Barbara H. Partee

University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Election Year: 1989
Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Section: 51, Anthropology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

My research and teaching interests center on formal semantics and its connections with syntax, pragmatics, and logic, and on related issues in the philosophy of language and in cognitive science. After graduate work concentrating on syntax with Noam Chomsky at MIT, my research first centered on syntactic theory and then moved steadily towards semantics, especially after exposure to the work of the logician Richard Montague at UCLA. My early contributions involved the synthesis of Chomskyan generative syntax with Montague's formal semantics, bringing formal semantics increasingly into the field of linguistics. One lifelong interest is quantification. Recent NSF-funded research with colleagues and students at UMass concentrated on cross-linguistic quantification and semantic typology, with results reported in Bach, Jelinek, Kratzer and Partee, eds., 1995. A project with Eva Hajicova and Petr Sgall of Charles University, Prague, integrated a contemporary Prague school approach to topic-focus structure with work in formal semantics on quantification, resulting in a joint monograph (1998). A Humboldt Prize to Partee and Hans Kamp of the University of Stuttgart funded cooperative research in context-dependence in linguistic meaning; a jointly edited book is in press. Philosophical interests include the relation between model-theoretic and conceptualist semantics and problems of compositionality. Other areas of recent and current research include the semantics of adjectives and prototype theory (with Hans Kamp), the interaction of noun phrase semantics with verbal aspect, the semantics of specificational pseudocleft sentences and the question of inversion around "be" in English. The main focus of my recent and current research, joint with my husband Vladimir Borschev and other Russian colleagues, is the integration of lexical semantics (especially including Moscow School lexical semantics) with formal compositional semantics, including issues of type-shifting, sortal structures, and sort-shifting. A recent NSF grant (1999-2003) with Borschev and other Russian colleagues and with UMass graduate students concerned the semantics of genitive (possessive) constructions with relational and non-relational nouns in English and Russian, focusing on problems of the interaction of lexical semantics, compositional semantics, and context. Our current work focuses on the semantics and distribution of the Russian genitive of negation and its relation to a range of issues including "perspectival structure", existential sentences, scope of negation, unaccusativity and diathesis shift, semantic bleaching and other effects of the interaction of lexical and compositional semantics.

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