Brasoveanu, Adrian: 2007. Structured Nominal and Modal Reference.

[PhD dissertation, Rutgers University - slightly reformatted & revised]
committee: Maria Bittner (chairperson), Hans Kamp (external member), Roger Schwarzschild and Matthew Stone]

1up pdf(378pp) ¤¤ abstract & table of contents ¤¤ extended abstract(3pp) ¤¤ summary(8pp)


The dissertation argues that discourse reference in natural language involves two equally important components with essentially the same interpretive dynamics, namely reference to values, i.e. non-singleton sets of objects (individuals and possible worlds), and reference to structure, i.e. the correlation / dependency between such sets, which is introduced and incrementally elaborated upon in discourse.

To define and investigate structured discourse reference, a new dynamic system couched in classical (many-sorted) type logic is introduced which extends Compositional DRT (CDRT, Muskens 1996) with plural information states, i.e. information states are modeled as sets of variable assignments (following van den Berg 1996a), which can be can be represented as matrices with assignments (sequences) as rows. A plural info state encodes both values (the columns of the matrix store sets of objects) and structure (each row of the matrix encodes a correlation / dependency between the objects stored in it). Given the underlying type logic, compositionality at sub-clausal level follows automatically and standard techniques from Montague semantics (e.g. type shifting) become available.

The idea that plural info states are semantically necessary is motivated by examples with morphologically singular anaphors, in contrast to the previous literature that argues for plural info states based on plural anaphora. Plural Compositional DRT (PCDRT) enables us compositionally account for a variety of phenomena, including: (i) mixed weak & strong donkey anaphora, e.g.
Every person who buys au computer and has au' credit card uses itu' to pay for itu, (ii) quantificational subordination, e.g. Harvey courts au girl at everyu' convention. Sheu alwaysu' comes to the banquet with him (Karttunen 1976), (iii) modal anaphora and modal subordination, e.g. Au wolf mightp come in. Itu wouldp eat Harvey first (based on Roberts 1989) and (iv) naturally-occurring discourses exhibiting complex interactions between modalized conditionals, donkey anaphora, modal subordination and the entailment particle therefore, e.g. [A] man cannot live without joy. Therefore, when he is deprived of true spiritual joys, it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures (Thomas Aquinas).

The PCDRT account of these phenomena explicitly and systematically captures the anaphoric and quantificational parallels between the individual and modal domains.