ZAS Mitarbeiterporträts 2017-2019
Headshot by Kerstin Vihman

I am a linguist and postdoctoral researcher at the Leibniz-Center for General Linguistics (ZAS) in Berlin, where I am employed as part of the project DP-Border (PIs: Artemis Alexiadou and Uli Sauerland). Before coming to ZAS, I earned my PhD in linguistics at Stony Brook University, specializing in semantics and its interfaces with pragmatics and syntax. My dissertation, The Mereology of Attitudes, was advised by Richard Larson and is summarized below. My research interests are relatively broad, encompassing attitudes, modals, events, mereology, measurement, quantification, and co-linguistic content (e.g., gestures). My work has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Linguistics and Philosophy, Glossa, and Snippets, as well as the proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT).

Outside of linguistics, my primary hobby is music. I studied composition and jazz piano performance at Williams College, and was working toward a music career before seeing the light and becoming a linguist. The music section of this site includes some samples of my work as a pianist, composer, and singer-songwriter. I’m also a diehard fan of American football (go Ravens!) and chess (current fascination: the Sicilian Defence).

Dissertation summary for non-linguists: The philosopher Donald Davidson argued that verbs like run and hate serve, on some level, to describe events or states, characterizing them as events of running, states of hating, etc. Treating the meanings of verbs as “hovering around” an event/state in this manner has turned out to be highly productive, leading to a number of surprisingly general insights about how meaning works in language. Meanwhile, there is another class of verbs—what linguists and philosophers call attitudes, such as wantwishregretbelieve, etc.—that have had their own, separate tradition of semantic analyses, leading to their own, separate insights. Recent work has sought to bring these two programs of research closer together. My work represents a continuation of this line of research, further fleshing out a view of the semantics of attitudes in which they behave in certain crucial respects more like simpler verbs like run and hate.

Dissertation summary for linguists: My dissertation is on the relationship between (neo-)Davidsonian event semantics and the semantics of attitudes, and in particular on the interaction between the semantics and the part-whole relations of attitude states. The two main topics addressed in the dissertation are the mereological basis of attitude intensity and non-distributive ascriptions of belief.