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Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: "and" as a nounphrase coordinating conjunction
« Last post by Daniel on January 23, 2018, 09:10:36 AM »
There's actually no good, consistent answer to this question that everyone would agree on. There are some possible answers, but they're all controversial in one way or another and they don't necessarily cover all possible cases. For example, you can also coordinate two adverbs or prepositions, in addition to verbs, clauses, nouns, etc. So some solutions would just address nouns and clauses, while others might attempt a more general solution. (I happen to be writing my dissertation on coordination and related things, by the way.)

From the perspective of syntax, there are broadly speaking two approaches:
1. Treat "and" as if it can link ANY two identical (or similar?) categories. Often this is via "&P", a sort of unusual phrase, which internally takes any two similar XPs and links them up but then acts like that same category (XP) externally. So an &P might act like NP if it's conjoining two nouns. (There's a good recent book that argues for and supports this type of analysis and discusses earlier literature: Zhang, 2009: Coordination in Syntax.)
2. Always assume clausal coordination, and then use a special rule of conjunction reduction to not pronounce all of the parallel words. So your example "Jack and Lilly sing" would actually be "Jack sings and Lilly sings", transformed (by conjunction reduction) to "Jack and Lilly sing", then you can treat "and" as a normal clausal coordination, and the only complex rule is however syntax generates the surface form. This is an older, traditional analysis that doesn't get so much support these days, at least not for all cases. Note that one problem here is any sort of sentence which doesn't work well split up into two parallel parts like that-- notice also the form "sings" vs. "sing" which would somehow need to be derived as a plural once "reduced" as well. Even worse are examples like "John and Mary met", where "John met" isn't a coherent sentence, nor is "Mary met", but only together do they make sense (and they also necessarily met each other, not random other people!).

There is actually some recent evidence that both analyses may be required, for different types of constructions. (One type of evidence is from some languages with optional close-conjunct agreement, where you get things like lit. "John and [Mary sings]" and "John and Mary sings", where the former is derived by conjunction reduction and the latter is derived compositionally with a conjoined noun phrase. That's not uncontroversial but the argument is interesting.) One further argument in support of at least sometimes having conjunctive reduction is non-constituent coordination: "I eat pizza, and you pasta." That seems like it must be generated by some sort of shortening of the full second clause. However, where to draw the line between these two analyses is uncertain at this point, and controversial.

There have been hundreds of papers dealing with the structure of coordination and various types of exceptions. Many of them don't agree with others. So one practical answer is just to pick one approach and use that, unless you want to try to solve this yourself.

(If you're taking a class, see your textbook, or ask your instructor. That's the only way to get the "right" answer in terms of your class!)

So in terms of semantics, there are also two related ways to handle coordination:
1. Treat each type of coordinated constituent separately. Have one type for clauses, another for verbs, another for noun phrases, and so forth. This intuitively doesn't seem like it can be the right answer because you'll just have a list of many types and lambda expressions, but it's relatively straight-forward to do that, making it convenient in another sense. (You could even imagine some sort of general procedure to automatically generated all of these types, although it's unclear how it would fit into a standard formal semantic theory.) One argument in favor of this position is that there are many languages where clausal/verbal coordination and noun coordination are actually done with different conjunctions that can't necessarily conjoin all other categories like is possible so generally in English. In that sense, maybe just making a list and considering "and" to be (many-ways) ambiguous is the best solution. (See:
2. You can try to come up with a very general solution to the problem involving variable types, of the form <<X,X>,X>, where two Xs are conjoined and also result in an X. But it isn't clear how to integrate that more generally into the theory. (You could alternatively try to bend the types somehow to handle more than one type of phrase, but that probably won't hold up very well.)

Since this sounds like homework, I'm not going to give you 'the answer'. But your question is an interesting one beyond just how to do that one problem. And you've noticed something important by asking the question. For the actual 'answer', you can decide what makes the most sense yourself, or check with your instructor (or textbook) for what the best answer in your case is. Note that for many classes the range or reasoning for possible answers is restricted to make these questions easier, while not necessarily being the same answer that would be used in published research.

In short, yes, that is a complication, and it's not easy to deal with. The simplest answer would be to just treat it like a completely different word (and1, and2), with different types. But that may  not feel intuitively like solving the underlying issue, just patching it until you come across a slightly different sentence.


Personally, in terms of a general solution to these things, I'm in favor of I guess what you could call (and some have called) a "3D" approach, where you have layers of sentences which overlap and then merge/switch at the conjunction "and", discussed in some recent papers. (This is similar to the "conjunction reduction" approach above.) But that doesn't seem to work in all cases, so I do like a mix of both types of approaches.

And even more personally/idiosyncratically, at least sometimes, I think that "and" itself has no meaning at all. I wouldn't assign it a node in the tree. Instead I think of it as phonological glue that indicates a conjoined structure, but that isn't itself an element of that structure. (It's part of the tree's trunk/branches, rather than a leaf at the end of a branch, if you want that metaphor.) But that's not a mainstream perspective at all. (I think it's necessary some of the time though.) And it wouldn't cover all cases-- sometimes indeed I think you would need to just treat it as if it's conjoining two nouns.

So "and" is complicated!
Semantics and Pragmatics / "and" as a nounphrase coordinating conjunction
« Last post by Andrea245 on January 23, 2018, 02:28:26 AM »
Hi everyone :)

in one of my uni classes we are currently working on deriving truth conditions. We already dealt with "and" as a conjunction of type <t, t, t> connecting two sentences as in "Jack sings and Lily plays the guitar". We computed the truth-condition using this lambda expression for and: λp ∈ Dt . [λq ∈ Dt . p = q = 1].
But now we have a sentence, where and coordinates two NPs: "Jack and Lilly sing." I got a bit stuck computing the truth-conditions as I don't know what the lambda expression for "and" would look like. It somehow must combine two e type expression and return a noun phrase of either type e or <et, t> so that it can get applied to the verb.
Does anybody know where to look it up?
Kind regards,
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 08:02:07 PM »
Sounds like you are in the right place then. (And feel free to explore prescriptive things too; I don't mean to be discouraging either way at all.)

"Linguistics" (and some of the topics you mention) can refer to so many diverse topics it's hard to even know where to start. More specific recommendations can be made for more specific questions once you figure that out.

Curzan's book is a good one if you're not sure and also want to know about prescriptivism, and it may lead to other topics too. You could also start with something more formal, like a textbook, but that's probably not as much fun.

(Without sounding too judgmental, I will say that your observations seem right: anyone who takes language(s) seriously enough to get into Linguistics eventually comes around, at least in some ways, to the descriptive perspective. At least some of the interest in perspective grammar is somewhat superficial: telling people they should speak or write like you do, because you assume that's correct. There are some valid aspects of prescriptivism, for some purposes. But when you start looking more broadly, especially comparing languages, things look different. Familiarity supports interest and acceptance.)
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 07:50:17 PM »
I wouldn't say that I am mostly interested in prescriptive grammar.  I would say that I am initially interested in it.  I'm also interested in the universality of language, Cryptophasia, why certain sounds have been chosen over others, how sounds are made within the mouth &c.. 

It's like someone who has fallen in love with the physical creation of books.  They want to make them, but they don't know the terms.  They don't know what a spine is or binding or signatures.  They love reading, but don't know the terms like preface or forward or why they are typically located where they are.

One needs to begin somewhere, so I thought I should begin with established "rules" so as to be able to deviate from them in the future and to reference them in the process.

I really have no idea what I'm doing, but I have seen enough discussion in online forums to come to the conclusion that linguists seem to take things more seriously than many other people.  They seem to have a much deeper and thorough understanding of communication and I think I would feel more comfortable being pointed in the right direction from linguists than from people that seem to be shooting more from the hip.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 06:57:36 PM »
If you are mostly interested in a prescriptive perspective, then Linguistics in the narrow sense may not be what you are after. Linguistics is almost entirely descriptive. That's not to say that you can't be interested in both, or that you aren't welcome on the forum-- you are. But if you want to focus on prescriptive ideas then you might find more valuable websites for that such as ones that discuss English grammar and so forth from that perspective. Anne Curzan's "Fixing English" book is also a great balanced perspective to explain "why" about all of this.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Introduction Thread
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:56:34 PM »
I have created a new thread to continue the discussion here, if anyone is interested.
Linguist's Lounge / Linguistics neophyte
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:50:34 PM »
This is a continuation of a discussion started with Daniel after making my first post in the introductions thread.

I think I would like to start with prescriptive grammar.  I have two older brothers who have been elementary school teachers for about 20 years or so and I have plans to become a polyglot and wish to be able to converse using the established formalities.  Watching some of the videos from the Polyglot Gatherings has shown me that I would be doing myself a favor to be able to use the accepted lingo.

I am also a penmanship enthusiast and I enjoy exchanging letters with several pen pals.  Many people in the penmanship circles are sticklers for formal writing structures.

This is not to say that my interests are exclusively in more formal, rules oriented aspects; I am just trying to find the most comprehensive springboard for getting into it without having much formal education. 

It's a bit overwhelming.  It is as if I stumbled across this door in the back of my closet labelled "Linguistics" and, upon opening the door, I have discovered that an incredibly vast city lies on the other side.

I will look into those books you recommended.  Thank you for taking the time to respond in such a thoughtful and helpful manner and for not laughing at such a newbie like myself.
Linguist's Lounge / Re: Wug giveaway contest, February 2017!
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 06:30:22 PM »
Glad to hear of your interest. Yes, maybe we can do something in 2018. There hasn't been too much interest so far but we could try again.
Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Re: Not receiving notification emails
« Last post by Daniel on January 19, 2018, 06:29:32 PM »
There's a small button below the messages in a thread, next to "reply" and "add poll" that says "notify". See if that works.
Feedback, Help and Forum Policy / Not receiving notification emails
« Last post by Fiddlestix McWhiskers on January 19, 2018, 06:17:17 PM »

I'm brand new here and have already gotten a response to my first post.  However, I have not received any email notification of the reply to my post and can see no place I can elect to be notified of responses to my activity here.  Have I missed something?  Help please.
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