Pauline Jacobson

(401) 863-3037
Office Location: 
Metcalf 247
Research Focus: 
Syntax/semantics interface; formal semantics; syntactic theory

Pauline Jacobson received her BA (1968), and Ph.d. (1977) from UC Berkeley. She has been on the Brown faculty since 1975, with visiting appointments at Ohio State, Harvard, and a number of shorter visiting "minicourses". She has also taught at several Linguistic Society of America summer institutes and at the European Summer School in Language, Logic, and Information. Her research has always focussed on the formal tools needed to model the syntactic and semantic systems of natural languages, with special emphasis on the interaction of syntax and semantics. She is currently editor-in-chief of the journal Linguistics and Philosophy (Springer), and has served on the NSF Linguistics Panel and the Fulbright panels. She teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses on a variety of topics in syntax and semantics, and an undergraduate course on "meaning and thought".

Research Interests:

My research is mainly concerned with constructing formal models of the semantics and syntax of natura l language — and in particular on the way that the syntax and the semantics interact. My work is carried out within the tradition of model-theoretic ("formal") semantics, combined with a Categorial Grammar syntax. Categorial Grammar is a theory that posits a transparent relationship between the combinatory operations used in the syntax and in the semantics — and as such makes a very simple and elegant claim about how these two systems interact. 

More specifically, I am interested in questions such as the following: What kinds of formal operations are used by natural languages in building up the meanings of expressions? Are surface sentences directly assigned a meaning (i.e., a model-theoretic interpretation) or are they instead mapped into a level of Logical Form, which is then interpreted? Just what phenomena should be accounted for in the syntax, and what phenomena should be accounted for in the semantics? Using techniques from both linguistics and logic, these general questions are approached by detailed investigation of areas such as pronominal binding, quantifier scopes, extraction, anaphora, and especially the interaction of all these phenomena. Additional interests include mathematical linguistics and the boundaries between semantics and pragmatics.