|email: ||smasc [at] nyu [dot] edu|
I am a PhD candidate at NYU Linguistics, graduating in the spring of 2014. My dissertation project is on the relationship between human reasoning and natural language semantics.
Research in linguistic semantics in the past forty years has produced sophisticated mathematical models that represent the meanings of natural language utterances and explain how meanings relate to one another to form entailment patterns. At the same time, research on human reasoning within psychology has discovered a wealth of fallacious inference patterns, establishing that human reasoning is fallible in highly predictable ways. The psychological study of reasoning has been characterized by extensive experimental work analyzed in terms of theories focusing on the processes of reasoning. On the other hand, linguistic semantics has a longstanding tradition of formal rigor and a focus on logical thinking, but it has so far largely ignored fallacies. The two fields overlap significantly, but they have progressed almost completely in parallel, with little interaction. My dissertation project aims at filling that gap by extending linguistic semantics to the study of human reasoning.
My approach has two main components. The first involves recasting the account of human reasoning known as mental model theory in a formally explicit system, incorporating relevant insights from my work on inquisitive semantics. For this part of my dissertation I am collaborating with Philipp Koralus (Oxford). Together we are developing a version of mental model theory that locates the origin of reasoning failures in a question-asking and answering process. The second component is an interpretation-based theory of (some) reasoning failures that explains these failures in terms of modern theories of implicature. This second theory contrasts with its reasoning-based competitors in that it assumes as a working hypothesis a logically sound reasoning module that operates on interpretations more complex than meets the eye.
From these two rigorously defined theories, different predictions emerge. These predictions allow for a comparison between the two theories, providing a principled way to tease apart the contributions of general-purpose reasoning mechanisms and of interpretive procedures in our failures of masoning.
I also have an active interest in, and have worked on, the following topics in semantics
Finally, I have worked on phonology—vowel-height alternations in the European Portuguese verbal system—and syntax—double-complementizer structures and double object get.
Below is a list of publications, manuscripts, and some talks I have given, with links to full pdf versions of papers or handouts whenever possible.
|Spring 2010||TA for Language, Maria Gouskova|
|Spring 2011||TA for Introduction to Semantics, Chris Barker|
|Fall 2011||TA for Language and Mind, Anna Szabolcsi and Brian McElree|
|Summer 2012||Co-instructor for Language, with Emily Nguyen|
|Fall 2012||TA for Language, Mark Baltin|
|Fall 2013||Co-instructor for Etymology, with Daniel Szeredi|