...nothing is left to guesswork.

Recent Work:
An investigation of connected exceptive constructions and scalarity
Except-phrases and "only" presentation notes
Donkey Anaphora and Variable-Free Semantics

Monday, May 29, 2006

Back into Functional Land...

Today I did what I have done about four times already: I fired up DrScheme and opened to the first page of Essentials of Programming Languages (due to the chaos of being in school and working full time, the farthest I'd previously gotten to was about chapter 3). If you look further down the page, you'll notice that one of the courses that uses EOPL as a text is one taught at Brown. Don't the assignments look delicious?

Now to define occurs-bound? all over again. Wonder if all this time in Java Land will have changed things much. (The last time I had to recursively define something was perhaps two months ago!)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unsure what's more grueling: debugging all night or debugging all day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sometimes, I care to be succint.

!!! What I have been wanting since I was first forced into the world of imperative programming: a book written by Guy Steele! The Java Language Specification

Moral of the story: good things can happen when you're looking for a good Java book before the sun rises.

Must really get back to Essentials of Programming Languages, too. Must know about continuations like the back of my hand. And must really really finish Haskell. Must know more about monads. Fwah, perhaps really will sit in front of computer all summer long.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"We call it lies..."

Just came back from seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" or "the Al Gore movie" as we've been referring to it. By the people who should see it most, it will probably get dismissed as just another liberal propaganda film (also saw a trailer for that Nick Cage 9/11 movie... :-/). This is unfortunate because the film and its message have so much more to offer than just politics, whether or not this is really just a (very clever) ploy to get a Gore 2008 campaign going (although at least from this naïve perspective, Gore's efforts seem to be earnest and genuine).

There's plenty of press out already about how Gore's charisma is fantastic and how it would have been great to have seen him display even a fraction of it during the 2000 campaign, but I just wanted to post a few thoughts on it and announce that as of today, the film's out in LA and NYC with more cities on the way. It's well made, entertaining, and pretty moving. Sometimes a little hokey, but it was reasonable enough.

Also, I've been really interested in the negative criticism that the movie has stirred up, especially the Competitive Enterprise Institute's recently aired tv ads. CEI is, conveniently enough, funded in large part by the American Petroleum Institute and Exxon. How is it that "they call it pollution; we call it life" can be an actual slogan?         

And, if you're wondering as I was, G-dub probably won't be seeing the film.

Go see it when you can. If you're in LA, I'll take you!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

As promised, more regular posts!

Today was yet another code-oriented day. Fiddled more with GWT and Google Maps, and an exciting romp with Yahoo's very suave geocoding API. Then fiddled with JiBX, an XML databinding framework that binds XML data to objects in Java. Then got completely frustrated and decided to waste time updating blog in case anobody who used to read it still does.

I'm afraid that I am probably not cut out for professional software development or anything greater than, oh, a prime number searcher. I don't have the patience to use other people's code and figure out what's happened if (or more appropriately, when) something goes wrong. I suppose this is the hard part of programming–working with everyone else's code and making yours and theirs somehow dance together. (And of course there's the do-it-yourself route, which one seems forced to in any Scheme implementation, and in any other programming language is usually largely foolish. Why re-invent the wheel?) Maybe I should learn to have the patience for that sort of stuff because the other part of programming, the abstract part, is fun and exciting and certainly very cool and probably worth the patience. But ugh I hate cryptic compiler error messages.

And now for my usual boring inanity:
Got an e-mail today from Degree Progress today confirming that I will be awarded my degree, hurray. Though probably unfounded in any reasonable interpretation of reality, I had feared all semester that I would not be graduating and would be turned away from Brown and would then live a horrible life as a college drop-out, probably making balloon animals on the Venice boardwalk and eating seals for dinner.

I'm thinking about making plans to go to Germany over Christmas break this year. I have several friends who have been funded to spend a year there (Fulbright and DAAD) starting this fall, and, of course, the Berliners. I've been very nostalgic for Berlin lately and would very much love to be there again. Weihnachtsmärkte and Glühwein! Hrm, I will need to investigate whether a one-month sublet is even possible in Berlin.

Oh, and!: an endorsement for Matt Beckman's photos of his travels in Istanbul because I don't know when I'm ever going there and I cherish the ability to live vicariously. Matty is one of my more adventuresome friends (he was last living in Montana, just for the hell of it) and is one of those Smarty McSmartPants that will be a Fulbright Scholar in Germany this fall.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I'm aware of the fact that to have a steady readership, one must regularly update one's blog with interesting content, and that recently, I haven't been doing that at all. A few reasons for this include:

1) Anxiety over my ability to actually produce interesting content for an entry, and losing at attempt to overcome the anxiety to actually post.

2) I've been learning Java. And while I'd someday like for my blog to tackle both issues of language and computation, there's very little report as far as programming goes right now. Anonymous inner classes are great, but I don't think they're news to anyone else. Although, I have been tinkering with Google's Web Tookit, and it's very cool. Anyways, so there's really not much I can say about programming right now that will be either useful or interesting to anybody, and as I'm spending most of my time getting more proficient with programming, I've been spending less time on language. But I've been reading Syntactic Structures, and perhaps there will be some thoughts later on that.

3) I've been in sort of a malaise since commencement. Not needing to wake up at 5am makes me confused in the mornings.

That's really all I have to say for now. Banal, I know. But keep coming back! There will be more to come (I hope).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Thanks, Mr. Graham.

You have to like what you do enough that the concept of "spare time" seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else-- even something mindless. But you don't regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it.

- Paul Graham, How to Do What You Love

It seemed only appropriate to post one of my favorite links in the world in celebration of doing what I love. (And about two deep breaths before I return to it...many many places to follow up on exceptives...)

Oh! And in celebration of the upcoming "holiday", another fitting Paul Graham piece: Undergraduation.

Paper to be posted shortly...look under "Recent Works" for it and maybe if I'm feeling super desperate, I'll make an entry of it, too.
My analysis of exceptive constructions (closed, that is) with respect to scalarity to come shortly. For now, a criticism of Moltmann 1995 that will not make the current draft of the paper, but much more interesting than that scalarity stuff.

Moltmann argues that the Homogeneity Condition is required to secure that only universal and negative universal quantification is allowed when a (closed) exceptive is involved. She claims that von Fintel's (1993) Uniqueness Condition is not enough to guarantee that "Most students/More than half of the students but John went to the party" is ungrammatical. And true enough, the Uniqueness Condition would yield true given the correct model for such constructions. However, is it necessary to encode the Quantifier Constraint explicitly as a presupposition? After all, the Uniqueness Condition will require that whenever such sentences are true, so too are their stronger universal counterparts. That is, given a model when the relevant individuals are {Mary, Sue, John, Tom, Bill}, then only way "More than half the students but John went to the party" can be true (or at least pass the Uniqueness Condition) is when {John} is the uniquely smallest set which when subtracted from "more than half the students" makes that quantification true. However, that means that a logically stronger statement could be made; that EVERY student but John went to the party. One then wonders if perhaps the failure to fulfill a Gricean maxim could account for the oddness of "More than half the students but John" and if the Homogeneity Condition is not superfluous.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Semantics papers are easy to write...when you know what you're writing about.

Friday, May 05, 2006

morning angst!

I am weirded out by the whole commencement thing. I don't find it a big deal that I'm getting a piece of paper that says I've jumped through the right hoops for four years. It wasn't that hard. What was hard was being in a foreign country for a year, getting the courage to try to take graduate classes, finding out that graduate classes are really quite a lot of fun, reading actual papers in linguistics, pushing myself to do more than what the degree required me. Because when I think about it, that piece of paper just says that I took the required eight courses for the major, three of those being intro courses (ironically, I think the other five were made up by one advanced class, three grad courses, and philosophy of language...). It doesn't mention how I struggled to understand the basic concepts of semantics early on in my advanced semantics class and how it made me desperate to understand what seemed at least to be really important, and how that search led me to really sort of love semantics and discover that I liked it, I like the questions it asked and how it tried to answer those questions.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Notes for my presentation on exceptive constructions can be found here. It's nothing new, just an overview of von Fintel 1993, Moltmann 1995, and Gajewski 2004. Thanks to comments from Elena and Janet, though, I hope to be more fruitfully investigating the relationship with "only" in the paper, perhaps looking at scalarity.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Exceptive constructions: 2; Emma: 0; Gajewski: many, I think.

Last night's celebration was pre-emptive, indeed. If only any topic in semantics could be half as easy as the entirety of phonology... On the up side, the phonology paper was easily written and it looks like I'll at least be graduating.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Figuring out how much caffeine my body needs is tricky and hard; I often overshoot or undershoot, both resulting in headaches and nausea. Despite that, I believe I'm making good headway on work for tomorrow. Presentation notes will be completed shortly, as will the paper by Friday (I hope).

So, in pre-emptive celebration (as an American, I am entitled to pre-emptivite action), I've gotten myself another delicious slice of reading:

I also ordered my own copy of Syntactic Structures. Yay inane purchase bragging post.

Monday, May 01, 2006

And your bird can sing!

Is it possible to think of operators such as "only" or "even" (and perhaps others that are not necessarily focus operators..."and"?) as polymorphic, as in the same polymorphism of, say, Objective-C?

I'm trying to get a handle on exceptive constructions (yes, I've been dreaming about them, too). The paper and presentation notes will go up shortly, but for now, one of the larger questions I'm concerned with: can exceptives be analyzed similarly to "only", perhaps even as a focus operator? In particular, it seems that there are many but-phrases that haven't been considered (or perhaps have, but not given a treatment). Moltmann 1995 gives several interesting examples that don't come up in von Fintel 1993: John painted the house except for the door. But what about when the exceptive phrase complement is not a noun? As in: Kate can be a good cook, except for today. Or: Kate could do anything except cook the risotto.

That's it for now. If I kept going on about it here, I'd have to turn in a blog entry as my term paper. Just wanted to post a little teaser and also let everyone know that I'm still alive.