Hotze Rullmann

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Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Focus, Predication, and Polarity in Kwak'wala (2016)

In this dissertation, I investigate the formal semantics and pragmatics of alternative focus in Kwak'wala, a critically endangered Northern Wakashan language of British Columbia, Canada. I show that several notable phenomena and outstanding mysteries of Kwak'wala grammar involve focus expression, and by making their discourse contexts explicit we can observe how changes in discourse-relevant alternatives correspond to changes in morphosyntactic expression. These observations invite reappraisals of classic claims about Kwak'wala and Wakashan grammar, such as the claims that Kwak'wala lacks a noun/verb/adjective distinction (Boas et al., 1947, p. 280) and also lacks a copula (Boas et al., 1947, p. 205). Instead, I argue that Kwak'wala does indeed have a noun/verb/adjective distinction as well as equative (but not predicative) copulas, and show that these are tied up closely with the expression of focus. I argue, contra Koch's (2008) proposal for Nɬeʔkepmxcín focus, that Kwak'wala focus is not based on alignment to the edges of prosodic phrases, but based on the use of marked predication structures in which speakers choose non-optimal predicates like NPs and DPs over unmarked predicates like VPs. I also examine Kwak'wala additive and exclusive focus operators, and in particular investigate their distinctive association patterns, in which different exclusive operators associate with different types of “focus phrase” (Drubig 1994), while additive operators exhibit free association. I propose a hybrid focus model, a combination of the models in Wold (1996), Roberts (1996/2012) and Krifka (2006), among others, in which Kwak'wala focus operators associate with focus phrases, but derive their specific alternatives indirectly, through constraints on a contextual “question under discussion” variable. Finally, I examine the ubiquitous “discourse” enclitic =ʔm, which I propose expresses a discourse-relevant bipolar (e.g., {P,¬P}) contrast, and thereby distinguishes bipolar from monopolar (e.g., {P}) questions and answers (cf. Krifka 2013). The appearance of =ʔm in all additive and exclusive sentences provides morphological evidence that such sentences respond to complex alternative sets consisting of both constituent-type and polar-type contrasts (Krifka 1998, Rullmann 2003).

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Aspects of the progressive in English and Icelandic (2011)

This dissertation presents a semantic analysis of the progressive of both English and Icelandic, the only two Germanic languages that generally are considered to have fully grammaticalized progressive constructions. The progressive is an aspectual category where the focus is on a single, dynamic event being in progress at a certain time – the reference time. It is generally considered to be a sub-category of the imperfective aspect, just like the habitual aspect, and one of the descriptions typically given for the progressive is that it cannot have a habitual reading. Similarly, stative predicates are categorized as imperfective but non-progressive. Nevertheless, both habitual sentences and stative predicates occur in the progressive; they then appear to have a slightly different meaning from the one they have when they occur in the simple past/present. I argue that the subtle meaning difference between progressive and non-progressive statives and habituals is in fact an implicature. Stative verbs are shifted to being events in order to take on one or more of the prototypical eventive properties, and as events they can occur in the progressive. In such cases they usually imply dynamicity, control and/or temporariness. Habituals are essentially stative so when they occur in the progressive they too have been shifted to events, resulting in the same implicature of prototypical eventive properties, particularly temporariness. We then get the reading that the habit is temporary and it contrasts with the simple past/present that picks out a more general habit.Additionally I investigate another way to indicate that a series of events is in progress, namely the present participle progressive in Icelandic, which is a progressive construction with a presupposition for pluractionality. It usually occurs with iterative adverbials, in particular adverbs of quantity, which give additional information on the frequency of the series of events.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Modal Concord in Mandarin (2015)

The aim of this thesis is to describe and analyze modal concord in Mandarin Chinese. Modal concord is a semantic phenomenon in which multiple modal words in a sentence are interpreted semantically as if there was only a single modal expression. The thesis provides a description of the Mandarin modal system (especially the necessity modals), following the formal analysis of Kratzer (1991) and von Fintel & Iatridou (2008). The generalization is established that a concord reading is available only when the modals agree in their modal type, ordering sources and quantificational force. This generalization cannot be accounted for by the current modal concord analyses: the modal logic approach and the type-shifting analysis from Huitink (2008). Inspired by global theories of negative concord such as de Swart & Sag (2002), a fusion analysis is proposed to account for modal concord, which treats the multiple modals in a concord reading as equal to each other in the sense that their combination is semantically equivalent to each modal alone, leading to a single modality interpretation.

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