Morphological markedness and semantic interpretation in the nominal domain

Mary Moroney

University of Rochester

Friday, March 4, 2022
Noon–1:30 p.m.

Lattimore 513

Cross-linguistic differences in morphosyntactic realization of meaning motivate distinct semantic representations at the lexical and compositional level. It remains to be determined which lexical items instantiate which differences in interpretation and how these differences can be integrated into a compositional and cross-linguistically coherent system. This presentation addresses the representations of nouns, number, and definiteness based on fieldwork data from Shan, a Southwestern Tai language of Myanmar.

Shan presents a case where plurality and definiteness are not marked on the noun using plural morphology or a determiner. Overt marking utilizes (numeral-)classifier expressions and demonstratives. By examining and comparing the interpretations that are available for languages that are typologically different in terms of their morphology, it is possible to see where cross-linguistic consistency in lexical semantics and composition should largely be maintained, as I argue for nouns, or augmented, as with classifiers.