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Publications, presentations, and talks ordered by topic.


Definiteness and anaphoric expressions

It is generally assumed that pronouns, definites, and demonstratives are separate semantic elements. However, cross-linguistic studies suggest that the morphosyntactically based distinction between these expressions do not always align with underlying meaning. In this line of work, I argue that the underlying semantics of these expressions are identical except for the restrictions that they carry, proposing a unified analysis that extends the general schema of a definite.

Ahn, Dorothy. 2020. A unified analysis of anaphoric expressions in spoken and signed languages. Invited talk at Seoul National University Linguistics Colloquium. October 16.


Ahn, Dorothy. 2019. THAT thesis: A competition-based mechanism for anaphoric expressions. PhD thesis, Harvard University.

Ahn, Dorothy. 2017. Semantics of definite descriptions: A micro-typology. GLOW in Asia 2017, Singapore. February 20-22.

Ahn, Dorothy. In Prep. Bare Noun Blocking.

Ahn, Dorothy. In Prep. Unified theory of anaphoric expressions.

Demonstratives and pointing

Screen Shot 2020-09-05 at 11.31.21

Demonstratives received much attention in semantics and philosophy for their deictic and non-deictic uses. In gesture linguistics, demonstratives also show a unique behavior of bringing meaning of gesture to at-issue. I propose a new analysis of demonstratives based their ability to refer to non-familiar entities.

Ahn, Dorothy. 2022. Indirectly direct: An account of demonstratives and pointing. In Linguistics and Philosophy. [DRAFT]

Ahn, Dorothy. 2020. Pointing, demonstratives, and loci. Invited talk at Mind and Language in LA Summer Zoom series. USC. August 13.

Ahn, Dorothy. 2020. The point of pointing. Invited talk at Super Linguistics Colloquium, University of Oslo. 

Ahn, Dorothy & Sudha Arunachalam. 2020. Anaphoric that: Difference between adults and children. Proceedings of BUCLD 44. October 25-27. [PREPRINT]

Ahn, Dorothy & Jenneke van der Wal. 2019. What does that Lugwere demonstratives refer to? A semantic analysis of proximity and exteriority. In Studies in African Linguistics Vol 48.

Ahn, Dorothy & Kathryn Davidson. 2017. Where pointing matters: English and Korean demonstratives. NELS 2017, Iceland. October 27-20. [DRAFT]

ASL loci use


Sign languages such as American Sign Language (ASL) can use the indexical pointing handshape (IX; indexical) to refer to entities present in the context by pointing directly at them. Signers can also point to abstract locations in the signing space (locus, loci) to refer to entities who are not present in the content but familiar in the discourse. This use of loci in sign languages has been analyzed as overt instantiations of a referent tracking mechanism that is covert in spoken languages (see Lillo-Martin & Klima 1990). I propose an alternative account of loci as locational restrictions that function as modifiers added to anaphoric expressions.

Ahn, Dorothy. 2020. ASL IX to locus as a modifier. Proceedings of NELS 50, MIT. [DRAFT[SLIDES]

Ahn, Dorothy. 2020. ASL IX to locus as a modifier. In Snippets.

Ahn, Dorothy, Annemarie Kocab & Kathryn Davidson. 2019. The role of contrast in anaphoric expressions in ASL. Proceedings of GLOW in Asia 2019, Seoul, Korea. August 6-9, 2019. [DRAFT]

Kocab, Annemarie, Dorothy Ahn, Gunnar Lund & Kathryn Davidson. 2019. Reconsidering agreement in sign languages. Poster at GLOW 42, Oslo, Norway. May 7-10. [POSTER]

Ahn, Dorothy. 2019. Anaphoric expressions in ASL. MS, Lingbuzz.

Plurality and number

Unlike languages like English that obligatorily marks number, many languages are 'optional number languages', meaning that they allow bare noun forms to be compatible with both singular and plural interpretations. I investigate one of the languages that have been identified as having an optional plural marker, Korean, and show that there is a more systematic restriction on when plural marker can be omitted in Korean. In Ahn, Saha, & Sauerland 2020, we present a novel observation that Korean and Bangla plural markers behave as positive polarity items, while in Ahn & Snedeker, we argue that definitely construed nouns must be number marked in Korean.

Ahn, Dorothy, Ankana Saha, & Uli Sauerland. 2020. Positively Polar Plurals. Poster at SALT 30, Cornell. August 17-20, 2020 [OSF Page]

Ahn, Dorothy & Jesse Snedeker. 2021. Early acquisition of plural morphology in a classifier language: Data from Korean 2-4 year olds. Language Learning and Development.

Relative measure constructions

Conservativity of determiners is one of the universal constraints assumed for natural language semantics. In this line of work, we look at proportional quantifiers such as sixty percent in Harvard hired sixty percent women that seem non-conservative on the surface, identify cross-linguistic generalizations on how the non-conservative construals are morphosyntactically marked, and propose an analysis that preserves conservativity at the LF level.

Ahn, Dorothy & Heejeong Ko. 2022. On non-conservativity of Korean floating quantifiers. In Glossa.

Ahn, Dorothy. & Uli Sauerland. 2017. Measure constructions with relative measures: Towards a syntax of non-conservative construals. The Linguistic Review. doi:10.1515/tlr-2017-0001 

Ahn, Dorothy. & Uli Sauerland. 2015. The grammar of relative measurement. Semantics and Linguistic Theory, 25, 125-142. doi:10.3765/salt.v25i0.3062 

Ahn, Dorothy. & Uli Sauerland. 2015. Reverse Quantification with Proportional Quantifiers. NELS 45: Proceedings of the Forty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, MIT. [DRAFT]

Exempt anaphors and logophoricity

While reflexive anaphors are assumed to be bound locally, there are cases of anaphors that appear outside their binding domain (exempt anaphors). In this line of work, I discuss a case of an exempt anaphor in Korean, caki-casin, and show that the licensing of caki-casin is associated with logophoricity (Charnavel 2012, 2019).

Ahn, Dorothy. & Isabelle Charnavel. 2017. Perspective on Korean Anaphors: Comparing Inanimate cachey vs. Animate caki-casin. Proceedings of WCCFL34 

Ahn, Dorothy. 2016. Empathy and deixis: A deictic analysis of giving verbs. Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics.​

Ahn, Dorothy. 2015. Condition A, Exemption, and Logophoricity in Korean. MS (Generals paper), Harvard.

Additive either and too 

I propose that additive either in sentences such as Jin did not dance either is underlyingly a disjunction between the antecedent sentence (in p either) and a propositional anaphor that refers to a contextually salient proposition in the discourse that is restricted by focus. This analysis derives the polarity sensitivity of either, while the conjunction analysis of too correctly predicts the NPI intervention effects of too

Ahn, Dorothy. 2016. NPI intervention of too. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 20. 

Ahn, Dorothy. 2015. The semantics of additive either. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 19. 


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