Elena Herburger

Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese

Georgetown University



Research Interests:

Language is only useful for communication because the sentences we utter, write or think have meaning. As a semanticist, I am interested in how speakers systematically, and largely unconsciously, build up the meaning of a sentence from the meaning of its parts. I am also interested how speakers figure out contextual aspects of meanings that go beyond what the sentences literally say. Topics that I have been particularly interested in are negation, the meaning contribution of focus, quantification, and conditionals. The languages that most of my data are drawn from are English, Spanish and German.

Selected Work:


2000. What Counts: Focus and Quantification. MIT Press.


Bare conditionals in the red, to appear in Linguistics and Philosophy prepub version

Gradable possibility and epistemic comparison (with Aynat Rubinstein), to appear in Journal of Semantics prepub version

2017. Nur Du allein: Some thoughts on sentence initial focus particles in German. Festschrift für Martin Prinzhorn. Edited by Clemens Mayr and Edwin Williams, published by Wiener Linguistische Gazette, 119-126. prepub version

2015. Conditional Perfection: The truth and the whole truth. in Proceedings from SALT 25 prepub version

2015. Only if: If only we understood it. Proceedings from Sinn und Bedeutung 19. prepub version

2014. Is 'more possible' more possible in German? with Aynat Rubinstein, Proceedings from SALT 24. prepub version

2013. The chance of being an NPI. (with Simon Mauck) Beyond 'any' and 'ever'.New Reflections Polarity Sensitivity. Edited by Eva Csipak, Regine Eckardt, Mingha Li  and Manfred Sailer, Berlin: Mouton DeGrutyer, 211-239. prepub version.

2012. Review of Negative Indefinites by Doris Penka. Oxford University Studies in Theoretical Linguistics. Language 88, 663-666. prepub version

2012. Negation. Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning. Edited by Claudia Meierborn Klaus von Heusinger and Paul Portner. Handbook of Linguistics and Communication Science. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1641-1660. prepub version

2009. NPIs pragmatically. (with Simon Mauck) Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society (BLS) 35 (Negation). prepub version

2003. A note on Spanish ni siquiera, even and the analysis of NPIs. Probus 15, 237-256.

2001. The negative concord puzzle revisited. Natural Language Semantics 9, 241-288.