The Barker Lectures

Lecturer: Chris Barker (New York University)

Title: Continuations and Natural Language

Date & time: Wed October 14th (13.30-16.30), Thur October 15th (13.30-16.30),  Fri October 16th (13.30-16.30)

Participation: Participation is free.

Location: CRISSP/KU Leuven Brussels Campus
October 14, 13.30-16.30: 3101
October 15, 13.30-16.30: 7116
October 16, 13.30-16.30: room 4015 in a new building, Broekstraat 119 (Google maps)


Scope-taking is a hallmark of natural language: not only is it  widespread in the world’s languages, it is pervasive within individual languages.  It is so familiar to us linguists that it is sometimes hard to appreciate just how astonishing it is for an expression to take material that surrounds it as its semantic argument.  For instance, in “Ann gave everyone cookies”, the semantic argument of the quantificational DP “everyone” is the property constructed by abstracting over the direct object position, i.e., “\x.Ann gave x cookies”.  Clearly, a deep and complete understanding of scope-taking is of foundational importance.  Building on joint work with Chung-chieh Shan, I will bring to bear insights and techniques from the theory of programming languages, in particular, the concept of a CONTINUATION.  One potential advantage of continuations over other approaches is that continuations allow fine-grained control over the order of evaluation.  This allows a new account of sensitivity to linear order in weak crossover, reconstruction, negative polarity licensing, and dynamic anaphora.  I will go on to explain how continuations allow understanding the traditional method of Quantifier Raising not as an ad-hoc heuristic for constructing so-called “logical forms”, but as a bone fide logical inference rule in the context of a substructural logic.  This will lead to an account of parasitic scope and recursive scope, as in adjectives such as “same” and “different”, as well as of sluicing as a kind of anaphora, including accounts of sprouting examples (“Ann left, but I don’t know when”) and Andrews Amalgams (“Ann ate I don’t know what yesterday”).