The source of nonfinite temporal interpretation
Ellise Moon, Aaron Steven White
June 2020

Which aspects of semantic interpretation are due to predicates’ denotations and which are due to the denotations of their arguments? This question has proven particularly difficult to answer in the context of the temporal interpretation of nonfinite embedded clauses. We focus on questions about temporal orientation---i.e. how an eventuality expressed in an embedded clause is temporally located relative to the one described in that clause's matrix. We investigate the question of what gives rise to temporal orientation by (i) using an acceptability judgment task to collect a large sample of temporal orientation patterns, covering a broad swath of the lexicon; and (ii) developing a computational model for extracting systematicities in those patterns across lexical items and embedded clause structures. We set our model up so as to be general across a range of possible accounts proposed in prior work, with each setting of our model's hyperparameters corresponding to a different instantiation of some such account. We then use standard quantitative model comparison techniques to determine which hypotheses best explain observed data, while simultaneously predicting the patterns in unseen data well. In this comparison, we find that models attributing temporal orientation only to predicate denotations---not to complement denotations---reliably underperform those that attribute it to only complement denotations or both predicate and complement denotations.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005282
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of the 50th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 50)
keywords: tense, infinitival, clause embedding, argument structure, semantics, syntax
previous versions: v1 [June 2020]
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