Rose-Marie Dechaine

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Belief-of-existence determiners : evidence from the syntax and semantics of Nata augments (2019)

This thesis makes two inter-related claims about the augment (a.k.a pre-prefix or initial vowel) based on evidence from Nata (Eastern Bantu, E45). Syntactically, the Nata augment is the realization of the functional category D(eterminer). The view that the augment is D is consistent with the claimthat argument expressions are DPs, while predicate nominals obligatorily lack the D shell (cf. Longobardi 1994; Matthewson 1998; Déchaine and Tremblay 2011 and others). Semantically, I argue that the D distinction in Nata is solely based on speaker’s belief of existence. Beyond Nata, I claim that the core notion of existence is pertinent to other Bantu languages as well. The thesis challenges the widely held view that the D position is necessarily related to specificity or definiteness. I demonstrate that, once definiteness and specificity are controlled for in a precise fashion, the true contribution of Nata Ds as belief-of-existence Ds can be discerned. Cross-linguistically, the Bantu belief-of-existence D intersects with Salish assertion-of-existence Ds. In Salish, existence is asserted based on the speaker’s personal knowledge (Matthewson 1998). In Nata, this requirementis lacking. The Nata belief of existence D thus behaves as “the weakest D”, as it does not require a speaker to have personal knowledge of the individual. The theoretical implications of this analysis are twofold. First, existence Ds come in (at least) two guises, belief-of-existence versus assertion-of-existence. Second, existence Ds—in both Bantu and Salish—differ from “common ground” Ds of the type found in English, with the latter (but not the former) coding definiteness/specificity.

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Topics in Siamou tense and aspect (2015)

This dissertation examines the syntax and semantics of tense and aspect in Siamou (Niger-Congo, Kru), a language of Burkina Faso. Its purpose is twofold. First, it provides a description of the tense/aspect system of Siamou; to date, this part of the grammar has not been systematically investigated. Second, it tests and sharpens formal syntactic and semantic tools relating to tense and aspect on Siamou data. It shows that applying standard analyses to a previously unanalyzed tense/aspect system is effective. For example, existing tests for perfective and imperfective aspect are able to diagnose two of Siamou's aspectual morphemes. However, it also points out some key areas that need work, including how Siamou past tense implicatures arise, and what kind of modality Siamou future expressions encode. Chapter 1 provides background information on tense and aspect, describes the methodology used, and introduces topics covered in this dissertation. Chapter 2 provides an overview of properties of Siamou that are relevant to the description and analysis of tense and aspect in this language. Chapter 3, which is a morpho-syntactic description and analysis of the Siamou aspectual phrase, establishes that Siamou has a set of six aspectual suffixes that partition into three tonal classes: a low tone class, which includes -L, -è, and -ɲɛ̀n, a mid tone class, which includes -n and -a, and a high-low tone class, which includes -bɛ̂. This is followed by a theoretical chapter which develops a set of semantic diagnostics for perfective and imperfective aspect. Chapter 5 uses those diagnostics to show that one of the aspectual markers, the low tone suffix, encodes perfective aspect while another, the mid tone nasal consonant suffix, encodes imperfective aspect. Chapter 6 investigates the semantics of the right-edge particle ín, and argues that its primary meaning is past tense. I show that this particle also gives rise to a number of implicatures that are consistent with its primary meaning. Finally, chapter 7 examines Siamou's future expressions (ri. . .-a, bè. . .-a, and bè. . .-bɛ̂). I show that the future meaning makes use of three syntactic positions: finiteness, modality, and prospective aspect.

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Evidentiality in Nuu-chah-nulth (2013)

This thesis proposes that evidentiality is made up of three factors: a relation between an origo and a situation, a relation between an origo and a proposition, and a relation between a situation and a proposition. This claim is motivated empirically by the set of evidentials in the Ahousaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth, a Wakashan language spoken on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada. This language has seven evidentials, each of which encodes at least one of the three factors of evidentiality.The thesis begins by laying out the claim (Chapter 1), giving a brief outline of the grammar of Nuu-chah-nulth (Chapter 2), and going over the relevant literature on evidentiality (Chapter 3).Chapter 4 looks at the morphological and syntactic classification of the evidentials in Nuu-chah-nulth. I show that evidentials occur in several different syntactic domains, and are thus able to co-occur.I present a model-theoretic semantic analysis of my proposal in Chapter 5. The notions of origo, situation and proposition are formalized, as are the relations that hold between them. I also give the semantics of each of the evidentials in Nuu- chah-nulth.Chapter 6 addresses the question of how the origo is determined. I argue that three mechanisms are involved: 1) matrix-clause mood suffixes specify the origo; 2) embedding verbs lexically encode that their subject argument is the origo of their complement clause; and 3) in the absence of either of the previous two mechanisms, the origo is contextually determined.In Chapter 7 I show that the evidential component of meaning in a sentence does not have the same status as the propositional component of meaning. I propose a modification to the model given in Chapter 5 to account for this.Chapter 8 looks at the interactions between the semantics of temporal suffixes and evidentials. I show that the semantics of sensory evidentials requires them to precede tense, while the semantics of other evidentials do not impose any ordering with respect to tense.Finally, in Chapter 9 I summarize the claims of the thesis and turn to some unresolved questions.

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kâ-yôskâtahk ôma nêhiyawêwin : the representation of intentionality in Plains Cree (2008)

This thesis considers the reference system of Plains Cree, an Algonquian language spoken in Canada. I argue that the referential system of this language can be understood as coding distinctions in extentionality; it distinguishes between referents that possess perspectives (‘intentional’) and referents that do not (‘extentional’). With respect to perspectival possession, Plains Cree distinguishes four referential classes: (i) inherently extentional “Inanimate” referents, (ii) contextually extentional “Obviative” referents, (iii) contextually intentional “Proximate” referents, and (iv) unspecified “Animate” referents. I then show that the referential class “Obviative” is decompositional; it is constructed out of components that code referential dependency, which is the confluence of structural ordering and perspectival embedding. Finally, I consider the methodological issues raised by the study of referential types, showing how different data-collection methods interact with the semantics of perspectival possession.

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The syntax and semantics of clause-typing in Plains Cree (2008)

This thesis proposes that there are two kinds of clauses: indexical clauses, which are evaluated with respect to the speech situation; and anaphoric clauses, which are evaluated with respect to a contextually-given (anaphoric) situation. Empirical motivation for this claim comes from the clause-typing system of Plains Cree, an Algonquian language spoken on the Canadian plains, which morpho-syntactically distinguishes between two types of clauses traditionally called INDEPENDENT and CONJUNCT orders. In the current analysis, the INDEPENDENT order instantiates indexical clauses, and the CONJUNCT order instantiates anaphoric clauses. After laying out the proposal (chapter 1) and establishing the morphosyntax of Plains Cree CPs (chapter 2), the remaining chapters discuss the proposal in detail.Chapter 3 focusses on the syntax and semantics of indexical clauses (Plains Cree’s INDEPENDENT order). Syntactically, I show that there is an anti-c-command and an anti-precedence condition on indexical clauses. Semantically, I show that indexical clauses are always and only evaluated with respect to the speech situation, including the speech time (temporal anchoring), speech place (spatial anchoring), and speaker (referential anchoring).Chapter 4 focusses on the syntax and semantics of anaphoric clauses (Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT order). Syntactically, I show that anaphoric clauses must always be either preceded or dominated by some other antecedent clause. Semantically, I show that the value of temporal/spatial/referential dependent elements within an anaphoric clause is determined by an antecedent.Chapter 5 turns to the syntactic subclassification of Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT (i.e., anaphoric) clauses. I propose that there are three classes: chained clauses, adjunct clauses, and mediated argument clauses. I provide two kinds of diagnostics that distinguish these classes, and explore the consequences of this classification for argument clauses and complementation.Finally, Chapter 6 proposes a semantic subclassification of Plains Cree’s CONJUNCT (i.e., anaphoric) clauses. I propose that there is a direct mapping between the morphology and the semantics: one complementizer encodes presupposition of the proposition, the lack of a complementizer encodes a-veridicality of the proposition, and one complementizer is semantically unspecified (the elsewhere case). This means that Plains Cree’s clause-typing is fundamentally concerned with how the truth of the proposition is represented.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
The syntax and semantics of gap and resumptive strategies in Iraqi Arabic D-linked content questions (2011)

This thesis examines Iraqi Arabic D-linked content questions of the type “Which woman saw Ragheb?”. I develop a syntactic and semantic analysis of both the gap and resumptive strategies of such D-linked content questions. Chapter 1 provides background information on Iraqi Arabic. Chapter 2 develops the syntactic analysis: the gap strategy is treated as an instance of full DP-deletion, with the deletion site being structurally ambiguous between a D-N and a D-phi-N structure. I further propose that the resumptive strategy is an instance of remnant DP-deletion with a D-phi-N structure, and treat the resumptive pronoun as a stranded phi-element. Chapter 3 relates the two syntactic structures — D-N versus D-phi-N — to the semantic distinction between the pair-list interpretation versus a natural-function interpretation. A pair-list reading is found when a question such as “Which woman did every man invite?” is answered with a list such as: “John, Sue; Bill, Lucy, …”. A natural function reading would answer the same question with a relational noun: “His sister.” In contexts where both the gap and resumptive strategy are possible, we observe the following: the gap strategy is ambiguous between a a pair-list and a natural function reading; the resumptive strategy only allows a natural function reading. I propose that the semantic ambiguity of the gap strategy reflects its structural ambiguity: if the deletion site is D-N, this corresponds to the pair-list reading; if the deletion site is D-phi-N, this corresponds to the natural function reading. As for the resumptive strategy, in contexts where the gap strategy is also possible, it is unambiguously interpreted with a natural functional reading; this is consistent with the syntactic remnant DP-deletion, which requires a D-phi-N structure. I further show that, in contexts where only the resumptive strategy is possible, economy considerations allow syntactic remnant DP-deletion to be semantically ambiguous between a pair-list and a natural function reading. Chapter 4 examines the syntactic and semantic parallels between D-linked content questions and genitive interrogatives and argues that the latter are inherently D-linked.

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