I am a lecturer at the University of Groningen, where I am also part of the Semantics and Cognition group. Last year, I defended my PhD thesis at the Linguistics Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. My supervisors were Valentine Hacquard and Maria Polinsky.

*** News ***
– In September, I participated in the workshop ‘Language Development, Diagnosis and Assessment in School Ages (6-16)’ at the Lorentz Center in Leiden. Linguists, speech therapists, medics, and teachers, among others, to identify gaps in the knowledge of the development of language abilities in the school years.
– Our paper ‘Figuring out root and epistemic uses of modals: The role of the input’ has been accepted to the Journal of Semantics. Co-authors: Anouk Dieuleveut, Ailís Cournane and Valentine Hacquard.
– I will be a lecturer at Groningen University also for the year 2021-2022. Courses I will be teaching include Semantics and Language Acquisition.

I’m interested in the syntax-semantics interface: Where and why does structure constrain meaning? Currently, I work on the syntax and semantics of modals. I’m interested in the following questions:

  • How are modals acquired? Together with Anouk Dieuleveut (UMD), Ailís Cournane (NYU), Valentine Hacquard (UMD) and Maxime Tulling (NYU) I conducted two corpus studies on English and Dutch modals within the research project ‘Acquiring the language of possibility’. We find that modals are highly frequent in child-directed speech, but that the full range of interpretations is obscured. The intermediate report is in the paper ‘Learning what must and can must and can mean’.
  • How do modals behave cross-linguistically?  Besides investigating modals in highly studied languages like Dutch and English, I conducted  fieldwork on Georgian (a South-Caucasian language), where I studied a particular item that can mean both ‘must’ and ‘want’, depending on its syntax. The handout ‘The Georgian item unda – raising and control’ gives more details on this project.
  • How do modals change over time? Together with Nick Huang and Gesoel Mendes (UMD) I’m studying the syntactic and semantic change in willenyao and querer (the item expressing want in Dutch, Mandarin Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese, respectively). These items expressing desires have obtained a future meaning over time (compare ‘it wants to rain’, which is accepted by some English speakers). An intermediate report on this cross-linguistic pattern can be found in the poster ‘The future of want’.

Contact information
E-mail: a.m.f.van.dooren[at]rug.nl