LingLang Lunch (11/20/2019): Daniel Altshuler (Hampshire College)

Daniel Altshuler is an assistant professor of linguistics at Hampshire College. His primary research interests are in the areas of semantics and pragmatics of natural language. His research investigates how compositional semantics interacts with discourse structure and discourse coherence. For more information, his website is here.


Causal reasoning about states

This talk will consider the asymmetry between how we interpret event-event sequences vs. event-state sequences such as:

(1) a. Justin fell down. Ava pushed him (Cause-Effect, Effect-Cause)
b. Ava pushed Justin. He fell down (Cause-Effect)

(2) a. The barn was red. I painted it. (Effect-Cause, Cause-Effect)
b. I painted the barn. It was red. (*Cause-Effect)

(3) a. A child was dead. A police officer shot him while he had his hands up. (Effect-Cause)
b. A police officer shot a child while he had his hands up. #He was dead. (*Cause-Effect)

Notice that (2b) cannot have the causal inference found in (1b) and (3c) is infelicitous. Based on these and other related data, we will consider the view that the coherence relation, Result, is aspectually sensitive in a way that Explanation is not. We will consider some challenges to this view and I will outline some ways to proceed. In the end, we will have a new lens through which to think about narrative progression and narrative regression.