SemFest 10

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The Stanford Semantics Festival (SemFest for short) took place Friday and Saturday. A program, with links to the abstracts for the papers, is available here.

This was a special event in at least two senses: it was #10 (a nice round number), and it brought back quite a few Stanford alumni to give papers, so it was something of a reunion. So, in addition to speakers who have some current association with Stanford, there were also speakers from: Yale, Ohio State, UCSD, Chicago, Manchester, Salford, Texas (Austin), Minnesota, Cycorp, Northwestern, Nevada (Reno), and Wellesley.

In addition to many papers on English, and many that cited various languages in passing, there were papers on Guaraní, Ulwa (Nicaragua), Matses (Amazonia), Mandarin, Basque, Italian, Vedic, and creole languages. On child language, language comprehension, and grammaticalization. There was a pair of papers back to back having to do with before in English, and calling on some heavy-duty formalization to take context, expectation, and the like into account: Amaral and Del Prete on sentences like "His career ended almost before it started", conveying 'his career ended shortly after it started' (and parallel examples in Italian); and Condoravdi and Kaufmann on counterfactual before ("The police defused the bomb before it exploded") versus explicit counterfactuals ("If the police hadn't defused the bomb, it would have exploded"). And more.

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