The syntax-semantics interface and cross-linguistic variation

The central questions to be addressed in the course are twofold: (i.) How do syntactic structure and compositional modes of semantic interpretation interact in giving rise to the meaning of natural language expressions?; (ii.) To what extent is the observable cross-linguistic variation in semantic interpretation due to syntactic differences, i.e. the presence or absence of certain structural configurations, or to semantic differences, i.e. the (non-) applicability of certain compositional modes of interpretation. Drawing on data from European, African, and North American languages, it is shown that the underlying semantic mechanisms are quite robust cross-linguistically, and that the main sources of cross-linguistic variation are located in the syntactic component, on the one hand, and in the inventory of functional items, on the other. The empirical phenomena discussed include: verb-complement structures, adnominal and adverbial modification, quantification in natural language, universal quantification, indefinite NPs, event semantics, negation, tense and aspect.