syntax-semantics interface: verbs, event structure, scales tense, aspect, modality, South Asian languages, Scottish Gaelic.
Gillian Ramchand (PhD Stanford University) is a senior researcher at CASTL and a professor at the University of Tromsø.
She integrates a detailed attention to compositional semantics with the morphological and syntactic facts about verbal structures and argument realisation across languages.
Nanosyntax and Lexicalization
Increasing evidence from morphological patterning and event structural entailments seems to indicate that the fine structure of the verbal domain is more articulated than classical notion of the VP would suggest. Ramchand has recently proposed in a book published in 2008 (Verb Meaning and the Lexicon: A First Phase Syntax, CUP) that the V of classical phrase structure be split into projections corresponding to subevental predications. Her work at CASTL explores the consequences of that hypothesis for both argument structure realisation and complex predicational structures. As a part of the nanosyntax hypothesis being pursued at CASTL, she has particularly focused on issues of lexicalization, where either single monomorphemic words lexicalize large chunks of syntactically elaborated phrase structure (as in the morphemically simple, but event-structurally complex verb in English destroy), or alternatively where several distinct verbal `words’ are used in monoclausal predicational structures expressing the very same thing (as found for example in South Asian languages). For the latter kinds of cases, she has been testing hypotheses related `underassociation’, which is intended to constrain the operation of The Superset Principle in a particular way, while at the same time accounting for certain facts of syntactic selection.
Structural Semantics is Syntax
One very important aspect of Ramchand's work is the attention it pays to achieving a close match between phrase structure/morphological structure and a compositional semantics containing a constrained set of primitives. The hypothesis is that certain abstract semantic notions such as event structure, predication, tense, deictic anchoring, possible worlds, part-whole structure, scalarity etc. are part of a structural semantics that is built in to the central computational system. In this way, an understanding of the morphosyntax and of the semantic primitives involved in the build up of linguistic forms go hand in hand. This crucially involves separating out the semantic elements that are structural from those that are purely conceptual or lexical encyclopedic.