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Elena Guerzoni

Associate Professor of Linguistics

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-4462
Office: GFS 353

Faculty Profile on Departmental Website
Personal Website
My personal webpage

Biographical Sketch

1998-2003 Ph.D. Linguistics. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dissertation: Why ‘Even’ Ask? On the Pragmatics of Questions and the Semantics of Answers. Supervisor: Irene Heim. June 1997 “Tesi di Laurea”, Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy. (Summa cum laude) Thesis Title: Negative Polarity and Logical Form. Supervisor: Gennaro Chierchia. 1992-1997 B.A. Philosophy. Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy. Fall 95-Spring 96 Erasmus Exchange Student, Linguistics Department University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Supervisor: Frans Zwarts. Professional Record Sept. 2003-present Assistant Professor of Linguistics. University of Southern California, Department of Linguistics.


Ph.D. Semantics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Tenure Track Appointments

Assistant Professor of Linguistics , University of Southern Caifornia, 2008-2009   
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California, 2007-2008   
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California, 2006-2007   
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California, 2005-2006   
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California, 2004-2005   
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California, 2003-2004   

Other Employment

Assoiciate Professor, University of Southern Caifornia, 2009-2010   

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

My research focus is in the areas of formal semantics and formal pragmatics, and their interaction with syntax. The main objective of Semantics is to provide an understanding of how speakers of a given language come to comprehend the meaning of simple and complex expressions of their language. The ability that allows human minds to carry out this seemingly effortless task is in fact highly complex and structured and requires a rigorous and formally explicit descriptive apparatus in order to be properly characterized. Formal semantics aims to develop a theory of meaning in natural language that meets these standards of rigor and explicitness. The interaction between the structure of linguistic expressions (syntax) and their meaning (semantics) is central to most current approaches to semantics. The theoretical framework in which I conduct my research places itself within this general current. Specifically, I adopt a view that builds on the very general principle, first explicitly formulated in the work of the philosopher of language and logician Gottlob Frege and then more explicitly formalized in that of Richard Montague, that the meaning of complex linguistic expressions is fully determined by the meaning of their immediate syntactic sub-components and by the way they are syntactically combined (Strict Compositionality Principle). This view has proven to be extremely insightful in that, together with an explicit theory of syntax, it constrains in a principled way our working hypotheses concerning the structural properties of complex expressions and syntactic operations that generate them, the types of corresponding semantic operations and the types of semantic objects that simple and complex expressions refer to in all natural languages. Besides their structure, the meaning of natural language expressions is systematically related to their use in a given conversational setting. Formal pragmatics investigates the details of the processes that underlie the more systematic manifestations of this relation between meaning and use. The aim of these studies is twofold. First, we seek an understanding of how extra-linguistic factors in a conversational context can enrich meaning, by adding on to the core message conveyed at a purely linguistic level. Some such factors are the time, place and speaker of a given utterance, the knowledge or beliefs the speaker shares with her interlocutors, any purpose she might have beyond a merely communicative one, and the particular question that is under discussion at the time of utterance. For example, an utterance like I’d like to have a glass of water is enriched in its meaning if the speaker is a restaurant customer addressing a waiter, in a way that it is not if the speaker utters it to her friends during a hike on a very hot day. Second, pragmatics investigates how a type of information is or isn’t adequate in a given conversational setting and how the packaging of that information affects its status. For example, an utterance like The FRENCH students passed the test, with intonational prominence on FRENCH, is appropriate if, at the relevant stage of the conversation, the question under discussion is which students passed the test, whereas it is not appropriate if the question under discussion is how the French students did on the test. Within formal semantics and formal pragmatics my current research investigates five main empirical domains across languages: Negation, Focus Particles, Presupposition, Concessive Conditionals, and Questions.

Research Specialties

Formal Semantics, formal Pragmatics and the interactions between Semantics and Pragmatics and between Syntax and Semantics

Conferences and Other Presentations

Other Presentations

"Negative Concord, Presupposition and Focus", Research COlloquium, University of Connecticut, Storrs CT, Fall 2009   
"Focus Particles, Presupposition Projection and Negative Polarity", Job Talk, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Spring 2008   


Journal Article

Guerzoni, E., Sharvit, Y. (2007). A Question of Strength: On NPIs in Interrogative Clauses. Linguistics and Philosophy/ Springer. Vol. 30, pp. 31 pages.
Guerzoni, E. (2006). Intervention Effects on NPIs and Feature Movement: Towards a Unified Account of Intervention. Natural Language Semantics/Springer. Vol. 14 (4), pp. 359-398.
Guerzoni, E. (2004). Even-NPIs in yes/no Questions. Natural Language Semantics. Vol. 12 (4), pp. 319-343.


Guerzoni, E. (2007). Exhaustivity and Whether: A Pragmatic Approach. In Masayuki Gibson & Tova Friedman (Ed.), pp. 18 pages. Ithaca, NY. CLC Publications/The proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) XVII.
Guerzoni, E., Lim, D. (2007). "Even if, Factivity and Focus". In Estela Puig Waldmueller (Ed.), pp. 276-290. Barcelona. The proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 11.

Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

Conference Presentation , ICL19, Geneve, July 2013 , 07/22/2013-07/27/2013  

Service to the University


Graduate Admissions Committee Dept. of Linguistics, Spring 2007   

Service to the Profession

Editorships and Editorial Boards

Editorial Board Member, Semantics and Pragmatics (von Fintel, Kai and David Beaver eds., LSA)., Fall 2007   

Reviewer for Publication

Natural Language Semantics, Springer, Journal Article Reviewer, 2006-2007   
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory , Springer, Journal Article Reviewer, 2006-2007   

Other Service to the Profession

Abstract and/or Paper reviewer for the Conference: Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 17, 2006-2007   
Abstract and/or Paper reviewer for the Conference: The 38th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS) 38, 2006-2007   
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