Robert Henderson

I am an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. My research is in formal semantics with a special focus on the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica (especially Mayan languages), languages on which I have done many years of fieldwork. I currently have three partially overlapping research projects.

Plurality Across Domains

I am interested in the following interlocked questions: (i) What sort of logic(s) do we need to model plural reference in natural language? (ii) How many varieties of plural reference are there? (ii) Do we find the same types of plural reference to individuals and events? For instance, a recent paper of mine addresses questions (i) and (ii) by proposing that a special class of indefinites in Mayan and other languages make reference to "evaluation pluralities" that are only definable in varieties of Dynamic Plural Logic. To address questions (ii) and (iii), another recent paper identifies a new type of plural reference for nouns and then shows that a common type of verbal pluractionality found in Mayan and other languages employs this type of plural reference in the event domain.

Structuring Dynamic Updates

I have a second major research program in dynamic semantics. In particular, I am interested in the way that the relevant logics can allow expressions to be interpreted incrementally in-situ, but seemingly affect their update at a distance. For instance, I've done work with Adrian Brasoveanu and Scott AnderBois on a theory of appositives that allows them to be interpreted in place, but still impose their update on the context before the at-issue content. Analogously, in my work on dependent indefinites and evaluation plurality, I have worked on post-suppositions in dynamic semantics, which are conditions that can be introduced locally by quantifiers, but which act to structure quantificational alternatives at the edge of quantificational domains.

Mayan Syntax and Phonology

I have worked on a series of problems on the K'ichean-branch Mayan languages lying outside of my core semantics specialty. I have a longstanding interest on ergativity in Mayan, especially the prohibition on WH-moving ergative arguments and how this interacts with binding phenomena. (I did a postdoc at McGill on this topic). I have also worked on how syntax is mapped to intonational phrases in K'ichee', and how this interacts with allomorphy in late-insertion theories of morphology like DM. I am currently working with Ryan Bennett on two projects (i) we are investigating whether absolutive morphology in Kaqchikel is affixal in virtue of head movement or prosodic conditions on word structure, (ii) we are working on the basic description and analysis of the distribution of lexical tone in Uspanteko, the only language in the K'ichean branch to have contrastive tone.

rhenderson email arizona edu
pub key: 50AE14A4
My partner, Betsy Burr, who is a weaver / conservator