Now and then: Perspectives on positional variance in temporal demonstratives

With Pranav Anand. To appear in Sinn und Bedeutung, 23.

Despite its reputation as an archetypal example of indexicality, the temporal adverb now has many non-indexical uses. It is not surprising, then, that recent work has instead focused on an intuition that now evokes some notion of change or contrast in the preceding discourse. We argue that this intuition should not be directly encoded in the semantics of now, but rather should be derived as a product of how its semantics interacts with information structure. Our argument is guided by a previously unnoticed contrast in its interpretation based on its position in the sentence. We propose that, in sentence-initial position, now is a contrastive topic, which contributes to the intuition that it "pushes forward" the narrative. Its true semantic shape is revealed in final position. This is, we propose, indexical, though not to the utterance time, but a more flexible assessment time. We extend our account of now to then, treating them as a proximal-distal pair of temporal demonstratives, identifying some similarities and some differences in how they are interpreted in a narrative.

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No explanation for in the historical present: Temporal sequencing and discourse

With Pranav Anand. To appear in Sinn und Bedeutung, 22.

Discourses in the historical (or narrative) use of the simple present in English prohibit backshifting, though they allow forward sequencing. Unlike both reference time theories and discourse coherence theories of these temporal inferences, we propose that backshifting has a different source from narrative progression. In particular, we argue that backshifting arises through anaphora to a salient event in the preceding discourse.

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Unifying canonical, historical, and play-by-play present

With Pranav Anand. To appear in Sinn und Bedeutung, 21.

While the present tense is typically taken to index the reference time to the time of utterance, such a restriction cannot capture noncanonical uses of the present in English, such as the historical present or play-by-play present. We adopt a bicontextual semantics for present tense, in which the two time coordinates are mediated by pragmatics, allowing us to bring canonical, narrative, and play-by-play uses under a single denotation. Moreover, we show that such a treatment can also capture the novel observation that the historical use of the present tense can "anchor" the past perfect, while its other two uses cannot.

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Agreement, locality, and the syntax of pronouns: The Person–Case Constraint and beyond

With Steven Foley.

In many languages with clitic or other weak pronouns, a Person–Case Constraint (PCC) (Perlmutter 1971, Bonet 1991) prohibits certain combinations of these pronouns based on their person features. This paper explores the crosslinguistic variation in such constraints, starting with several closely-related Zapotec varieties that restrict combinations of clitics based not just on person, but also on gender. Operating within a larger combinatorial space, these constraints offer a new perspective on the typology of Phi–Case Constraints (ΦCCs) more generally. This typology has an overall asymmetrical shape correlating with the underlying syntactic position of pronominal arguments. We develop a principled theory of this typology that incorporates three hypotheses: (i) ΦCCs arise from how a functional head Agrees with clitic pronouns, subject to intervention-based locality (Anagnostopoulou 2003, Béjar and Rezac 2003, 2009); (ii) the variation in these constraints arises from variation in the relativization of probes (Nevins 2007, 2011); and, (iii) clitic and other weak pronouns have no inherent need to Agree, though they must be local to an appropriate functional head (cf. Cardinaletti and Starke 1999).

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Gender-Case Constraints in Zapotec

With Steven Foley and Nick Kalivoda. To appear in Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas (WSCLA) 22.

Person-Case Constraints (PCCs) prohibit certain combinations of clitic arguments based on their person features. We show that PCCs are mirrored in the domain of gender, drawing on data from several Zapotec varieties. These Gender-Constraint Constraints (GCCs) operate over a four-way gender distinction rather than a three-way person distinction, providing a clearer picture of how these constraints can vary across languages. In particular, we identify three crosslinguistic generalizations over the attested PCCs and GCCs, which can only be accounted for by a theory of clitic licensing in which more than one clitic can enter into an Agree relation with the probe (e.g. Anagnostopoulou 2005, Nevins 2007, 2011).

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Persian

To appear in The Oxford handbook of ellipsis, Jeroen van Craenenbroeck and Tanja Temmerman, eds.

There are elliptical constructions in Persian whose properties diverge from their better studied counterparts in other languages. A type of verb phrase ellipsis removes the nonverbal element and internal arguments of a complex predicate, though it can also strand a simple verb. Sluicing is derived through an information-structural movement operation, since the language does not have obligatory wh-movement. Gapping, stripping, and fragment answers may arise from the same operation: gapping and stripping allow for their antecedent to be embedded, and stripping and fragment answers are insensitive to island constraints.

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