Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 22, 2019

Verbal Symbols and Demonstrations Across Modalities

  • Gillian Ramchand EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


In this paper, I develop a new theory of the ingredients of semantic composition for the verb phrase, building on work in Ramchand (2018). I argue that the essential properties of this new approach make possible a new rapprochement between the theoretical analyses of symbolic verbal meaning across the visual and auditory modalities. The innovation of the new theory is that it partitions the verb phrase into a lower purely symbolic zone and a higher instantiational situation zone, mediated by the demonstrative act (cf. Davidson 2015, Henderson 2016). In the first part of the paper, I lay out the system, and then I show how it can be used to give a formal analysis of gestural and iconic elements in language. Along the way, I discuss the different ways in which iconicity in the two modalities plays out.


Jon Barwise and John Perry. Situations and attitudes. MIT press, Cambridge, Ma., 1983.Search in Google Scholar

Elena Benedicto and Diane K. Brentari. Where did all the arguments go? argument-changing properties of classifiers in asl. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 22:743–810, 2004.10.1007/s11049-003-4698-2Search in Google Scholar

Gregory Norman Carlson. Reference to Kinds in English. PhD thesis, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1977.Search in Google Scholar

Lucas Champollion. The interaction of compositional semantics and event semantics. Linguistics and Philosophy, 38:31–66, 2015.10.1007/s10988-014-9162-8Search in Google Scholar

Gennaro Chierchia. Reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language Semantics, 6:339–405, 1998.10.1023/A:1008324218506Search in Google Scholar

Noam Chomsky. Language and nature. Mind, 104(413):1–61, 1995.10.1093/mind/104.413.1Search in Google Scholar

Guglielmo Cinque. Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective. Oxford University Press, New York, 1999.Search in Google Scholar

Kathryn Davidson. Quotation, demonstration and iconicity. Linguistics and Philosophy, 38:477–520, 2015.10.1007/s10988-015-9180-1Search in Google Scholar

Mark Dingemanse, Damian E. Blasi, Gary Lupyan, Morten H. Christiansen, and Padraig Monaghan. Arbitrariness, iconicity and systematicity in language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(1):603–615, 2015.10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.013Search in Google Scholar

Kit Fine. Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers. Oxford University Press, 2005.10.1093/0199278709.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Kit Fine. Truthmaker semantics for intuitionist logic. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 43(2):549–577, 2014.10.1007/s10992-013-9281-7Search in Google Scholar

Berit Gehrke. Still puzzled by adjectival passives. In Cristina Sevdali Raffaella Folli and Robert Truswell, editors, Syntax and its Limits, pages 175–191. Oxford University Press, 2013.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199683239.003.0010Search in Google Scholar

Berit Gehrke. Adjectival participles, event kind modification: the case of frequency adjectives. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 33:897–938, 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Berit Gehrke and Louise McNally. Distributional modification: the case of frequency adjectives. Language, 91(4):837–868, 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Susan Goldin-Meadow and Diane K. Brentari. Gesture, sign and language: The coming of age of sign language and gesture studies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (doi:10.1017/S0140525X15001247,):1–60, 2017.10.1017/S0140525X15001247Search in Google Scholar

Scott Grimm and Louise McNally. The ing dynasty: Rebuilding the semantics of nominalizations. In Mary Moroney Sarah D’Antonio and Carol Rose Little, editors, Proceeding of SALT XXV, pages 82–102, 2015.10.3765/salt.v25i0.3070Search in Google Scholar

Jane Grimshaw. Argument Structure. Linguistic Inquiry Monographs; 18. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990.Search in Google Scholar

Jane Grimshaw. Extended projections, 1991.Search in Google Scholar

Robert Henderson. Pluractional demonstrations. paper presented at SALT 26, 2015.10.3765/salt.v26i0.3786Search in Google Scholar

Wolfram Hinzen. On the grammar of referential dependence. Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, 46(1):11–33, 2016.10.1515/slgr-2016-0031Search in Google Scholar

Wolfram Hinzen and Michelle Sheehan. The Philosophy of Universal Grammar. Oxford University Press, 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Marit Julien. Syntactic Heads and Word Formation: A Study of Verbal Inflection. PhD thesis, University of Tromsø, 2000.Search in Google Scholar

David Kaplan. Demonstratives. an essay on the semantics, logic, metaphysics, and epistemology of demonstratives and other indexicals (ms. 1977, reprinted). In J. Perry J. Almog and H. Wettstein, editors, Themes from Kaplan, pages 481–563. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989.Search in Google Scholar

Angelika Kratzer. Situations in natural language semantics. In Edward N. Zalta, editor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volume 2014 Edition. 2014.Search in Google Scholar

David K. Lewis. On the plurality of worlds. Blackwell, Oxford, 1986.Search in Google Scholar

David Marr. Vision. A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information. W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1982.Search in Google Scholar

Christopher Potts. The dimensions of quotation. In Chris Barker and Pauline Jacobson, editors, Direct Compositionality, pages 405–431. Oxford University Press, 2007.Search in Google Scholar

Gillian Ramchand. Verb Meaning and the Lexicon. Cambridge University Press, 2008.10.1017/CBO9780511486319Search in Google Scholar

Gillian Ramchand. Situations and Syntactic Structures: Rethinking Auxiliaries and Order in English. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 77. MIT Press, 2018.10.7551/mitpress/10911.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Gillian Ramchand. Events and verbal decomposition. In Rob Truswell, editor, The Oxford Handbook of Events. Oxford University Press, 2019.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199685318.013.32Search in Google Scholar

Gillian Ramchand and Peter Svenonius. Deriving the functional hierarchy. Journal of Language Sciences, 2014. Language Sciences, in Google Scholar

Philippe Schlenker. Visible meaning: Sign language and the foundations of semantics. Theoretical Linguistics, 44(3/4):123–208, 2018.Search in Google Scholar

Ronnie Wilbur. Complex predicates involving events, time and aspect: Is this whysign languages look so similar? In Josep Quer, editor, Signs of the Time., pages 217–250. Signum, Hamburg, 2008.Search in Google Scholar

Roberto Zamparelli. Layers in the Determiner Phrase. Garland, New York, 2000.Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2018-08-17
Accepted: 2019-03-01
Published Online: 2019-05-22

© 2019 Gillian Ramchand, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

Downloaded on 24.9.2023 from
Scroll to top button