Focus and the semantics of desire predicates and directive verbs
Portner, Paul H
In this dissertation, we investigate the semantics of attitude predicates in terms of how they interact with focus. We look at two kinds of focus data: minimal pairs where the focus structure of the complement varies ('Sofia wants to WORK on Saturday' vs. 'Sofia wants to work on SATURDAY'); and minimal pairs where one utterance in a sequence of utterances varies according to whether it has focus-marking ('Sofia wants to eat the chicken. Sofia wants to eat the beef.' vs. 'Sofia wants to eat the CHICKEN. Sofia wants to eat the beef.'). The goal is to provide an ordering semantics analysis for attitude predicates that accounts for such data.We begin by establishing definitions for two kinds of focus-sensitivity: semantic focus-sensitivity and pragmatic focus-sensitivity. We evaluate original data with a range of attitude predicates and classify them according to these definitions. We find that only desire verbs, emotive factives, and some directives are semantically focus sensitive; all other attitude predicates are only pragmatically focus sensitive. We propose that semantic focus-sensitivity is tied to a semantics of comparison, i.e. the complement of a semantically focus sensitive predicate is compared to a set of contextually relevant alternatives; no such comparison is made when the attitude predicate is not semantically focus sensitive.We develop a comparative semantics for 'want' by innovating upon proposals that treat it as comparative (Heim 1992, Villalta 2008, Rubinstein 2012). We modify our entry for 'want' to account for desire predicates 'wish', 'glad', and 'disappointed' as comparative quantifiers. We develop a second entry for 'want' as a noncomparative quantifier, based on focus data where one utterance in a sequence of utterances alters according to focus marking. We show how this entry expresses a different kind of desire than comparative 'want' (cf. Davis 1984, 1986).Turning to directives, we define them by using our entries for 'want' as starting points. We define semantically focus sensitive directives like 'advise' as comparative quantifiers, and semantically focus insensitive directives like 'order' as noncomparative quantifiers. We show that the features of our two entries for 'want' work well to define each kind of directive.
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Mahpeykar, Narges (Georgetown University, 2014)There have long been attempts to discover some systematicity in the semantics of English phrasal verbs. However, previous research has focused exclusively on the contribution of the multiple meanings of the prepositions ...