[developers] Difference between neg_rel/modifiers and modals

Guy Emerson gete2 at cam.ac.uk
Fri May 19 22:16:33 CEST 2017

So with the modals and attitude, we're saying that there's a state, which
bears some relation to the embedded event, and both the state and embedded
event can be modified.

I think this kind of situation can also happen with habituals, without
introducing an extra predicate:

"I didn't used to brush my teeth for long enough, but for the past year,
I've been brushing for two minutes"

In terms of the denotation, we have many brushing events lasting two
minutes, and a habitual state lasting a year.  A more minimal example:

"Kim brushed for two minutes for a year"

Some word orders seem weird (but maybe okay with the right intonation):

?"Kim brushed for a year for two minutes"
"For a year, Kim brushed for two minutes"
?"For two minutes, Kim brushed for a year"

So if want to introduce an extra event variable for modals, it seems to me
that we might want do the same for habituals, too, even though they can be
unmarked in English.

For (2a) and (2b), I think we can capture the difference without
necessarily referring to the neg "event", by using label sharing to control
whether the adverbial scopes above or below negation (my "option 2"
below).  So for (2b), the claim would be that fronted adverbials have to
take high scope, i.e. share a label with the LTOP rather than the INDEX.
In MRS, this would be immediate, since the INDEX's label is no longer
available.  In DMRS, it would have to be a syntactic constraint (you know,
maybe this reading is fine in Turkish).

In this analysis, the negation has to act on an expression with a free
variable (the event), rather than a proposition, so that the event is still
available for the adverbial when it takes high scope.  Negation is still
easy to define, but rather than inverting truth values, it's inverting
truth-conditional functions.  (In type-theoretic terms, it's of the form

That is, rather than not(speak(e)), we have not(speak)(e), so that we can
write not(speak)(e)&for-a-long-time(e), which would contrast with the other
reading not(speak&for-a-long-time)(e).  But then I don't think it really
matters whether "not" or "speak" is introducing this "e".  If we say that
"not" is introducing an event, it's effectively just wrapping the event
from "speak", anyway.

If we're happy to do that, then we could perhaps extend this approach to
modals - can(close) takes a truth-conditional function that's true of
closing events, and returns a truth-conditional function that's true of
able-to-close states.  The embedded verb's event never gets quantified,
which is perhaps reasonable - "Kim can close the window" can be true even
if Kim never closes the window.

This would make negation and modals look formally very similar, even though
the modal states look very different from the embedded verb events.

So maybe these events aren't so problematic after all?  And I'm sure
there's a literature on this that I should read.

2017-05-19 1:45 GMT-07:00 Ann Copestake <aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk>:

> my intuition is that events (eventualities) with modals make some sense in
> an object language:
> Kim can close the window.
> can(e,k,close(e',k,w))
> e refers to the state of Kim having the ability, much as in
> Kim believes Sandy slept.
> believe(e,k,sleep(e',s))
> we can talk about the state of Kim having the belief.
> Kim could close the window for an hour.
> has a reading where it's Kim's ability that lasts for an hour (e.g.,
> follow up with "and then was too weak") - that seems OK in terms of
> eventuality modification.
> Originally event semantics didn't include states and people argued both
> ways, and off the top of my head, I can't remember who ...  Still, states
> make a certain amount of sense in terms of a collection of properties or
> potentialities associated with a spatio-temporal location, in a way that
> the not "event" and the probably "event" don't.  I think one might find
> discussion of why not events don't make sense in some of the situation
> semantics literature.
> Decomposed events have been proposed in a number of contexts where the
> adverbial seems to refer to a preparatory state or whatever.  Higginbotham
> and various Generative Lexicon people (Pustejovsky et al), for instance.
> e.g.,
> (13) Mary came in an hour for an hour.
> from a paper that talks about the event decomposition idea (which I just
> found with an extremely cursory search, so don't take it as a proper
> citation) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/research/linguistics/
> publications/wpl/96papers/evans
> So the idea that one can say that there's a preparatory state of not
> talking in:
> (2a) Kim didn't speak for a long time.
> is perhaps sort of plausible.  i.e., one could claim that the single event
> allows an underspecification of the two readings.
> But then
> (2b) For a long time, Kim didn't speak. ;;; Kim was silent for a long time
> is problematic in that it only has the one reading.  One could stipulate
> that, of course, but it's not pretty.
> Maybe I'm wrong to be so worried and someone has seriously proposed not
> events.  Ask Alex? What one's looking for (in terms of the object language)
> is a literature where the denotation is discussed - not simply an argument
> from ambiguity / readings.
> Cheers,
> Ann
> On 19/05/2017 04:17, Emily M. Bender wrote:
> Right---I'm trying to understand why it is that we give different
> representations
> for not v. other modal operators wrt which event variable is exposed, with
> the
> longer range goal of getting to tests that could in principle be applied
> in other languages
> too, so we could find out if the representation we pick for sentential
> negation
> works across languages.
> Collecting the data that has come up so far in this thread:
> (1a) We could unexpectedly close the window. ;;;
>  could(unexpectedly(close)) / unexpectedly(could(close))
> (1b) We did not unexpectedly close the window. ;;;
> not(unexpectedly(close))
> (1c) Unexpectedly we did not close the window. ;;;
> unexpectedly(not(close))
> [Aside: The reason I was asking about extraction is that we do have a
> construction that
> allows an adverb to attach low in the semantics but appear at the left
> edge of the clause.
> That would predict not(unexpectedly(close)) for (1c), which I think isn't
> available.]
> (2a) Kim didn't speak for a long time. ;;; Kim spoke for only a short time
> / Kim was silent for a long time
> (2b) For a long time, Kim didn't speak. ;;; Kim was silent for a long time
> If (1a) is really ambiguous, is that meant to be an argument that 'could'
> has its
> own event that can be modified?  Why is it less problematic for a modal
> operator like
> 'could' to introduce an event (in terms of the underlying semantics) than
> something
> like 'probably' or 'not'?  Do the readings of (1b) and (1c) correspond to
> the two readings of (1a)?
> Just now it seems to me that the two readings of (1a) and the pair
> (1b)/(1c) aren't really
> relevant to the question of which INDEX is propagated, because in any case
> the ARG1 of
> unexpectedly or not is handle-valued.  But, we'd consider 'for a long
> time' to be a non-scopal
> modifier in (2), right?   So what do we want 'for' to take as its ARG in
> (2b)/the second
> reading of (2a)?
> Emily
> On Thu, May 18, 2017 at 6:55 PM, Guy Emerson <gete2 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> I think Emily's goal was to figure out what representation we should use,
>> and whether we need to have different representations
>> cross-linguistically.  (Emily, is that a fair summary?)  I can see that a
>> negated event could be problematic, but I was going off the ERG semantics,
>> where neg_rel has two arguments, so it looks like we do have not(e,P).  In
>> DMRS, we can avoid saying whether there is an event, but it's there in the
>> MRS.
>> 2017-05-18 8:01 GMT-07:00 Ann Copestake <aac10 at cl.cam.ac.uk>:
>>> 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,
>>> Ann
>>> 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>:
>>>> 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>:
>>>>> 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>
>>>>> 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
> --
> Emily M. Bender
> Professor, Department of Linguistics
> Check out CLMS on facebook! http://www.facebook.com/uwclma
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