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Michael Johnston, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Researcher,
Research Lab for Linguistics and Computation,
Department of Computer Science ,
Volen Center for Complex Systems,
Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02254

email: johnston@berry.cs.brandeis.edu



The Syntax and Semantics of Adverbial Adjuncts

Michael James Robert Johnston

The syntactic and semantic properties of clause-modifying adjuncts such as temporal adverbial clauses, because-clauses, and purpose clauses are investigated and analyzed. In particular, their composition with adverbs of quantification and negation is explored, and their subclassification into relational and non-relational subtypes is identified.

Temporal adverbial clauses headed by the temporal connectives when, before, and after are analyzed as syntactic adjuncts which are basegenerated adjoined to IP or VP. Contra Heinamaki (1978) and De Swart (1991), they are argued to be non-relational. Semantically, they contribute descriptions of intervals within the temporal neighborhood of the eventuality described by their clausal complement. Diesing (1992)'s proposal that the distinction between IP and VP correlates with the distinction between the restriction and nuclear scope is shown to be relevant to adjunct interpretation. The distinction between IP and VP adjunction determines whether the temporal adjunct serves as the restriction or nuclear scope of an adverb of quantification. This account enables the temporal semantics of these expressions to follow from general principles regarding the truth of an eventuality description at an interval and allows when to be given a unified semantics.

Because-clauses and purpose clauses are also adjuncts which may adjoined to IP or VP. They introduce higher-order relations between eventualities. The distinction between IP and VP adjunction accounts for the ambiguity of constructions where they compose with negation and with adverbial quantifiers. In conjunction with the roofing theory of Ladusaw (1992), this account explains the licensing of negative polarity items in these constructions.

In addition to providing an analysis of adverbial adjuncts, this work also has consequences for the syntax/semantics interface. The distinction between IP and VP adjunction of adverbials is shown to be significant for their semantic interpretation. These proposals argue against Rooth (1985)'s theory of association with focus and support Vallduvi (1990)'s claim that intonational focus is not relevant to semantic interpretation. The telic/atelic distinction in aspectual class is shown to determine whether an eventuality description is able to individuate a domain for quantification. The relationship between presupposition and quantificational structure is addressed.

Available by ftp from ftp.cs.brandeis.edu. The file is pub/research/johnston/mjdiss.ps.gz.

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The goal of the Core Lexicon Project is to develop a computational model of the lexicon which captures the basic lexical types of English. This model can be used, in conjunction with corpus-based lexical acquisition techniques to derive domain specific lexicons. These resources and techniques play an essential role in the development of systems for natural language understanding and intelligent information extraction.

The Core Lexicon utilizes and builds on Pustejovsky's theory of the Generative Lexicon. The system is implemented utilizing the TDL (Type Description Language) system developed at DFKI in Saabruecken.

Current Address

Computer Science Department
Volen National Center for Complex Systems
Brandeis University
Waltham MA 02254

email: johnston@berry.cs.brandeis.edu
office phone: +1-617-736 2729
office fax: +1-617-736 2741