Current Research Projects



The Structure & Projection of DP: This on-going work is investigating the structure of natural language nominals from the standpoint of generalized quantifier theory in semantics. The leading idea is that quantifiers are not functional categories, as typically assumed, but rather fully thematic/argument-structure bearing items, although the thematic roles involved are different than those associated with verbs. This viewpoint affords an account of DP projection closely parallel to that of other thematic items (e.g., Vs). A language family of particular interest to this project is the Iranian languages, which exhibit remarkable, but highly systematic variation in nominal structure, and include the Ezafe and Reverse Ezafe phenomena, in many degrees of complexity.

The Comparative Grammar of Intensional Transitive Verbs: This project is a comparative study of intensional transitive verbs, a construction type raising significant questions about the relation between semantics and grammar. Semantic intensionality phenomena are known to arise with clausal complements embedded under verbs of propositional attitude like believe, know, think or say; by contrast, direct objects of transitive verbs are typically extensional in their semantics. This correlation seems to be violated, however, with predicates like want, need, seek, or imagine, which show apparent transitive syntax coupled with an intensional semantics.

It has been proposed that the correlation stated above is absolute, and that intensional transitive verbs (ITVs) merely appear to be transitive. On this view, examples like Mary wants a griffin or Max seeks a wife are underlyingly clausal in structure (cf. Mary wants to have a griffin and Max seeks to find a wife), accounting for the intensionality of their "objects".

This project will investigate the covert clause analysis comparatively, looking at a range of languages, including Chinese, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Slovenian. The working hypothesis is that clausal complementation is "concealed" in ITVs as the effect of two known grammatical phenomena: phonetically null elements and clause reduction. If this is correct, careful comparison of languages in which the principles governing null elements and restructuring are known to vary should bring the clausal nature of ITVs into relief, or else provide evidence that the hypothesis is incorrect.
This research is supported by NSF BCS-0236952.


Email: rlarson@semlab1.sbs.sunysb.edu