Research Group

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Fred Landman

FELLOW
Tel Aviv University
Manfred is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at University of Texas at Austin.
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Manfred Krifka

FELLOW
University of Texas at Austin
Manfred is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at University of Texas at Austin.
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Pauline Jacobson

FELLOW
Brown University
Pauline is a professor in the Department of Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences at Brown University.
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Edit Doron

FELLOW
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Edit is a professor in the Department of English at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Maria Bittner

FELLOW
Rutgers University
Maria is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at Rutgers University.

Semantics

[RG #69] Semantics

August 1997 - February 1998

Organizers:

Edit Doron (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Fred Landman (Tel Aviv University)

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Semantics, the study of semantic competence, is that part of linguistic theory that deals with the interpretation of natural language expressions. Semantics is a theory of the faculty of native speakers to interpret their language.

Semantic competence is a highly structured system, and research in semantics over the last twenty years has made progress in trying to uncover this structure and its general principles. The foundational principles of semantic theory, first formulated a century ago by the German mathematician and philosopher of language Frege, are aboutness and compositionality. Aboutness means that semantics studies the relations between linguistics expressions and the world as structured by our cognitive system, and, as part of this, the context of use for each expression. Compositionality means that the semantic interpretation of a complex expression – for example, a sentence – is determined by interpretation of its parts and by the operations that put those parts together. While semantics is popularly thought of as the study of the meanings of words, in fact semantic theory mostly focuses on the semantic operations that combine words into sentences and sentences into discourse.

In the last fifteen years, five areas of research have been exceptionally prominent. First, with the advent of the theory of discourse representation (initiated by Hans Kamp and Irene Heim), much work has been done on quantificational and anaphoric phenomena beyond the sentence level. Simultaneously, Mats Rooth initiated the systematic study of the semantic effects of the discourse notion of focus, and Martin Stokhof and Jeroen Groenendijk developed the study of the semantics of questions. Second, the theory of generalized quantifiers (initiated by Jon Barwise, Robin Cooper and Edward Keenan) has uncovered a wealth of systematic constraints in the determiner system of natural language. Third, the theory of singular and plural individuals (initiated by Godehard Link) has considerably deepened our understanding of the semantics of plurality, in particular with respect to distributive, collective and cumulative interpretations of noun phrases. The theory of kinds developed by Gregory Carlson has contributed to the understanding of the semantics of mass terms and other kind-denoting expressions. Fourth, the theory of events (originating in the work of Donald Davidson in the sixties) has simulated research on a variety of topics, in particular in the study of aspect, such as the semantics of the progressive and perfective. Fifth, theory of Logical Form, initiated by the work of Noam Chomsky, has contributed to research on the syntax-semantics interface.

Most importantly, these areas do not develop in isolation from each other: cross-fertilization between them has been, and continues to be highly successful and promising. Our group will concentrate precisely on the areas of cross-fertilization.

 

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Michael Kalman Silber

FELLOW
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Michael is a professor in the Department of History of the Jewish People at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Aviezer Ravitzky

FELLOW
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Aviezer is a professor in the Department of Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Michael A. Meyer

FELLOW
Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati
Michael is a professor in the Jewish Institute of Religion at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.
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David Ellenson

FELLOW
Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles
David is a professor in the Jewish Institute of Religion at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles.

Orthodoxy Through the 19th Century

[RG #70] Orthodoxy Through the 19th Century

September 1997 - February 1998 

Organizer:

Yosef Salmon (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

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During the nineteenth century, Ashkenazi Jewish society in Europe underwent a radical transformation. Until this point, the Jews had constituted a religious-national minority, divided into local communities with more or less homogenous social and religious institutions. Now, large sectors of the Jewish public reorganized themselves into new social frameworks and divided into religious streams. The beginnings of this process can be seen already in the second half of the eighteenth century with the rise of Hasidism, but it was only during the next hundred years that the trend became more institutionalized and variegated. The main currents that crystallized included Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. Each current encompassed sub-groups which resulted from the various social and historical contexts in which these streams developed. The process included internal splits and competition as well as independent developments within each movement. Beginning in Germany at the start of the nineteenth century, the phenomenon spread to Bohemia, Hungary, England and the United States, reaching Eastern Europe toward the end of the century.

Whereas the Reform and Conservative movements have basked in the historiographical limelight for decades, Orthodoxy has received serious attention as a subject worthy of historical research only during the last twenty years. The late Prof. Jacob Katz defined the phenomenon and encouraged his students to investigate it. In his opinion, Jewish Orthodoxy emerged at the end of the eighteenth century as a response to the challenges of modernity in general, and to the other Jewish religious currents in particular. The strengthening of Orthodoxy in recent years has stimulated research into its historical roots.

Over the years, Orthodoxy itself evolved and became more diversified in its responses to the challenges presented by other Jewish religious trends (Reform and Positive-Historical Judaism in Germany, Neologism in Hungary) and Jewish social movements, especially in Eastern Europe (Zionism and Jewish Socialism). Zionism added a new aspect to the problem of modernity: the question of how to relate to Zionist activity in the Land of Israel and specifically whether to cooperate with “errant” Jews in this regard. In addition, Zionism invested messianic aspirations with new meaning. At the same time, Orthodoxy was essentially a reaction to the secularization of Jewish society, a subject which has not yet been sufficiently analysed and evaluated in historical research.

 

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Naomi Standen

FELLOW
University of Newcastle
Naomi is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Newcastle.
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David Morgan

FELLOW
University of Wisconsin-Madison
David is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.