How do we capture the meaning of "may" or "can"? What kinds of linguistic math do we need to understand them? In this episode, we take a look at modality: where words like "must" fit in our meanings; how we consider many ways the world could be to account for their semantics; and how the same string of sounds can have a lot of flavours.
Topic 89: Relative Clauses
We can put whole clauses inside other phrases, but what does that do to their structure and their meaning? In this episode, we take a look at the syntax and semantics of relative clauses: how these clauses kind of look like adjectives; how using them creates islands from which words can't escape; and how moving things around in them throws semantic variables into the sentence setup.
Topic 88: Splitting the Verb Phrase
How do verbs like "give" and "put" juggle more than one object? Is there an element that lets verbs cause things to happen? In this episode, we talk about splitting up the verb phrase: how our basic syntactic theory has a hard time with verbs with more than one object; how the syntax of causation shows us why we should expand our trees; and how once we break the phrase up, we can capture all sorts of facts, from two-object verbs to ambiguities.
Topic 87: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Presupposition
What's the difference between "thinking" and "knowing"? What rules do we follow for adjusting our conversational worlds? In this episode, we delve into the semantics and pragmatics of presuppositions: which words come equipped with them, how presuppositions depend on the situation and our mental worlds, and what antipresuppositions can tell us about the mechanics of interpreting sentences.
Topic 86: Complementizer Phrases and Word Order
How do sentences fit inside other sentences? Where can we put words like "that", "whether", and "if"? In this episode, we take a look at complementizer phrases: what exactly they are, how they account for embedded sentences and questions, and what they can let us do to capture word order in languages like German and Dutch.
Topic 85: The Stages of Child Syntax
What kinds of sentences do we hear from babies and toddlers? How much grammar can we find in their language use? In this episode, we take a look at child syntactic stages: what characteristics kids display as they progress from one to two to many words, whether their grammars are similar to those of adults, and how their linguistic interpretation may tell us more than just their speech.
Topic 84: Case Theory
What roles do nouns play in sentences? How can we figure out those roles when they get moved around? In this episode, we talk about case: how nouns get case, how it explains why some sentences are okay and others not, and how it can even help account for different word orders between languages.
Topic 83: Possible Worlds and Type Theory
How do we combine words to build full propositions? How do we account for what people believe, not just what's definitely true? In this episode, we talk about type theory: how we can define terms by how they relate to the world and each other, what the difference is between sense and reference, and how we can use possible worlds to work out what people believe.
Topic 82: Optimality Theory
How can we try to capture the commonalities and differences between linguistic sound systems? What makes one language sound different from another? In this episode, we take a look at Optimality Theory: how we can use constraints to describe how phonology behaves, how we rank which rules we care most about breaking, and how changing our priorities leads to totally different sound outcomes.
Topic 81: Xenolinguistics
What basic properties do all human languages have in common? How might languages from other worlds differ? In this episode, we take a look at potential alien languages: how we can categorize them differently from how our languages work, how they could potentially make sounds and compose meanings, and how imaginative we may have to be to understand what other species might have to say to us.