[developers] Difference between neg_rel/modifiers and modals

Ann Copestake aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk
Thu May 18 17:01:01 CEST 2017

I do think it's really important to be clear what the goals are. Are you 
trying to figure out what the representation should be in terms of the 
underlying semantics?  Because then talking about negation events could 
well be problematic.  There are moves one can make which might work - 
e.g., situations in Barwise and Perry terms (but then that doesn't 
necessarily fit with other things we're doing) - but one can't simply 
write e.g., not(e,P) and assume it's meaningful.  I mean, maybe you want 
e to refer to the period of time when not(P) holds.  But I guess you can 
see that this is not something that is obviously OK.

Alternatively, you're essentially leaving the object language up to 
someone else and trying to come up with a representation which captures 
the right things about the syntax/semantics interface. But I still think 
you have to know something about plausible target object languages.

All best,


On 17/05/17 21:14, Guy Emerson wrote:
> To bring this back to Emily's question, I can think of two ways that 
> we might represent the "silent for a long time" reading:
> Option 1. "for a long time" takes the neg_rel's variable as an 
> argument.  This could be constructed compositionally using the 
> negation-as-a-modal analysis that Emily mentioned.  This would then 
> allow neg_rel to have a consistent semantics in the Grammar Matrix.
> On the downside, if we push the INDEX up to the neg_rel, we can't get 
> hold of _speak_v_rel any more - which we need if we're going to model 
> adverbs attaching after negation but scoping underneath negation.  
> With DMRS composition, we can construct it compositionally even if we 
> stick with the scopal modifier approach (so the INDEX is still 
> "speak"), and then connect an ARG/EQ link to the LTOP.  This would, 
> however, mean relaxing the constraints in the proposed DMRS algebra, 
> since we have an /EQ link selecting the LTOP, not the INDEX.
> Option 2. "for a long time" shares a label with the neg_rel, but still 
> takes _speak_v_rel as an argument.  So then "for a long time" is 
> outside the scope of negation.  To construct this compositionally, we 
> want _speak_v_rel to be the INDEX (for both MRS and DMRS composition).
> If we take this approach, then we can treat modals as scopal modifiers 
> and still get two readings.  So this doesn't directly answer Emily's 
> question, because now there are two different ways of getting two 
> readings.  But it would at least suggest that we can treat modals as 
> scopal modifiers, which would allow a more consistent semantics of 
> negation in the Grammar Matrix.
> That's the main thing I wanted to say - but Re: Robin Hood:
> I've found Ivan Sag's discussion of the jailing Robin Hood examples 
> (https://www.academia.edu/2798317/Adjunct_scope), apparently discussed 
> by Dowty (1979).  I can see the relevance, in that "for three years" 
> could refer to the time in jail, or the time spent putting him in 
> jail.  But I'm not convinced by the argument that we should decompose 
> this as a causative - otherwise, the verb "sentence" also seems like 
> it could be decomposed into something like cause(be-in-jail), but it 
> doesn't pattern like "jail":
> The Sheriff of Nottingham jailed Robin Hood for three years.
> *The Sheriff of Nottingham jailed Robin Hood to three years.
> The Sheriff of Nottingham sentenced Robin Hood for three years. 
> (repeated jailing reading)
> The Sheriff of Nottingham sentenced Robin Hood to three years. (single 
> jailing reading)
> In any case, we can get different readings for verbs without an 
> obvious lexical decomposition:
> I ate meat for a year (but then became vegetarian)
> I ate meat for an hour (and then I was very full)
> Bouma&Malouf&Sag also discuss "open again", but similarly, "Kim bought 
> X and sold it again" has a reading where this is the first time Kim 
> sold it.  And explicitly representing that reading by decomposing 
> "sell" would require something like cause(be-sold).  This seems 
> dubious to me.  I'm much more tempted to say that "again" has a 
> fuzzier meaning than Dowty assumes.
> I couldn't find any examples which convinced me that there's an 
> interaction with the morphosyntax, so I feel like this is all 
> something that we can safely leave out of the MRS.
> 2017-05-17 3:57 GMT-07:00 Ann Copestake <aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk 
> <mailto:aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk>>:
>     I get those readings but note:
>     3. For a long time, Kim didn't speak.
>     only has your reading 2.
>     so although I'd want to try and give an underspecified semantics
>     for your sentence, one would have to do that in a way that
>     recognised this has a different semantics.
>     for negation there's an extensive literature - I'd recommend
>     Horn's book.
>     For some of these type of examples, I've played around with an
>     account that decomposes the event variable so that one might claim
>     that the negation was operating over different parts of a complex
>     event structure in standard MRS.  But that only allows for 3 in a
>     very stipulative way, if it works at all.  Negated events are
>     complicated.
>     Incidentally, Ivan Sag (somewhere) had a discussion of examples like:
>       The Sheriff of Nottingham jailed Robin Hood for three years.
>     which may be relevant - I honestly can't remember.
>     Anyway - I was trying to answer a slightly different type of
>     question, which was what the semantics of unexpected_rel might
>     be.  I was just trying to convey the modal flavour - not talking
>     about the different readings the English sentence might have.  It
>     may be that with some sort of account that did the negation
>     examples, one could also get a non-scopal `unexpectedly' to give
>     two structurally different readings, but that's a somewhat
>     different issue.
>     All best,
>     Ann
>     On 17/05/17 02:08, Guy Emerson wrote:
>>     So, if I've understood correctly:
>>     - using a scopal modifier for negation only leaves one variable
>>     for non-scopal modifiers
>>     - using a modal for negation would allow non-scopal modifiers to
>>     take either the main verb's variable, or the modal's variable
>>     But then, what about "Kim didn't speak for a long time", which I
>>     think can have two readings:
>>     1. Kim spoke for only a short time
>>     2. Kim was silent for a long time
>>     It looks like the ERG just gets the first reading.
>>     2017-05-11 13:55 GMT-07:00 Ann Copestake <aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk
>>     <mailto:aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk>>:
>>         I think /unexpectedly/ is scopal in at least some
>>         circumstances. Specifically I would say the semantics of
>>         /unexpectedly/ is modal (in a broad sense) - e.g., I could
>>         treat it in terms of possible worlds that I'm considering at
>>         some timepoint t - if in only 1% of possible worlds does P
>>         happen, and P actually happens by t' (where t' > t) then
>>         unexpected(P). This is very crude and incomplete, but all I'm
>>         trying to do here is convey the modal intuition.
>>         Under this interpretation:
>>           unexpected(not(win(Kim)))
>>         means that at time t I thought not(win(Kim)) had 1% chance,
>>         but at t' not(win(Kim)) has come to pass
>>         this isn't the same as:
>>           not(unexpected(win(Kim)))
>>         which means it-is-not-the-case that [ at time t I thought
>>         win(Kim) had 1% chance and at t' win(Kim) has come to pass ]
>>         i.e., either I expected Kim to win all along or Kim actually
>>         didn't win
>>>         Also, in (3), unexpectedly could be a sentence-initial
>>>         discourse
>>>         adverb (scopal?) or an adverb extracted from lower in the
>>>         clause...
>>         As I remember it, the discussion about possible sentence
>>         situation meaning is a semantic one rather than depending on
>>         whether there's extraction or not.
>>         All best,
>>         Ann
>>         On 11/05/2017 21:13, Emily M. Bender wrote:
>>>         Thanks, Ann, for the quick reply!  This connects to other
>>>         things I've been
>>>         curious about recently, including how we decide if something
>>>         like "unexpectedly"
>>>         is scopal or not. Also, in (3), unexpectedly could be a
>>>         sentence-initial discourse
>>>         adverb (scopal?) or an adverb extracted from lower in the
>>>         clause...
>>>         Emily
>>>         On Wed, May 10, 2017 at 2:11 AM, Ann Copestake
>>>         <aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk <mailto:aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk>> wrote:
>>>             I think the idea is to represent the contrast between:
>>>             1   We could unexpectedly close the window.
>>>             either ability to close or actual closure is unexpected
>>>             2   We did not unexpectedly close the window.
>>>             only the closure (if it had happened) would be unexpected.
>>>             I don't think this is actually the best analysis.  For
>>>             instance, for me,
>>>             3   Unexpectedly we did not close the window.
>>>             has another reading, which we are not capturing in MRS. 
>>>             Claudia Maiernborn would (perhaps) treat this as a
>>>             sentential situation rather than an event modification
>>>             and it may be that analysis is also available for 1
>>>             instead of the modal modification analysis.
>>>             I'm afraid I don't have time to discuss this properly at
>>>             the moment, though.  I feel such a discussion has taken
>>>             place, but don't remember the venue.
>>>             All best,
>>>             Ann
>>>             On 10/05/2017 01:13, Emily M. Bender wrote:
>>>>             Dear all,
>>>>             I'm curious about the different in analysis between
>>>>             neg_rel and (other) scopal adverbial
>>>>             modifiers on the one hand and modals on the other in
>>>>             the treatment of the INDEX:
>>>>             In (1) and (2), the INDEX of the whole MRS points to
>>>>             the ARG0 of _sleep_v_rel:
>>>>             (1) Kim doesn't sleep.
>>>>             (2) Kim probably sleeps.
>>>>             ... where in (3) and (4) it points to the ARG0 of
>>>>             _can_v_rel and _would_v_rel respectively:
>>>>             (3) Kim can sleep.
>>>>             (4) Kim would sleep.
>>>>             I'm wondering what difference we intend to model here.
>>>>              (This question comes up now
>>>>             because we're looking at negation in my grammar
>>>>             engineering class, and the out-of-the-box
>>>>             analysis for languages which express negation with an
>>>>             auxiliary has neg_rel falling
>>>>             in the latter class.)
>>>>             Thanks,
>>>>             Emily
>>>>             -- 
>>>>             Emily M. Bender
>>>>             Professor, Department of Linguistics
>>>>             Check out CLMS on facebook! http://www.facebook.com/uwclma
>>>         -- 
>>>         Emily M. Bender
>>>         Professor, Department of Linguistics
>>>         Check out CLMS on facebook! http://www.facebook.com/uwclma

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