Janek Guerrini


I am a PhD student in Cognitive Science at École Normale Supérieure in Paris working under the supervision of Salvador Mascarenhas.

I specialize in formal semantics of natural language and philosophy of language, with a focus on informing psychological research on concepts with linguistic insights. I am also interested in the iconic dimensions of language.

My background is in philosophy, where I have previously worked with Achille Varzi on debates on spatial representation and logical positivism. I am still interested in related issues, such as map semantics: do maps feature predication? In other words, when we find a water-marker on a map, can we say that the map predicates of that particular point that at its location there is water?

My PhD program is funded by Frontiers in Cognition.

Here is my CV.

Research interests

Conceptual combination

In formal semantics, I am mainly interested in adjectival predication and Noun-Noun compounds. In psychology, I am interested in theories of conceptual thinking, especially prototype theory. These two research programs developed almost completely in parallel and with little synergy. It is my long-term research goal to bridge this gap by trying to bring together their complementary achievements.

An excellent testbed for theories of conceptual combination are privative adjectives such as “fake.” Here I propose an account of privative adjectives in terms of an intensional semantics informed by prototype theory. I submit that we treat nouns as centered prototypes, structured in such a way that a subset of all features commonly associated with the noun is contextually highlighted with respect to the others. For instance, «gun» in the context of a hunt means “gun qua shooting device,” «gun» in the context of a museum tour means “gun qua specimen of old gun.” In this shifting centers approach, “fake” only takes as input these contextually highlighted features (centers), and does not operate on the rest of the prototype. Beside having all the non-highlighted features commonly associated with a gun, a fake gun in a hunt context is something that looks like a shooting device but isn’t one.


I am interested in how different iconic dimensions of language interact, and have worked with Philippe Schlenker on a number of related questions. A recent project of mine aims to show how iconic lengthening of vowels in scalar adjectives (“that car is laaaarge”) interacts with vowel symbolism, the bias that makes us associate bigger objects with back vowels and small objects with front vowels (“that mouse is teeny” seems to be better than “that mouse is smaaaaall”). Here you can find a preprint of an article to appear in the Sinn und Bedeutung 24 proceedings, and here are slides from my presentation.

Moreover, I am interested in linguistic inferences triggered by music and onomatopoeias. Here is an abstract of the musical side of the project written together with Léo Migotti and Philippe Schlenker. Here is a poster presented at GLOW 42 that brings the two together.


Guerrini, J. (2020). Vowel quality and iconic lengthening. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 24.

Guerrini, J. (2018). The Link between Misinterpretation, Intentionality, and Mental Agency in the Natural Language Interpretation of “Fake”. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Analitica Junior, 9(2), 181-192.