Sunday, 24 January 2010

Accidental sarcasm: On focus semantic values and hotel lifts

Earlier this month I was in Baltimore for the annual LSA conference, and gave a talk on why wh-words (e.g. who, what, when etc.) need ordinary as well as focus semantic values (in contrast to Beck 2006, Cable 2007). Relevant to the calculation of focus semantic values, I spotted this notice in the conference hotel elevator:
The relevant bit: "protecting and empowering SO many ways".

Here so is focussed; presumably to emphasise the variety of ways in which Marylanders are protected and empowered. However, I can't help but read the focus on so as sarcastic (I can imagine someone saying "Oh yeah, you were SO helpful to me."), though I'm not sure why.

[Update (30.1.10): Does DLLR monitor the activities of this construction site?

Beck, Sigrid. 2006. Intervention effects follow from focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 14:1–56.
Cable, Seth. 2007. The grammar of Q: Q-particles and the nature of Wh-fronting, as revealed by the Wh-questions of Tlingit. Doctoral Dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA.