Three questions to intern Alex Göbel

From June 2018 to July 2018, Alexander Göbel is an intern in the project “InfoPer2: Processing speaker’s meaning: Epistemic state, cooperation, commitment“ at the University of Cologne, supervised by Petra Schumacher. Alexander is a third-year graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and his main research areas are in psycholinguistics and semantics/pragmatics.

Alex Goebel

Q1: How would you describe the topic of your dissertation in three sentences to your neighbor?
A: Actually I haven’t started my dissertation research yet, or am just about to, since the PhD programs in the US leave that for later, but my current plan is to work on accommodation. In laywoman terms, I’m interested in how people deal with situations in which they are missing information to interpret an utterance. So for instance when someone uses a pronoun like ‘she’ and you don’t know who ‘she’ is, when are you gonna complain and when are you gonna just go with it, and more importantly why.
Q2: What led you to apply for an internship in our program?
A: For one thing, it seemed like a great opportunity to do a research project over the summer and have a change in scenery, without too much need for adjustments since I’m originally from Germany. Then the InfoPer2 project that I’m associated with now is very much in line with my interests. I worked on German pronouns and perspective from a theoretical angle over the last school year in the US and the internship seemed perfect to tackle some of the issues that came up in an experimental setting.
Q3: Your internship has been running for a while now. How do you like it? Does it meet your expectations?
A: It’s been great! I really enjoy the working environment and my supervisor Petra (Schumacher) has really made me feel welcome and at home. I’m also making connections with people working on similar things. It’s a really pleasant way of getting work done that is just the right scope, so I definitely couldn’t be asking for more.

Internships in our projects available offers an Internship program for international doctoral students and early postdocs (up to three years past the Ph.D.) to join an project for periods of up to three months. This year’s application deadline is September 1st, 2018!

Applicants must choose a suitable host for the time of the internship in advance. Any PI of a current project in Germany is eligible to act as supervisor. Beyond meeting with the supervisor on a regular basis successful candidates will be offered additional support in the form of adequate workspace and access to equipment as well as funding for experiments. will fund the travel of the intern to and from Germany up to 1500€ and a stipend of monthly 1000€.

For more information about, an overview of participating projects and contact data of principal investigators visit:


Please submit a 2-page (maximum) personal statement including an outline of your ideas together with a working plan for the internship. Additionally, please provide your CV, sample writings, and two letters: one letter of commitment of the potential hosting institution in which the host commits to provide adequate workspace. In a second letter the potential supervisor needs to affirm that s/he will act as supervisor and hold at least weekly meetings with the intern and that s/he will provide access to equipment and funding for experiments.

All application documents must be submitted as a single pdf to ein The application deadline is September 1st, 2018 and applicants will be notified by September 30th, 2018.

Applications are evaluated and ranked by the steering committee of with respect to the following criteria: scientific quality, thematic matching of the proposal to the host project as well as diversity matters. at the 28th Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) conference

There will be several presentations by members at The 28th Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) conference, which will take place on May 18-20, 2018 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. coordinator Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin) will give a talk on Saturday, May 19th at 9 a.m. on “The Thought Uniqueness Hypothesis”.

Furthermore there will be four poster presentations by members.

On Friday, May 18th at the Poster session 2 (4:00-5:30), members Nicole Gotzner (SiGames, Berlin), Stephanie Solt (associate, ZAS Berlin) and Anton Benz (SiGames, Berlin) will present a poster on “Scalar implicature and negative strengthening in different types of gradable adjectives”

On Saturday, May 19th at the Poster session 3 (11:30-1:00), Nicole Gotzner will present a second poster together with Jacopo Romoli (Ulster) and Paolo Santorio (San Diego) on “More free choice and more inclusion: An experimental investigation of free choice in non-monotonic environments”

On Saturday, May 19th at the Poster session 4 (4:00-5:30), associate Stephanie Solt will present a second poster together with Jon Stevens (Ohio) on “Some three students: Towards a unified account of ‘some’”. A further poster will be presented by member Carla Bombi (ExQ, Potsdam) on “Definiteness in Akan (Kwa): familiarity and uniqueness revisited”.

Talk by PhD-student Carla Bombi from project “ExQ” in Potsdam

On May 8th, PhD-student Carla Bombi from project “ExQ” in Potsdam will present joint work with Lea Fricke (Graz), Edgar Onea (Graz) and Malte Zimmermann (Potsdam) in the SynSem colloquium. The title of the talk is “Exhaustivity in questions: Two pilot studies on interrogatives embedded under German wissen (know)”

Time and venue: 8th May 2018, 16.15 – 17.45; Potsdam Golm, building 14, room 0.32

The talk is concerned with sentences such as (1), containing an interrogative clause embedded under the factive “know”:
(1) Johannes knows which students failed.
The semantic literature disagrees as to what (1) means, concretely how much Johannes needs to know for (1) to be true: does he have to know of every student that failed that she failed? Or is partial knowledge sufficient? Is knowledge about the set of people who didn’t fail also required? As a result of this debate, a number of so-called “exhaustivity levels” have been posited in the literature, which capture the different conceivable readings of (1). Although there is a consensus that some notion of exhaustivity/completeness is required in this type of sentences, its exact source and the conditions under which it arises are still unclear. Elucidating the readings that are possible and as well as their sources is crucial for understanding the semantics of
(embedded) questions.
In this talk, we present the results of two pilot studies on German interrogatives embedded under “wissen” (“know”). In the first study, the availability of the different “exhaustivity levels” was tested for sentences such as (1) in a truth value judgement task. The second study investigates the sources of exhaustivity in (1). The hypothesis entertained is that two of the readings that have been posited for (1) (the so-called strongly exhaustive and intermediate exhaustive readings) arise as the result of a de re / de dicto ambiguity, i.e. a clash between the knowledege of the reporter of the sentence and the knowledge of the subject (“Johannes” in (1)).

Talk by member Marie-Christine Meyer in Göttingen

On May 8th, Marie-Christine Meyer from project LISI at ZAS Berlin will give a talk at the Oberseminar English Linguistics (Syntax–Semantics). The title of the talk is “Towards a compositional semantics for L+H*LH%”

In this talk I will work towards a compositional semantics of complex intonational structures involving a contrastive pitch accent L+H* and a final fall or rise (LL% or LH%). I will show how the semantic composition of L+H* with LX% offers a unifying new perspective on constructions traditionally described as “meta-linguistic negation”, “contrastive negation” and “contrastive focus”.

Deadline extended to May 15th! Workshop “Scalar Implicatures: Formal and Experimental Exploration” (July 11-13) in Siena

On July 11-13, 2018 the workshop “Scalar Implicatures: Formal and Experimental Exploration” will take place at the University of Siena, Italy. The workshop is organized by associate Salvatore Pistoia-Reda (ZAS Berlin, U Siena), coordinator Uli Sauerland (ZAS Berlin), associate Filippo Domaneschi (U Genoa for and Valentina Bianchi (U Siena). The new deadline for submissions is May 15th, 2018. More details and the call for papers can be found here!