Subjective Language

Tastes differ, yet we keep arguing about them. Those arguments are instructive in understanding the nature of gustatory, aesthetic and moral judgment. Conversational patterns in such arguments show that subjective expressions such as "delicious" and "fun", for having which human languages show great propensity, exhibit special linguistic behavior. On the other hand, expressions such as "round" that describe intuitively objective matters behave differently. The overarching theme of this talk is the distinction between subjective and non-subjective expressions. If language is a window on the mind, subjective expressions provide a natural meeting point for several areas, including at least linguistics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and psychology.  I will (i) discuss linguistic properties that mark the subjective vs. non-subjective divide and (ii) show that to better understand the source of this linguistic distinction, it is necessary to examine the cognitive science perspective on personal taste.


I was born in Moscow and received an MA in linguistics from the Russian State University for the Humanities in 2009. In 2016, I received a PhD in Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles. I came to Tübingen in 2016 to join the SFB 833 "The construction of meaning" and in January 2018, I start my Humboldt project that will be co-hosted between Tübingen and Konstanz. I also held visiting affiliations at Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris (a CNRS unit that specializes in cognitive science); Philosophy Department at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; and Linguistics Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. My research program in broad strokes is on understanding how and why languages differ and what is universal in natural language, on the division of labor between semantics (the study of meaning) and pragmatics (the study of human communication), and on the interface between linguistics and philosophy. My work is mostly on formal semantics and pragmatics, branching out to formal syntax and philosophy of language.