[Seminar] Prof. Louise McNally

Event Date: Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 11 a.m.

Location: Palazzo Matteucci, P.za Torricelli 2, Pisa, PI, Italia [Aula Magna]

Speaker: Prof. Louise McNally (University Pompeu Fabra)

Title: Semantic composition with and without reference

Abstract: In this talk, I reflect on my experience when I turned to compositional distributional semantics in an effort to better address the interaction of lexical and compositional semantics in the domain of modification. After considering the possibility of a full-blown distributional semantics for both content and function words, I have opted to explore a mixed model grounded in Discourse Representation Theory (DRT, Kamp 1981; see Garrette, et al. 2011 and Lenci 2016 for related approaches). Specifically, I argue that certain kinds of modification constructions, including (broadly) noun incorporation, point to the existence in natural language of productive compositional operations that combine descriptive contents unmediated by reference, alongside referentially-mediated composition processes. I note, building on the results of Boleda, et al. 2013, that compositional distributional methods can provide interesting models the former, and show, following McNally 2017, McNally & Boleda, to appear, how they can be integrated with a DRT-based model of reference-based composition.

Louise McNally (Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz, 1992) is Professor of Linguistics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. Her research primarily concerns the interaction of lexical and compositional semantics, with particular focus on the syntax and semantics of modification. In recent years, she has collaborated with computational linguists in exploring distributional models of nominal phrases. She is currently working on integrating symbolic and statistical approaches to language modeling in order to develop a better understanding of how reference and conceptual knowledge interact in the construction of meaning.