Zheng Shen 申正


Multi-valuation across languages and domains

Multi-valuation involves one probe being valued by multiple goals, thus receiving multiple values. I look at when one probe receivs two singular values. In the nominal domain, this is illustrated in Nominal Right Node Raising constructions. Two agreement patterns are observed: the Distributive agreement where the multi-valued probe (noun) must be singular (e.g. English Slovenian), the Summative agreement where the multi-valued probe must be plural (Bulgarian, Russian). IN the TP domain, multi-valuation is showcased in T' RNR construction reported in Groß 2015. The Distribution agreement is observed in Slovenian while the Summative agreement is observed in English. I survey around 20 languages and observe a 3/4 pattern regarding the two agreement patterns in two different domains. I propose that multi-valuation shows the Agreement Hierarchy effect proposed for hybrid noun agreement (Corbett 1979 a.o.).

Shen, Zheng. 2019. The multi-valuation Agreement Hierarchy. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 4(1), 46. DOI: 10.5334/gjgl.585

Shen, Zheng. 2018. Feature Arithmetic in the Nominal Domain. Doctoral dissertations, University of Connecticut.

Closest conjunct agreement and multi-valuation

Closest conjunct agreement (CCA), where the linearly closest conjunct controls the agreement, constitutes the most prominent case that the grammar is sensitive to word order. Various analyses for CCA rely on special properties of the conjunction head like 'and' and argue that the linear effect is an illusion. CCA in multi-valuation is special in that there is no local conjunction head, which makes it harder to accommodate the linear effect in narrow syntax. Tentative results indicate that CCA in multi-valuation could stem from a possessing mechanism. Moreover comparing CCA in conjunction agreement and multi-valuation can help zeroing in the role the conjuncton head plays. Currently I'm looking at other discrepancies between multi-valuation and conjunction agreement.

Shen, Zheng. 2019. Two Types of Closest Conjunct Agreement. Poster presented at the Alphabet of Universal Grammar, London, the U.K.

Shen, Zheng. 2019. Linear effect in closest conjunct agreement: A non-illusory approach. manuscript.

Morphological and Semantics Agreement

Cross-linguistically, hybrid nouns like committee can control either morphological agreement and semantic agreement: The committee has/have met. This optionality has motivated a feature theory with both semantic features and former/morphological features. Although formal features have been investigated extensively in both syntax and morphology, the nature of semantic features remains unclear. Multi-valuation provides a useful probe into semantic features. Grosz 2015 argues that semantic number features are referential indexes. However Belk and Neeleman 2018 proposes that semantic agreement results from a repair rule when syntactic agreement is blocked. We show that both a repair approach and a index approach are problematic but a particular combination of the two is descriptively adequate. Currently we are working on extending the empirical scope of semantic agreement to switch reference observed in indigenous languages in North and South America.

Shen, Zheng and Peter W. Smith. 2019. Morphological and semantic agreement beyond hybrid nouns. Proceedings of NELS 49.

Shen, Zheng and Peter W. Smith. 2018. Morphological and Semantic Agreement with Multiple Values. Multiple Agreement across Domains 2018, Berlin, Nov. 8-9, 2018.

Acquisition of Superlatives

Previous acquisition literature on superlatives focuses on the emergence of superlative morphology in children's production. Lyn Tieu and I have conducted corpus and experimental studies to probe children's knowledge of the different interpretations of superlative expressions. Previous studies report children's difficulties in interpreting superlative expressions as adults do. We found that Question under Discussion (QuD) to be crucial in probing children's ability to interpret ambiguous expressions. Once the QuD is made salient, children largely behave like adults in interpreting "the largest cake by Monkey". However, there is some difference between interpreting fragment answers and full answers.

Tieu, Lyn and Zheng Shen. 2018. Interpretive restrictions on superlatives in full vs. fragment answers. GLOW 41, Budapest, April 2018.

Tieu, Lyn and Zheng Shen. 2017. Aiming high: children’s knowledge of absolute and relative readings of superlatives. GALA 13, Sept. 2017.

Tieu, Lyn and Zheng Shen. 2016. “The littlest linguists and their superlatives: a first experiment.Proceedings of CLS 50.

Tieu, Lyn and Zheng Shen. 2015. “Searching for absolute and relative readings of superlatives: a second experiment.Proceedings of BUCLD 39.

On the backburner

Fragment Answer and Superlatives

A number of approaches have been proposed to derive fragment answers. Most of the arguments center on the mobility and the island sensitivity of the fragment. This project takes a different route and teases apart the various approaches by examining the interpretative differences between the fragment answer and the full answer. In superlatives in English, the availability of the relative reading with NP internal focus (RIN) is facilitated by overt movement and not covert movement, which provides a test case regarding whether fragment answers involve overt movement. The fact that fragment answers, but not their full-sentence counterparts, allow the RIN shows that at least some fragment answers involve overt movement in narrow syntax.

Shen, Zheng. 2018. "Fragment answers and movement - a superlative argument, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-017-9369-9.

Agreement in Nominal Right Node Raising

Nominal right node raising constructions involve two DPs sharing an constituent, e.g. "this tall and that short student". The number marking on the shared element ("student") depends on the type of the sharing elements: "this tall and that short student(*s) are a couple", "John's and Mary's student*(s) are a couple". I conduct a cross-linguistic survey and show that the key factor lies in whether the sharing elements agree with the shared element. I provide a multi-dominance analysis for the construction and argue that when a noun is valued with two instances of singular features, it is spelled out as singular rather than plural or dual, unlike verbal elements in TP RNR (Grosz 2015) and local effects (Gluckman 2015).

Shen, Zheng. 2015. No Clash Constraint in Nominal RNR Number Agreement in Proceedings of PLC 39.

Relative Reading with NP Internal Focus of Superlatives (RIN)

In addition to the absolute reading and the relative reading of superlative expressions like "the best album by U2", Pancheva and Tomaszewicz (2013) observe a third reading that involves an NP internal focus (RIN) in Polish and Bulgarian. I extend the empirical scope of the inquiry in both Polish-type languages and English-type languages, showing that overt, but not covert movement, facilitates the availability of the third reading. I argue that the generalization is a conspiracy of semantic requirements and syntactic locality constraints.

Shen, Zheng. 2014. The Third Reading of the most expensive photo of Abby in Proceedings of PLC 38.

Shen, Zheng. 2013. On the Relative Reading with NP Internal Focus in Superlatives in Proceedings of WCCFL 31.