About

Since July 2009, I have beenĀ a member of the faculty of the Linguistics department at UPenn, where I am now Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair. Previously, I was a PhD student in Linguistics at UMass. Before coming to Amherst, I studied Linguistics and Philosophy at the Humboldt University and the Free University in Berlin. My main interests are in formal semantics and pragmatics of natural language. Much of my work in this area incorporates psycholinguistic methods.

In my dissertation, I explored a morphological distinction in German definites, which seems to provide excellent testing grounds for a number of theoretical issues relating to definiteness in general, the semantics of donkey sentences, as well as domain restriction. The dissertation is available here.

Several years ago, I started doing experimental work on presuppositions, initially looking at the German additive particle ‘auch’ (‘too’) (see Schwarz 2007). Ongoing work in my lab, partly in collaboration with Sonja Tiemann at the University of Tuebingen, extends this work to other presupposition triggers (such as again and stop) and methodologies (in particular eye tracking in reading and in the visual world paradigm). I have also investigated definite descriptions experimentally, in particular with respect to domain restriction and the status of cases where the presuppositions of definites are not met. In recent work with Dan Grodner, we have taken to compare domain restriction effects to ‘perspective taking’, which has been well studied by psychologists. Finally, an ongoing collaboration with Jacopo Romoli, Cory Bill, and Stephen Crain is looking at implicatures in processing and acquisition, with a specific focus on so-called ‘indirect’ scalar implicatures arising under negation and the relation between implicatures and presuppositions.

Earlier projects of mine include, among others:

  • Maximize Presupposition [joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menendez-Benito]
  • Corpus Pragmatics / Sentiment Analysis [joint work with Chris Potts]
  • Intensional transitive verbs. By reviewing the different empirical motivations for the competing theoretical accounts and based on some new data, I argue that at least two types of intensional transitive verbs need to be distinguished [See my SALT 16 paper].
  • My Humboldt University master’s thesis ‘Focus Marking in Kikuyu’ looked at the interplay of syntax and information structure in Kikuyu, a Bantu language spoken in Kenya [See my contribution to a volume edited by Aboh, Hartmann, and Zimmermann].