Thomas de Haven Roberts

For a completely comprehensive list of papers and presentations, see my CV. If you have any questions about any of the projects listed here or would like access to any manuscripts, or handouts, please just ask!

Selectional properties of attitude predicates

Some attitude predicates can embed interrogative complements, others declarative complements, and some both. In a series of related projects, I argue that selectional behavior of clausal-embedding predicates is derivable from fine-grained features of their lexical semantics, rather than simply being stipulated into the lexicon. In particular, I examine cases where clausal selection appears sensitive to linguistic context, such as verbs which embed questions only when negated, and demonstrate that the intricate syntactic behavior of words like believe tracks specific features of lexical semantics cross-linguistically.

Roberts, T. Under review for special issue of Glossa. How to build a factive predicate. [email for draft]

Roberts, T. Under review. Inquisitive responsive predicates and the logic of contemplation. [email for draft]

Roberts, T. & K. Sasaki. In prep. What embeds exclamatives and why. [under active revision]

Roberts, T. 2019. I can't believe it's not lexical: Deriving distributed veridicality. In the Proceedings of SALT 29 [Paper]

Roberts, T. 2018. Responsive predicates are question-embedding: evidence from Estonian. In Uli Sauerland & Stephanie Solt (eds.), the Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22. 271-288. [Paper]

The interpretation of negative polar questions in Estonian

Across languages, polar questions with negation are consistently interpreted differently than those without. But why does negation per se have that effect, and how can we characterize the use ? I am experimentally investigating these questions in Estonian, an ideal language to test hypotheses about negation because negative questions in Estonian have different discourse effects depending on the question particle used. I suggest that the discourse effects of negative questions may be derived from general pragmatic preference for aligning the polarity of a question with that of a hearer's expected response. Current work also probes the role of evidentiality in question formation.

Roberts, T. In prep. The bias profile of Estonian polar questions. [under active revision]

Discourse Particles and Uncontroversiality


Joint work with Margaret Kroll

We are studying the semantic and pragmatic effects of discourse markers of 'uncontroversiality' like of course in English, or kyll(ä)/küll in Finnish/Estonian. Such speaker-oriented adverbs may be used to respond to assertions and questions with a surprising array of interpretations; we argue this follows naturally from their semantics and an account that derives bare adverbial responses elliptically.

Kroll, M. & T. Roberts. Under revision. Bare adverbial responses and the typology of polarity ellipsis.

Kroll, M. & T. Roberts. 2019. Stating the Obvious: Of Course as a Focus-Sensitive Marker of Uncontroversiality. In the Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB) 23, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, Sept. 5-7.[Paper]

The psychology of fake news


Joint work with Allison Nguyen, Jean E. Fox Tree, and Pranav Anand

The current proliferation of fake and hyperpartisan news has serious political and social ramifications. This cross-discipline collaboration aims to understand what it is that makes fake news appealing by studying language in hyperpartisan online communities, in order to ultimately develop pedagogical tools to help people better confront their own biases and inoculate themselves against fake news.

Nguyen, A., T. Roberts, J. Fox Tree, & P. Anand. Under revision. Look, Dude: How Hyperpartisan Writing Differs from Nonpartisan Writing.

Prosody and verbatim memory


Joint work with Jennifer Bellik

Much research on verbatim memory for language focuses on lexical or syntactic features, while comparatively little has been done on how we represent prosody in memory. Is prosody remembered differently if it contributes a semantic or pragmatic function (like focal pitch accent) or if it is purely phonologically conditioned (like the rhythm rule)? Preliminary results suggest that there is at least some memory for prosody as a purely abstract feature. [CUNY 2019 Presentation]

Other Papers

Roberts, T. 2020. The root of it all: Affectedness across lexical categories. In A. Hedding & M. Hoeks (eds.), Syntax and Semantics at Santa Cruz 4, 77-96. [Paper]

Altshuler, D., V. Hacquard, T. Roberts, & A. S. White. 2015. On double access, cessation and parentheticality. In Semantics and Linguistic Theory 25, eds. S. D’Antonio, C. Little, M. Moroney, and M. Wiegand, 18-37. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.[Paper]

Chang, A., D. Nunez, T. Roberts, D. Sengeh, C. Breazeal. 2013. Pre-pilot findings on developing a literacy tablet. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13), 471-474. New York, NY: ACM.

Chang, A., C. Breazeal, F. Faridi, T. Roberts, G. Davenport, H. Lieberman, and N. Montfort. 2012. Textual tinkerability: encouraging storytelling behaviors to foster emergent literacy. In CHI ’12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’12), 505-520. New York, NY: ACM