Salvador Mascarenhas
Assistant Professor

Ecole Normale Supérieure
Department of Cognitive Studies
29 rue d'Ulm, room 227
75005 Paris, France

salvador [dot]
mascarenhas [at] ens [dot] fr

About

I am an Assistant Professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure's Department of Cognitive Studies (DEC) and a member of Institut Jean Nicod. I got my PhD at New York University's Department of Linguistics in 2014, where I wrote a dissertation on the relationship between human reasoning, natural language semantics, and the philosophy of language. Between 2014 and 2016, I was a Junior Research Fellow with St Catherine's College, Oxford, affiliated with the Faculty of Philosophy.

Research

Research in linguistic semantics and the philosophy of language in the past forty years has produced sophisticated mathematical models that represent the meanings of natural language utterances and explain how meanings relate to one another to form entailment patterns. At the same time, research on human reasoning within psychology has discovered a wealth of fallacious inference patterns, establishing that human reasoning is fallible in highly predictable ways. The psychological study of reasoning has been characterized by extensive experimental work analyzed in terms of theories focusing on the processes of reasoning. On the other hand, linguistic semantics has a longstanding tradition of formal rigor and a focus on logical thinking, but it has so far largely ignored fallacies. The two fields overlap significantly, but they have progressed almost completely in parallel, with little interaction. The main aim of my research is to fill that gap by extending linguistic semantics to the study of human reasoning.

My approach has two main components. The first involves recasting the account of human reasoning known as mental model theory in a formally explicit system, incorporating relevant insights from my work on inquisitive semantics. For this part of my research I collaborate with Philipp Koralus. Together we are developing a version of mental model theory that locates the origin of reasoning failures in a question-asking and answering process. The second component is an interpretation-based theory of (some) reasoning failures that explains these failures in terms of modern theories of implicature. This second theory contrasts with its reasoning-based competitors in that it assumes as a working hypothesis a logically sound reasoning module that operates on interpretations more complex than meets the eye.

From these two rigorously defined theories, different predictions emerge. These predictions allow for a comparison between the two theories, providing a principled way to tease apart the contributions of general-purpose reasoning mechanisms and of interpretive procedures in our failures of masoning.

I also have an active interest in, and have worked on, the following topics in semantics and philosophy of language

  • the semantics of natural language questions and erotetic logics;
  • dialog coherence in the pragmatics of questions and answers;
  • dynamic semantics for anaphora and presupposition;
  • alternative semantics for indefinites and disjunction;
  • positive polarity and free choice.

Finally, I have worked on phonology—vowel-height alternations in the European Portuguese verbal system—and syntax—double-complementizer structures and double object get.

Papers and handouts

Below is a select list of publications, manuscripts, and talks I have given, with links to pdf versions of papers or handouts. Please see my CV for a complete list.

  • 2016
    • Illusory Inferences in a question-based theory of reasoning. With Philipp Koralus. Forthcoming in Current Research in the Semantics / Pragmatics Interface. (preprint will be linked to as soon as possible)
    • Illusory inferences with quantifiers. With Philipp Koralus. Forthcoming in Thinking and Reasoning. (preprint: [.pdf])
  • 2015
    • Illusory inferences: disjunctions, indefinites, and the erotetic theory of reasoning. With Philipp Koralus. Presented at the 37th Annual Cognitive Science Society Meeting CogSci 2015, published in conference proceedings. [.pdf]
    • Complementizer doubling in European Portuguese. Forthcoming in Rivista di grammatica generativa. (preprint: [.pdf])
  • 2014
    • Formal Semantics and the Psychology of Reasoning: Building new bridges and investigating interactions. PhD dissertation, New York University. [.pdf]
  • 2013
    • An interpretation-based account of illusory inferences from disjunction. Talk given at Sinn und Bedeutung 18. (handout: [.pdf])
    • The erotetic theory of reasoning. With Philipp Koralus. Philosophical Perspectives vol 27, pp. 312-365. (preprint: [.pdf])
  • 2011
    • Licensing by modification: the case of positive polarity pronouns. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 16. [.pdf]
  • 2010
    • Causing-to-have vs. having-for: the syntax of double-object get. Qualifying Paper, New York University. [.pdf]
    • Contextual givenness vs. existential quantification. Talk given at MACSIM: Mid-Atlantic Colloquium of Studies in Meaning, Upenn. (handout available here: [.pdf])
  • 2009
    • Inquisitive Semantics and Logic. MSc in Logic thesis. Amsterdam: Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation. [.pdf]

Teaching / Enseignement

2017-2018 Semestre 1

CO2 Introduction to linguistics

Mondays 5.00pm-7.00, salle Langevin (29 Ulm, next to the first floor library); TD Wednesdays 12.30pm-2.00, salle Ribot (29 Ulm, ground floor down the hall) NB: la langue d'enseignement sera l'anglais

Course description

This course is an introduction to linguistics, the principled study of human language from a psychological, social, and formal perspective. The course will introduce the fundamental concepts from several subfields of linguistics. In particular, we will look in some detail at morphology, syntax, semantics, and phonology. We will also discuss the neurobiological bases of human language, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and language acquisition.

Assessment (validation)

  • weekly homework assignments (60%);
  • a final exam (30%);
  • attendance and participation in discussions in class and TD (10%).

Course website

The course's website contains all lecture materials and homework assignments. It is password protected, please email the instructor if you need access.

CA2 Semantics I (Sémantique des langues naturelles)

Fridays 9.00am-11.00, salle Langevin (29 Ulm, next to the first floor library); TD Tuesdays 3.00pm-5.00, salle Langevin NB: la langue d'enseignement sera l'anglais

Course description

This course is a fast-paced introduction to natural language semantics and pragmatics. See this preliminary schedule for a tentative list of topics.

Assessment (validation)

  • weekly homework assignments (60%);
  • a writing exercise (30%): students will write a term paper of up to 3 pages that will be either (A) an original project of their choosing (no cap on max grade) or (B) a summary of an existing article in the literature, determined by the instructor (max grade: 16);
  • attendance and participation in discussions in class and TD (10%).

Course website

The course's website contains all lecture materials and homework assignments. It is password protected, please email the instructor if you need access.

LC2 Sens et interprétation

Mondays 1.00pm-4.00, salle Ribot (29 Ulm, ground floor down the hall)

I will teach two lectures in this course on the connection between reasoning and language. More information to come closer to the dates of the lectures (mid November).