Salvador Mascarenhas

Salvador Mascarenhas

New York University
Department of Linguistics
10 Washington Place, room 409
New York, NY, 10003

email:  smasc [at] nyu [dot] edu
phone:  212-992-8768

Research Interests

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.

Papers and handouts

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.

An interpretation-based account of illusory inferences from disjunction. Talk given at Sinn und Bedeutung 18. (handout: [.pdf])
The erotetic theory of reasoning. With Philipp Koralus. Forthcoming in Philosophical Perspectives. (draft available here: [.pdf])
Toward an interpretation-based account of some reasoning failures. Talk given at MIT's LF Reading Group.
Licensing by modification: the case of positive polarity pronouns. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 16. [.pdf]
Causing-to-have vs. having-for: the syntax of double-object get. Qualifying Paper, New York University. [.pdf]
Contextual givenness vs. existential quantification. Talk given at MACSIM: Mid-Atlantic Colloquium of Studies in Meaning, Upenn. (handout available here: [.pdf])
Inquisitive Semantics and Logic. MSc in Logic thesis. Amsterdam: Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation. [.pdf]
Inquisitive Semantics, an overview. Unpublished manuscript. Amsterdam: ILLC. (This paper has been made obsolete by the publication of my masters thesis above, which extends it substantially corrects many of its mistakes.)
Complementizer doubling in European Portuguese. Unpublished manuscript. Amsterdam: ILLC. [.pdf]
Notes on sentential connections (predominantly) in Portuguese. With João Andrade Peres. Journal of Portuguese Linguistics, vol 5:1, pp. 113–169.
Exceptions as reanalysis in Portuguese vowel height alternations. With Andrew Nevins and Ashtamurthy Killimangalam. Talk given at the 21st Meeting of the Portuguese Linguistics Association. Porto, Portugal.


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
(updated November 2013)