlatives. With proportional readings, the target argument of the superlative is a subpart or subset of the domain indicated by the substance noun, hence number agreement. Subtle aspects of how the comparison class and the superlative marker are construed determine definiteness for proportional readings.

Paper (PDF)

Why possessives should not be discussed at this conference
David Beaver and Elizabeth Coppock · presented at Definiteness Across Languages, Mexico City, June 2016

Abstract: Schoorlemmer (1998) makes the following generalization: adjectival possessives (in e.g. Italian) can be either definite or indefinite, but determiner-like possessives (in e.g. English) are always definite. Many others have argued for definiteness of determiner-like possessive constructions. Partee & Borschev (2003) say the prenominal genitive in English seems to combine the basic genitive [the post-nominal form] with an implicit definite article, while Vikner & Jensen (2002) argue that a possessive behaves as if it had an implicit definite article]. On the other hand, Haspelmath (1999) and Peters & Westerstĺhl (2013) argue against inherent definiteness of determiner-like possessives. We will support this latter position, which points towards a uniform analysis of determiner-like and adjectival possessives. Specifically, we suggest that the cross-linguistic data motivating Schoorlemmer's generalization can be explained without positing inherent definiteness of possessives, using the framework introduced by Coppock and Beaver (2015).

Slides (PDF)

Most vs. the most in languages where the more means most
Elizabeth Coppock and Linnea Strand · presented at Definiteness Across Languages, Mexico City, June 2016

Abstract: Previous work has shown that definiteness-marking has different effects on the interpretation of quantity superlatives across languages (e.g. Hackl 2009, Coppock & Josefson 2015). Here, we extend the discussion to languages where a superlative interpretation is typically indicated merely by a combination of a definiteness marker with a comparative marker, including French, Spanish, Romanian, Greek, and Irish (`def+comp languages'). We present data from a cross-linguistic survey showing that despite their fundamental similarity with respect to how superlatives are formed, def+comp languages use different strategies to express the equivalents of English (the) most/least/fewest. We propose to account for the variation on the basis of two main parameters: (i) availability of a `partition strategy' for constructing a comparison class, and (ii) contextual vs. compositional saturation of the association relation argument of the superlative morpheme.

Slides (PDF)

Outlook-Based Semantics
Elizabeth Coppock · manuscript under review for Linguistics and Philosophy

Abstract: This paper presents and advocates an approach to the semantics of opinion statements, including matters of personal taste, where possible worlds are not complemented by judges (as in 'world-judge relativism') but rather replaced by outlooks: 'outlook-based semantics'. Outlooks are refinements of worlds that settle not only matters of fact but also matters of opinion. Several virtues of the framework and advantages over world-judge relativism are demonstrated in this paper. First, several authors have argued that world-judge relativism does not actually explain the 'disagreement' of 'faultless disagreement'. Outlook-based semantics straightforwardly does. Second, outlook-based semantics gives a satisfactory account of subjective attitude verbs and unproblematically allows for lack of opinionatedness. Third, outlook-based semantics unproblematically explains the connection-building role of aesthetic discourse and the group-relevance of discretionary assertions, while capturing the same effects in world-judge relativism obviates the purpose of the judge parameter. Finally, outlook-based semantics is structurally similar to the standard Kaplanian story, which makes the framework easy to use and extend.

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To appear

Absolut superlativ i samtida sprĺkbruk
Elisabet Engdahl and Elizabeth Coppock · Sprĺk och stil

Abstract: In this article we report on a corpus study of elative superlatives in contemporary Swedish. Elative superlatives differ from ordinary superlatives in that no direct comparison with other referents is involved. Instead a referent is said to have the property expressed by the adjective to a very high degree. In Swedish, elative superlatives are formally distinct from ordinary superlatives (they lack the post-nominal clitic article) which means that they can be found in corpus searches. We show that elative superlatives have expressive function and are typically used in emphatic assertions which are intended to make the strongest possible claim in a given situation. Elative superlatives are used in all grammatical functions but with slightly different implicational properties. Contrary to what has been assumed, elative superlatives are not limited to fixed expressions and formal written language. Creative uses abound in blog texts and sports commentaries.

Pre-final version [in Swedish]

Clefts: Quite the contrary!
Emilie Destruel, David Beaver and Elizabeth Coppock · Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Edinburgh, September 2016

Abstract: We give experimental evidence for the hypothesis that clefts are more felicitous when used to correct an incorrect belief on the part of the interlocutor.

Proceedings preprint

Implicatures of modified numerals: Quality or quantity?
Ivano Ciardelli, Elizabeth Coppock, and Floris Roelofsen · Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Edinburgh, September 2016

Abstract: We propose a new analysis of modified numerals that allows us to: (i) predict ignorance with respect to the prejacent of at least (and thereby avoid to Bernard Schwarz's recent criticism of Coppock and Brochhagen 2013), (ii) get a three-way contrast between superlative modifiers, comparative modifiers, and numerals, without appeal to a two-sided analysis of numerals, and (iii) avoid the prediction that at least should produce quantity implciatures when only is not a grammatical alternative. With it, we reconcile Westera and Brasoveanu's (2014) findings with the achievements of the Coppock and Brochhagen account, bring that work in line with recent theorizing in inquisitive semantics using downward-closed possibilities, and show that inquisitive sincerity can interact with Horn-based quantity in a non-trivial way, something that may be fruitful to consider in other domains as well.

Proceedings preprint

The proper treatment of egophoricity in Kathmandu Newari
Elizabeth Coppock and Stephen Wechsler · to appear in Expressing the Self: Cultural Diversity and Cognitive Universals (OUP)

Abstract: We develop a theory of so-called 'conjunct-disjunct marking', also known as 'egophoricity', in Kathmandu Newari. The signature pattern of egophoricity looks a bit like person agreement: In declaratives, there is a special marker that goes on first person verbs, but not second or third person (e.g. 'I drank-EGO too much'). But in interrogatives, the same marker goes on second person (e.g. 'Did you-EGO drink too much?'). This is called interrogative flip. Egophoric marking also interacts interestingly with the presence of evidential markers, and comes with an implication of knowing self-reference (emphasized in Newari by a restriction to volitional action). Our paper discusses two previous approaches, which we label indexical and evidential, and motivate our account, which we label egophoric. Along the way, we develop a theory of how de se attitudes are communicated.

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Superlative modifiers as modified superlatives
Elizabeth Coppock · SALT 26 proceedings

Abstract: The superlative modifiers at least and at most are quite famous, but their cousins at best, at the latest, at the highest, etc., are less well-known. This paper is devoted to the entire family. New data is presented illustrating the productivity of the pattern, identifying a generalization delimiting it, and showing that the cousins, too, have the pragmatic effects that have attracted so much attention to at least and at most. To capture the productivity, I present a new decomposition of at least into recombinable parts. Most notable is the at-component (silent in some languages), which takes advantage of the comparison class argument of the superlative to produce the set of possibilities involved in the ignorance implicatures that superlative modifiers are known for. A side-effect is a new view on gradable predicates, accounting for uses like 88 degrees is too hot.

Paper (PDF) to appear in Proceedings of SALT 26, pp. 471-488

Sophisms and insolubles
Mikko Yrjönsuuri and Elizabeth Coppock · Cambridge Companion to Medieval Logic, CUP

Abstract: Just prior to the spread of universities across Europe in the fourteenth century, a systematic method for training the minds of young future leaders to think rationally began to crystallize through the practice of logical disputations. In fourteenth-century Oxford, before earning a Bachelor of Arts, a student was required to earn the title of sophista generalis. As such, he was allowed to participate in structured disputations involving a respondent and an opponent, and would have learned the art of considering a sentence called a sophism (Latin sophisma) against a hypothetical scenario or given set of assumptions, called a casus in Latin. Typically, it was not trivial to decide whether the sentence was true or false, and arguments could be made on both sides. Sophisms thus presented a puzzle to be solved. This paper gives an overview of the topics dealt with in the sophism literature, including the interpretation of so-called 'syncategorematic' terms such as every and only, semantic paradoxes including the liar paradox ('insolubles'), mathematical physics, and questions related to knowledge and belief. The paper also discusses comparisons between this medieval enterprise and modern formal semantics vis-a-vis the treatment of presupposition, the distinction between object language and representation language, and proof-theoretic semantics.

View at Cambridge University Press | Download PDF manuscript

Novelty and familiarity for free
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · Amsterdam Colloquium 2015

Abstract: We argue that a uniqueness-based theory of definiteness gives you novelty/familiarity for free, as long as you have some way of tracking discourse referents, and some way of restricting descriptions to the property of identity with a referent. The rest is pragmatics.

Slides (PDF) and Proceedings paper

Quasi-Definites in Swedish: Elative Superlatives and Emphatic Assertion
Elizabeth Coppock and Elisabet Engdahl · Natural Language and Linguistic Theory

Abstract: This paper analyzes nominal phrases in Swedish with a definite article but no definite suffix on the head noun, which we call quasi-definites (e.g. det största intresse 'the greatest interest'). These diverge from the usual 'double definiteness' pattern where the article and the suffix co-occur (e.g. det största intresse-t 'the greatest interest-def'). We give several diagnostics showing that this pattern arises only with superlatives on an elative ('to a very high degree') interpretation, and that quasi-definites behave semantically as indefinites, although they have limited scope options and are resistant to polarity reversals. Rather than treating the article and the suffix as marking different aspects of definiteness, we propose that both are markers of uniqueness and that the definite article functions within the adjectival phrase and combines with a predicate of degrees rather than individuals in this construction. The reason that quasi-definites do not behave precisely as ordinary indefinites has to do with their pragmatics: Like emphatic negative polarity items, elative superlatives require that the assertion be stronger (approximately more surprising) than alternatives formed by replacing the highest degree with lower degrees, and have a preference for entailment scales.

NLLT (online first) | Download PDF


Definiteness and Determinacy
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · Linguistics and Philosophy

Abstract: This paper distinguishes between definiteness and determinacy. Definiteness is seen as a morphological category which, in English, marks a (weak) uniqueness presupposition, while determinacy consists in denoting an individual. Definite descriptions are argued to be fundamentally predicative, presupposing uniqueness but not existence, and to acquire existential import through general type-shifting operations that apply not only to definites, but also indefinites and possessives. Through these shifts, argumental definite descriptions may become either determinate (and thus denote an individual) or indeterminate (functioning as an existential quantifier). The latter option is observed in examples like "Anna didn't give the only invited talk at the conference", which, on its indeterminate reading, implies that there is nothing in the extension of "only invited talk at the conference". The paper also offers a resolution of the issue of whether possessives are inherently indefinite or definite, suggesting that, like indefinites, they do not mark definiteness lexically, but like definites, they typically yield determinate readings due to a general preference for the shifting operation that produces them.

Download PDF (open access!) Linguistics and Philosophy 38(5), pp. 377-435

Completely Bare Swedish Superlatives
Elizabeth Coppock and Christian Josefson · Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 2014

Abstract: This paper shows that Swedish differs from both German and English with respect to the distribution and interpretation of definiteness-marking on superlatives: Bare degree and amount superlatives unambiguously receive a relative interpretation, definite-marked amount superlatives are unambiguously 'proportional' (although they do not always carry a 'more than half' interpretation), and definite-marked degree superlatives can have an absolute or a relative reading. We show that an analysis based on movement of the superlative morpheme accounts well for the Swedish pattern but does not provide the tools for a cross-linguistically valid framework, failing in particular to account well for relative readings in conjunction with definiteness-marking. We therefore propose an alternative, non-movement approach building on a very recent treatment of the superlative morpheme, giving it access to a contrast set and an association relation. The crucial difference between Swedish on the one hand and English and German on the other hand is proposed to lie in whether the association relation is saturated through semantic composition or by context.

Download PDF | Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 2014

Minimal Sufficiency Readings in Conditionals
Elizabeth Coppock and Anna Lindahl · Texas Linguistics Society 15

Abstract: We discuss minimal sufficiency readings of exclusives like just, as in Just the thought of him sends shivers down my spine, which does not mean the same thing as Only the thought of him sends shivers down my spine. We provide a set of diagnostics for identifying minimal sufficiency readings in conditionals and in simple clauses, and identify a generalization as to where the latter type appear: only in arguments that have a 'causer' thematic role. For this reason, we see minimal sufficiency readings in conditionals as basic, and provide an analysis of them building on Kratzer's notion of a modal base.

Download PDF | Proceedings of the 15th Texas Linguistic Society, edited by Christopher Brown, Qianping Gu, Cornelia Loos, Jason Mielens, and Grace Neveu, pp. 24-38.

Truth Value Judgments vs. Validity Judgments
Elizabeth Coppock · Texas Linguistics Society 15

Abstract: This paper undertakes a direct comparison between two methodologies for getting at semantic intuitions: (i) validity judgments, where subjects judge the validity of arguments, e.g. There are three bananas; therefore there are at least three bananas, and (ii) picture verification tasks (also known as `truth judgment tasks'), in which one sees a picture of three bananas and judges a statement like There are at least three bananas. It has been suggested that validity judgment tasks are more sensitive to ignorance implicatures than picture verification tasks, but these two methods have not been compared directly using comparable stimuli. The present work aims to close that gap. The results show that validity judgment tasks do not in fact robustly pick up on ignorance implicatures, so they cannot be relied upon for that, although both validity judgment tasks and truth value judgment tasks are sensitive to violations of particularly strong pragmatic requirements. In general, the two kinds of tasks gave quite similar results. This raises the question why validity judgment tasks sometimes pick up on ignorance implicatures and sometimes do not.

Download PDF | Proceedings of the 15th Texas Linguistic Society, edited by Christopher Brown, Qianping Gu, Cornelia Loos, Jason Mielens, and Grace Neveu, pp. 39-52.


A Superlative Argument for a Minimal Theory of Definiteness
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · SALT 24

Abstract: This paper argues that the distinction between absolute and relative readings of superlatives supports a distinction between definiteness and determinacy. Previous work has suggested that definite superlative noun phrases like "the fewest letters" in "Gloria received the fewest letters" (relative superlative DPs) are semantically indefinite. This paper argues that such DPs are definite (presupposing uniqueness) but not determinate (denoting an individual). We provide new evidence that they are not determinate, and undertake a critical review of the evidence that has previously been used to argue for their indefiniteness, arguing that it is consistent with the hypothesis that they are definite. We argue furthermore that a movement analysis of relative superlatives is not consistent with a treatment of the determiner as definite. We therefore offer an analysis of relative superlative DPs on which they are definite but indeterminate, and the superlative morpheme is interpreted in situ.

Download PDF | In Todd Snider (ed.), Proceedings of SALT 24 177-196

Review of Paul Elbourne's Definite Descriptions
Elizabeth Coppock · Nordic Journal of Linguistics

Abstract: Elbourne's book sets a new standard for the analysis of definite descriptions, meeting an impressive set of subtle targets. But the theory of partiality and presupposition needs some work, and certain ideas were too hastily dismissed, including dynamic semantics and the notion that definite descriptions are basically predicative.

Download PDF | Nordic Journal of Linguistics 37(1): 112-120

Principles of the Exclusive Muddle
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · Journal of Semantics

Abstract: The words only, just, exclusively, merely, purely, solely, simply, adjectival only, sole, pure, exclusive, and alone are members of a unified class -- the class of exclusives -- in a sense that this paper makes precise. The most famous representative of this class is only, for which at least 27 distinct lexical entries have been given. This paper situates only in the context of its lexical relatives in English, accounting for a number of equivalences and non-equivalences between sentences involving only and ones involving other exclusives. We propose that what unifies the words mentioned above is that they concern an upper bound on the viable answers to the current question under discussion, and signal that a lower bound on them is taken for granted. These two criteria are encapsulated in a lexical entry schema for exclusives, which accommodates two main points of variation: semantic type (within the class of modifiers), and constraints on the current question under discussion. We propose 17 different specific instantiations of the schema for the exclusives listed above.

Download PDF | Journal of Semantics 31(3): 371-432


Raising and Resolving Issues with Scalar Modifiers
Elizabeth Coppock and Thomas Brochhagen · Semantics and Pragmatics

Abstract: This paper argues that the superlative modifiers at least and at most signal lower and upper bounds, respectively, on the true answers to the question under discussion (QUD), and that they are inquisitive. Paired with an analysis of only on which it presupposes a lower bound on the QUD and asserts an upper bound on the QUD, our analysis of superlative modifiers yields a unified picture of these scalar items, and accounts for the connection between them. This analysis also successfully accounts for their truth conditions, focus-sensitivity, distribution, and interaction with modals. Analyzing at least and at most as inquisitive in the inquisitive semantics sense yields a satisfactory account of the fact that, in contrast to corresponding sentences without such items, they do not give rise to quantity implicatures, and yet they do give rise to ignorance implicatures, in contrast to comparatives. Superlative modifiers thus both depend on the QUD for their interpretation, and raise issues for discussion.

Download PDF | Semantics and Pragmatics Volume 6, Article 3, pp. 1--57. 2013.

Diagnosing Truth, Interactive Sincerity, and Depictive Sincerity
Elizabeth Coppock and Thomas Brochhagen · SALT 23

Abstract: This paper presents experimental evidence from picture-verification tasks that the superlative modifiers at least and at most give rise to an ignorance implicature, rather than signalling ignorance as an entailment. More surprisingly, this paper reports on heretofore unnoticed behavior of at most: while There are at most 4 butterflies is consistently judged as true in a scene with 4 butterflies, There are at most 5 butterflies is not. The corresponding contrast is not found for at least. We interpret this using the notion of "highlighting" from inquisitive semantics, and draw the broader conclusion that some pragmatic effects are so strong that they can affect truth/falsity judgments.

Download PDF | Proceedings of SALT 23 (ed. Todd Snider), pp. 358-375. 2013.

A Semantic Solution to the Problem of Object Agreement in Hungarian
Elizabeth Coppock · Natural Language Semantics

Abstract: Hungarian verbs are sensitive to the definiteness of their object, but the definiteness of the object is not a completely reliable indicator of the subjective/objective alternation. The current state of the art is an analysis due originally to Bartos (2001), according to which the syntactic status of the object is the determining factor: If it is a DP or larger phrase, then the objective conjugation is used; otherwise the subjective conjugation is used. This purely syntactic analysis is problematic for several reasons pointed out by Coppock & Wechsler (2012). This paper presents a semantic solution that overcomes these difficulties: If the referential argument of a phrase is lexically specified as familiar, then the phrase bears the feature [+DEF], and in this case it triggers the objective conjugation. The analysis is implemented in a fragment of Hungarian that includes a wide range of nominal expressions, using a compositional version of van der Sandtian Discourse Representation Theory.

Download PDF | Natural Language Semantics 21(4): 345--371. 2013.

Agreement Between Scylla and Charybdis
Elizabeth Coppock · festschrift for Ivan Sag

Abstract: This is a short introduction to agreement in HPSG, with emphasis on semantic issues, meant to serve as an introduction to Steve Wechsler's chapter on Swedish "pancake" sentences. It reviews the fact that this theory of agreement avoids the Scylla of a purely syntactic theory, while at the same time avoiding the Charybdis of a purely semantic one. The ontological status of HPSG's indices, which play a critical role in achieving this delicate balance, is discussed, and readers are encouraged to consider adopting this theory of agreement whether or not they are working in HPSG per se.

Download PDF | In The Core and the Periphery: Data-Driven Perspective on Syntax Inspired by Ivan A. Sag, ed. Philip Hofmeister and Elisabeth Norcliffe, pp. 65-70. Stanford: CSLI Publications. 2013.

Turkic Non-Inflectional Plurals and Feature Bundling
Elizabeth Coppock, Hyun-Jong Hahm and Stephen Wechsler · WAFL 6

Abstract: We defend the bundling hypothesis for agreement, which entails that agreement on a target that contains person will always reflect the person feature of the controller. A putative counterexample to this hypothesis comes from Sakha exceptional case marking constructions, where verbs appear to agree in number with a raised accusative object while ignoring person. We argue that this case is not a genuine counterexample, however, because the agreement marker in question is not a person marker. Evidence for this comes from its distribution (optionality, co-occurrence with local persons), separate morphological expresssion from person, and history.

Download PDF | In Umut Özge (ed.), Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics volume 67, pp. 53-64. 2013.

Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · in Alternatives in Semantics

Abstract: This paper offers a unified analysis of the exclusives mere and only. We analyze both mere and only in terms of questions under discussion modeled as structures defined over sets of alternatives, where the alternatives are non-standard in two respects. First, as required by the analysis of mere, there are free variables in the alternatives. Second, the alternatives can be ranked by relations other than entailment; in this sense, both mere and only are scalar both in their positive component ("at least X") and in their negative component ("at most X"). With evidence from negation, reason clauses, and emotive factive predicates, we argue furthermore that the negative component of mere contributes to the at-issue meaning, while the positive component is presupposed, as has been previously argued for only. However, mere and only differ in scope, as evidenced by differences in interpretation and NPI licensing. Based on the NPI licensing properties of mere, we argue that it has two uses, one that attaches to properties and one that attaches to generalized quantifiers. The two uses are unified under one abstract lexical entry schema that can be extended to only as well. This schema can be seen as a first step towards establishing, in general terms, the core meaning for exclusives.

Download PDF | In Alternatives in Semantics, edited by Anamaria Falaus, pp. 150--173. New York: Palgrave. 2013.


Weak Uniqueness: The only difference between definites and indefinites
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · SALT 22

Abstract: We argue that predicative the is an identity function that is defined for predicates that satisfy weak uniqueness: if there is an F, then there is only one. Predicative definites do not presuppose existence, as evidenced by anti-uniqueness effects, for example the fact that `Scott is not the only author of Waverley' implies that there is more than one author of Waverley. The definite and indefinite articles are bothargued to be identity functions on predicates, differing only inthat the latter lacks the weak uniqueness presupposition. Furthermore, the meaning of argumental definites and indefinites can be derived from the predicative meanings using the same general mechanisms that introduce existence. Existence is generally at-issue with argumental indefinites and presupposed with argumental definites. However, we observe that anti-uniqueness effects arise with argumental definites as well, which we take to show that existence can be at-issue with argumental definites.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of SALT 22, ed. Anca Chereches, Neil Ashton and David Lutz, pp. 527--544. 2012.

It-clefts are IT (inquiry terminating) constructions
Dan Velleman, David Beaver, Emilie Destruel, Dylan Bumford, Edgar Onea and Elizabeth Coppock · SALT 22

Abstract: We analyze the semantics of a range of constructions which we refer to as Inquiry Terminating (IT) constructions. In English, these include it-clefts and exclusives such as only, just and mere(ly). Despite their differences, IT constructions have much in common. We claim they are always focus-sensitive, have closely related semantics, and have a uniform discourse function: they always mark utterances that give a complete answer to what the speaker takes to be the Current Question (CQ). We give a new account of the meaning of clefts that captures both their similarities and their differences to other IT constructions.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of SALT 22, ed. Anca Chereches, Neil Ashton and David Lutz, pp. 441-460. 2012.

Exclusivity, Uniqueness, and Definiteness
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · EISS 9

Abstract: This paper argues for two main claims: (i) The definite article is initially predicative and contributes a weak uniqueness presupposition, which is logically independent of existence. Only in argument position does a definite (or indefinite) article signal existence. (ii) A distinction is to be drawn between pure exclusive adjectives (adjectival only) and cardinality adjectives (single, unique). Sole can function as both, and can also be used as a quantifier.With these assumptions, we can explain anti-uniqueness effects that only and sole give rise to in predicative definite descriptions, and the fact that sole but not only is compatible with the indefinite article. The distinction between exclusive and singular-cardinality adjectives has broader empirical consequences as well; exclusive adjectives are compatible with plurals but singular-cardinality adjectives are not, and cardinality adjectives can modify superlatives but exclusive adjectives cannot.

Download PDF | In Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 9, pp. 59-66, ed. Christopher Pińon. 2012.

Exclusive Updates
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · 18th Amsterdam Colloqium

Abstract:This paper develops a type of dynamic semantics in which contexts include not only information, but also questions, whose answers are ranked by strength. The questions can be local to the restrictor of a quantifier, and the quantifier can bind into them. The proposed framework satisfies several desiderata arising from quantificational expressions involving exclusives (e.g. only, just, mere, and sole), allowing: (i) presupposed questions; (ii) presuppositional constraints on the strength ranking over the answers to the question under discussion; (iii) quantificational binding into such presupposed questions; and (iv) compositional derivation of logical forms for sentences.

Download PDF | In Logic, Language and Meaning: 18th Amsterdam Colloquium, edited by Maria Aloni, Floris Roelofsen, Galit Weidman Sassoon, Katrin Schulz and Matthijs Westera, pp. 291-300, Berlin: Springer. 2012.

The objective conjugation in Hungarian: Agreement without phi features
Elizabeth Coppock and Stephen Wechsler · Natural Language and Linguistic Theory

Abstract: Verbal agreement is normally in person, number and gender, but Hungarian verbs agree with their objects in definiteness instead: a Hungarian verb appears in the objective conjugation when it governs a definite object. The sensitivity of the objective conjugation suffixes to the definiteness of the object has been attributed to the supposition that they function as incorporated object pronouns (Szamosi 1974, den Dikken 2006), but we argue instead that they are agreement markers registering the object's formal, not semantic, definiteness. Evidence comes from anaphoric binding, null anaphora (pro-drop), extraction islands, and the insensitivity of the objective conjugation to any of the factors known to condition the use of affixal and clitic pronominals. We propose that the objective conjugation is triggered by a formal definiteness feature and offer a grammar that determines, for a given complement of a verb, whether it triggers the objective conjugation on the verb. Although the objective conjugation suffixes are not pronominal, they are thought to derive historically from incorporated pronouns (Hajdu 1972), and we suggest that while referentiality and phi-features were largely lost, an association with topicality led to a formal condition of object definiteness. The result is an agreement marker that lacks phi-features.

Download PDF | Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 30(3), pp. 699-740.

Focus as a case position in Hungarian
Elizabeth Coppock · festschrift for Valéria Molnár

Abstract: I argue that in Hungarian, accusative case can be assigned by a verb to a noun phrase, triggering definiteness agreement, purely in virtue of the fact that the noun phrase serves as the focus in the same clause as the verb. As shown by data from incorporation, long-distance constructions, binding, and depictives, accusative case-marked focus-raised subjects are not objects of the verb -- not thematic objects or even athematic objects -- so their only link to the verb that assigns case to them is via information structure. Based on the Case-Assignment Generalization -- A verb agrees in definiteness with a noun phrase in Hungarian if and only if it assigns accusative case to it -- I have argued that the same holds for accusative case-marked focus-raised objects that agree in definiteness with their are also examples where accusative case is assigned to a nominal purely in virtue of its information- structural status. Thus, both subject and object focus raising exemplify case-assignment to a noun phrase whose sole link to the case-assigning verb is through information structure. This means that the focus position in Hungarian is one to which accusative case can be assigned.

Download PDF | In Discourse and Grammar: A Festschrift in Honor of Valéria Molnár, edited by Johan Brandtler, David Hĺkansson, Stefan Huber, and Eva Klingvall, pp. 161-178, Lund: Centre for Languages and Literature.


Sole sisters
Elizabeth Coppock and David Beaver · SALT 21

Abstract: We propose a unified analysis of exclusives, taking into account NP- and VP-modifying only as well as just and the adjectival exclusives mere, sole, only, single, and exclusive. Using paraphrases with at most and at least, we argue that exclusives uniformly signify a presupposed lower bound and an ordinary content upper bound on the true alternative answers to the current question under discussion, thus extending Beaver and Clark 2008. We propose that exclusives vary along two parameters: (i) the ontological type of their arguments; (ii) constraints on the question under discussion. Due to variation in the type parameter, exclusives exhibit different scopes, leading to different NPI licensing properties. To formalize our analysis, we introduce a dynamic semantics that treats questions under discussion as part of the context and allows for binding into these questions.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of SALT 21, edited by Neil Ashton, Anca Chereches, and David Lutz, pp. 197-217, 2011.


Less-travelled paths from pronoun to agreement
Elizabeth Coppock and Stephen Wechsler · LFG '10

Abstract: Building on Bresnan and Mchombo's (1987) theory that the transition from pronoun to agreement marker constitutes the loss of a PRED 'pro' specification on an affix, we explore the idea that the historical path from pronoun to agreement marker can involve the loss of person and number feature specifications as well. We apply this idea to object agreement in the Uralic languages, with particular attention to Ostyak and Hungarian, and propose that person and number specifications on object agreement affixes, historically derived from bound pronouns, were lost independently at different stages. We then consider the more general hypothesis that the special distribution of person agreement can be explained as a consequence of its historical origin in incorporated pronouns, with loss of the person feature as a complicating factor. Preliminary typological evidence supports this view over Baker's (2008) theory of person agreement.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of LFG '10, Miriam Butt and Tracy King, pp. 165-185, Stanford: CSLI Publications. 2010.

Variation in the Iraq vowel: Conservatives vs. liberals
Lauren Hall-Lew, Elizabeth Coppock and Rebecca Starr · American Speech

Abstract: To determine whether phonological variables are a potential resource for the expression of political identity, this article examines the second vowel of Iraq. In addition to being part of a politically significant place-name, Iraq is particularly well-suited to index political identity due in part to the ideological association between the "foreign (a)" variable with correctness and educatedness in U.S. English (Boberg 1997). Specifically, Iraq's second vowel appears to index political conservatism when produced as /ae/ and political liberalism when produced as /a:/. Results from an analysis of the U.S. House of representatives show that Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to use /ae/, even controlling for regional accent.

Download PDF | American Speech 85: 91-102. 2010.


A translation from logic to English with dynamic semantics
Elizabeth Coppock and David Baxter · LENLS 6

Abstract: This paper presents a procedure for translating standard predicate logic into English. The procedure generates both referring expressions and non-referring expressions, including both referential and bound variable anaphora. Non-referring expressions correspond to short-term discourse referents, which present a special set of challenges for a natural language generation system: (i) they have limited ÔlifespansŐ and (ii) the determiner with which they are introduced (every, some, any, no) is sensitive to the logical context. Our system addresses these challenges using dynamically updated information states.

Download PDF | In Daisuke Bekki, Yohei Murakami and Eric McCready (eds.), 6th International Workshop on Logic and Engineering of Natural Language Semantics (LENLS 6), 197-216. Berlin: Springer. 2010.

Parallel encoding of alternatives in sentence production: Evidence from syntactic blends
Elizabeth Coppock · Language and Cognitive Processes

Abstract: Using a large, newly available corpus of spontaneously uttered syntactic blends (e.g. "cast into question" from the targets "call into question" and "cast into doubt") and a new method of speech error analysis, two hypotheses regarding grammatical encoding are compared: the single-buffer hypothesis, according to which alternative formulations of the message are encoded in the same memory buffer, potentially sharing representations, and the multiple-buffer hypothesis, according to which alternative formulations are independently grammatically encoded in separate buffers. Randomly generated, unattested blends were found to be reliably distinguishable from blends attested in the corpus, based on the degree to which they adhere to syntactic alignment constraints, controlling for other important factors. This main finding suggests that elements in similar syntactic positions across plans compete for the same slot, supporting the single-buffer hypothesis.

Download PDF | Language and Cognitive Processes 25(1): 38-49. 2009.

The Logical and Empirical Foundations of Baker's Paradox
Elizabeth Coppock · Stanford University dissertation

My dissertation addresses questions of syntactic productivity of the following form: Based on independent (e.g. semantic) properties of a given word, can it be predicted whether the word may occupy a given syntactic position? For example, can it be predicted from the meaning of disappear that it cannot function transitively (*He disappeared the rabbit)? Why is mere restricted to prenominal position (*The child is mere)? The putative existence of arbitrary exceptions has been used as an argument in favor of a usage-based approach to grammar and acquisition. This work shows that the argument from arbitrary exceptions does not hold water, as the phenomena in question turn out to be explainable in terms of deeper, more general principles upon closer inspection.


In Search of the True Periphery: Why Culicover's "Odd Prepositions" Aren't that Odd
Elizabeth Coppock · BLS 33

Abstract: This paper argues, contra Culicover (1999), that individual prepositions do not differ arbitrarily in their ability to strand (Who are you talking to?) or pied-pipe (To whom are you talking?). This removes the argument that the features [STRAND] and [PIEDPIPE] must be set for each word individually on the basis of positive experience (nor is there even any evidence that such features exist). Prepositions do not differ arbitrarily in whether they precede or follow their argument, either. [PRECEDE NP] and [FOLLOW NP] are likewise not features that must be set individually on the basis of positive experience, if they exist. This leads to the suggestion that the learner is not, as Culicover argues, Ňconservative and attentiveÓ in assigning syntactic properties to words.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of the 33rd Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society. 2007.


ISIS: It's not a disfluency, but how do we know that?
Elizabeth Coppock, Laura Staum, Jason Brenier, and Laura Michaelis · BLS 32

Abstract: This paper argues that the ISIS construction (e.g. "The thing is, is that...") is not a disfluency, based primarily on acoustic comparison between this construction and other repetitions of "is" in the Switchboard corpus.

Download PDF | In Proceedings of the 32nd Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society. 2006.


Gapping: In Defense of Deletion
Elizabeth Coppock · CLS 37

Abstract: I propose a deletion analysis of Gapping (e.g. John likes caviar, and Mary beans), and argue that such an analysis makes better predictions than one on which Gapping is Across-The-Board movement.

Download PDF | In In Mary Andronis, Christopher Ball, Heidi Elston, and Sylvain Neuvel (eds.), CLS 37: The Main Session. Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, pp. 133-148. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. 2001.

See my CV for a full list of my papers and please do not hesitate to email me (eecoppock at gmail dot com) for papers not listed here. Comments and questions most welcome.