Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Faculty highlight: Alexander Williams

Alexander Williams is a new Assistant Professor in the Departments of Linguistics and Philosophy. His research is mainly in verbal semantics and its relation to clausal syntax. His aim is to develop a theory of semantic composition in natural languages, and correspondingly a theory of semantic values for verbs, and his research has a strong cross-linguistic focus, in particular languages of the isolating type, including a number of different languages of China and Mongolia. Presently, Alexander is developing experiments that probe the semantic expectations of toddlers, in collaboration with Jeffrey Lidz. What relations between what a verb means and where it occurs does the infant acquiring language expect to find, if any? For example, are toddlers who hear a transitive verb X in "he X'ed it flat" predisposed to conclude that the referent of "it" gets "X'ed" (as English requires, but Igbo does not)? Alexander’s current courses include a graduate course in pragmatics, jointly with Valentine Hacquard.

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