Maria Bittner

LSA 203: Crosslinguistic compositional semantics

Maria Bittner is Professor of Linguistics at Rutgers University. She is known for her work on Kalaallisut (Eskimo-Aleut: Greenland), formal semantics and typology. Between her B.A. in Physics (Oxford, 1976) and Ph.D. in Linguistics (University of Texas at Austin, 1988) she lived nearly four years in isolated hunting-and-fishing settlements in Greenland, doing field work with monolingual speakers of Kalaallisut. Since this formative experience the goal of her research has been to develop a formally precise (empirically testable) theory of compositional semantics that would generalize across typological extremes, including English (isolating tense-based language with rigid word order) and Kalaallisut (polysynthetic mood-based language with "free" word order). Initially, she attempted to realize this goal in LF-based semantics with an independently motivated syntactic theory of LF, but she eventually abandoned this indirect approach. Instead, for the past ten years she has been developing a crosslinguistic theory of direct, surface-based, incremental interpretation, building on recent advances in formal theories of dynamic semantics and pragmatics.

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