Andy Kehler visits the University of Cologne as a Mercator Fellow

Andy Kehler is currently finishing his first of four visits to the University of Cologne as a Mercator Fellow.   While there he presented three invited talks: “Conversational Eliciture” at the Workshop on At-Issueness, Scope, and Coherence, “Prominence in a Referential Theory of VP-Ellipsis” at the Prominence in Language 2018 Conference, and “A Bayesian Model of Pronoun Production and Interpretation” to the CRC Prominence in Language Research Group.

Ivano Caponigro presenting parts of his biography of Richard Montague in three continents

Ivano Caponigro has been invited to present parts of his forthcoming intellectual and personal biography of Richard Montague (1930-1971), the father of formal semantics, at Harvard University (May 21), Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany (July 10), Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia (August 10), and CNRS and University of Nantes, France (September 20).

A new grant for SemanticsBabble from the Institute of Arts & Humanities

Ivano Caponigro (Linguistics) and Jonathan Cohen (Philosophy) have been awarded a grant from the Institute of Arts & Humanities (IAH)  at UC San Diego in support of SemanticsBabble, a weekly informal discussion group open to everybody who is interested in theoretical and experimental aspects of semantics and related areas such as its interface with syntax, pragmatics, and philosophy of language. This is the 5th time SemanticsBabble receives an IAH grant.

Ivano Caponigro has been awarded a UC MEXUS/CONACYT research grant

Ivano Caponigro has been awarded a collaborative research grant from The University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS) and El Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología – Mexico (CONACYT) for his collaborative project on the “Morpho-syntax and semantics of headless relative clauses across Mesoamerican languages” in collaboration with Harold Torrence (UCLA) and Roberto Zavala (CIESAS, Chiapas).

Investigating Thematic Roles through Implicit Learning: Evidence from Light Verb Constructions

Wittenberg, Eva, Khan, Manizeh, & Snedeker, Jesse (2017): Investigating Thematic Roles through Implicit Learning: Evidence from Light Verb Constructions. Frontiers in Psychology, 8:1089.


The syntactic structure of a sentence is usually a strong predictor of its meaning: Each argument noun phrase (i.e., Subject and Object) should map onto exactly one thematic role (i.e., Agent and Patient, respectively). Some constructions, however, are exceptions to this pattern. This paper investigates how the syntactic structure of an utterance contributes to its construal, using ditransitive English light verb constructions, such as “Nils gave a hug to his brother”, as an example of such mismatches: Hugging is a two-role event, but the ditransitive syntactic structure suggests a three-role event. Data from an eye-tracking experiment and behavioral categorization data reveal that listeners learn to categorize sentences according to the number of thematic roles they convey, independent of their syntax. Light verb constructions, however, seem to form a category of their own, in which the syntactic structure leads listeners down an initial incorrect assignment of thematic roles, from which they only partly recover. These results suggest an automatic influence of syntactic argument structure on semantic interpretation and event construal, even in highly frequent constructions.