Hadas Kotek untangles Tanglewood at Sinn und Bedeutung and MIT Exhaustivity Workshop

September 5, 2016

This week, lecturer Hadas Kotek​ is giving two presentations about her joint work with Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (National University of Singapore) on covert focus movement in so-called Tanglewood sentences. Today she is giving a talk, titled “Untangling Tanglewood using covert focus movement,” at Sinn und Bedeutung 21, a semantics conference held this year at the University of Edinburgh. On Saturday, she will present a poster with the same title at the MIT Workshop on Exhaustivity 2016.

The abstract for the poster is provided below (a longer abstract for the talk is linked above), but for background, Tanglewood sentences originated in Kratzer (1991) as an argument against alternative semantics (Rooth 1985). The example that gives the configuration its name is in (1). Its meaning, paraphrased in (2), requires the focus alternatives considered to covary in the pronounced position of Tanglewood and the corresponding position in the elided VP,  = “go to [Tanglewood]F.”

  1. Context: You accuse me of being a copy cat. “You went to Block Island because I did. You went to Elk Lake Lodge because I did. And you went to Tanglewood because I did.” I reply:

    I only went to [Tanglewood]F because you did △.

  2. Paraphrase: Tanglewood is the only place x such that I went to x because you went to x.

We argue for the existence of covert focus movement in English focus association. Our evidence comes from Tanglewood configurations of the form in Kratzer 1991. We show that Tanglewood configurations are sensitive to syntactic islands, contrary to Kratzer’s claims and predictions. We propose that Tanglewood configurations always involve covert movement of the focused constituent—possibly with covert pied-piping (Drubig 1994; Krifka 1996, 2006; Tancredi 1997, 2004; Wagner 2006; Erlewine and Kotek 2014)—to bind a bound variable in the ellipsis site. This availability of covert pied-piping explains examples such as Kratzer’s which are apparently not island-sensitive. We show that covert focus movement is long-distance and not simply QR. Kratzer’s proposal that ellipsis enforces the identity of focus indices and other previous approaches will be argued to overgenerate Tanglewood readings.

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