OUC Semantics Research Group

OUC Semantics Research Group invites speakers once a month to give a talk on formal semantics, a linguistic subfield. If you are interested in giving a talk, contact Sumiyo Nishiguchi or Atsushi Oho.

Upcoming Meeting:

Ian Joo (Otaru University of Commerce) ``Iconicity: When the Form Resembles the Meaning" April 25, Thursday, 2024 2:30pm-4pm @BL1, 3rd floor, & ZOOM
abstract In human languages, words can be shaped similarly to the concepts they represent. In sign languages, many signs are visually similar to the objects they refer to. In spoken languages, some words may bear sounds that sound similar to the things they stand for. This similarity is called the iconicity, which means the similarity between form and meaning. In this presentation, I will present the notion of linguistic iconicity to the general audience and provide some interesting examples.

Past Meetings:

Madeline Ladore (University of Potsdam) ``An Experimental Investigation into Akan's Plural Morphology" January 11, Thursday, 2024 2:30-4pm, online
abstractThis research builds on a pilot study to understand the precise semantics of Akan’s number-marking morphology. The current literature on exclusive and inclusive plurals focuses mainly on English, with some investigation of Turkish, Western Armenian, and Arabic. In most languages, plurals in an upward entailing context (1a) refer only to a plurality, making them exclusive of the atomic reading. However, plurals in a downward entailing context, such as negation (1b), refer to atoms and pluralities, rendering them inclusive. (1) a. John planted trees. #‘John planted one or more trees.’ [Inclusive] ‘John planted more than one tree.’ [Exclusive] b. John didn’t plant trees. ‘John did not plant one or more trees.’ [Inclusive] #‘John did not plant more than one tree.’ [Exclusive] In the initial discussion of Akan’s plural semantics, Ahenkora (2022) claims that the plural circumfix, used to mark familial relations is inclusive, similarly to English, but that the prefix, which is used for most nominals, is exclusive. However, in a pilot study investigating the plural prefix in only one downward entailing context: negation, Ladore et al. (2023) found results that conflicted with Ahenkora’s (2022) claims concerning the plural prefix. With variance as to what the semantic reading of the plural prefix is, partnered with Ahenkora’s suggestion that the prefix and circumfix carry different readings, the current study takes on an experimental investigation into both plural morphemes under multiple downward entailing contexts. Given that the two experiments reveal that speakers prefer the inclusive interpretation for both plural morphemes, the results of this study support the idea of inclusive plurals in downward entailing contexts as a semantic universal. Therefore, this analysis further augments the understanding of plurality cross-linguistically and introduces data from an additional language to the discussion of monotonicity, which had previously only focused on languages found in Europe and the Middle East. Lastly, this research aims to additionally bring attention to the study of semantics in African languages, a body of literature which remains sparse when compared to the amount of work available on European languages but has the potential to increase our knowledge of language and specifically plurality as a whole.

Toshiyuki Ogihara (University of Washington) ``Nihongo Setzuzokushi-no Toki", August 2, 2023, Wednesday, 4:30pm-6pm @Sapporo Satellite, Otaru University of Commerce
abstractMany researchers including Vlach (1973, 1980), Dowty (1979, 1986), Stump (1985) and Hall and Caponigro (2010) studied the semantics of the temporal conjunction when. The semantic properties of toki ‘time/when’ clauses in Japanese were studied by Oshima (2011), Kaufmann and Miyachi (2011), and Suzuki (2018) among many others. Japanese toki clauses differ from English when clauses in that both “relative” and “absolute” interpretations of their tense form are possible. In this talk, I shall concentrate on the “relative” use of toki. Regarding the semantics of -toki (or when) itself, I defend the null hypothesis that it indicates simultaneity, i.e. there is a time that satisfies the matrix clause condition (of type <i,t>) and the toki/when clause condition (of type <i,t>). I present an auxiliary proposal that encodes the perceived temporal relation between the toki/when clause eventuality and the matrix clause situation. The key is to interpret the entire clause in relation to a frame adverbial, and this gives us a tool to deal with the idea of “immediately before or after,” which is often discussed in the literature dealing with toki/when clauses.


Sumiyo Nishiguchi, Atsushi Oho
Center for Language Studies, Otaru University of Commerce access

3-5-21 Midori, Otaru-city Hokkaido 047-8501 Japan

last updated April 22, 2024