Within the fields of semantics, pragmatics, and the philosophy of language, I’m interested in cross-domain parallels (learning about one sort of semantic object by studying a similar sort of semantic object) and in the semantics-pragmatics interface (studying how compositional semantics can be extended to deal with non-truth-conditional content).

Specifically, my work involves the study of:

  • degree semantics (the meaning of adjectives and equatives);
  • event semantics (phenomena like pluractionality and distributivity);
  • the semantics of paths and vectors (linguistically encoded spatial extension);
  • implicature (semantic and pragmatic consequences of Grice’s quantity and manner maxims);
  • evidentials (the ways languages encode sources of evidence);
  • speech acts (the semantics and pragmatics of questions and exclamatives);
  • the acquisition of semantics (how children acquire linguistic meaning)



2008: Degree Modification in Natural Language

This dissertation is a study of the roles played by degree modifiers — functions from sets of degrees to sets of degrees — across different constructions and languages. The immediate goal of such a project is a better understanding of the distribution of these morphemes and how they contribute to the meaning of an expression. More broadly, a study of the semantics of degree modifiers is of interest because it helps demonstrate parallels between the degree and individual domains.


  • Linguistics 1 (Introduction to Language) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 7 (Language & Identity) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 8 (Language in Context) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 19 (Fiat Lux seminar: Gossip and facts across languages)
  • Linguistics 120C (Undergraduate Semantics 1)
  • Linguistics 165C (Undergraduate Semantics 2) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 200C (Graduate Semantics 1) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 201C (Graduate Semantics 2) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 207 (Graduate Pragmatics, with Jesse Harris) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 218 (Mathematical Linguistics 2): Montague Grammar and Dynamic Semantics [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate Seminar: The semantics of wh-phrases, Winter 2009) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate Seminar: The semantics of sums & scales, Spring 2010) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate Seminar: The semantics and pragmatics of evidentials, Spring 2011) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 254 (Graduate Seminar: The acquisition of semantics, with Nina Hyams, Spring 2012) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate seminar: The semantics of irreality, with Gabe Greenberg, Fall 2013)
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate Seminar: The semantics of speech acts, Fall 2014) [syllabus]
  • Linguistics 252 (Graduate Seminar: The semantics of degree constructions, Spring 2016) [syllabus]



  • Check out Barbara Partee’s phenomenal notes on various semantics topics here.
  • Read the LSA’s advice on inclusive language here.
  • See Ora Matushansky’s data on gender in linguistics here.
  • Some guidelines from Columbia University about gender in the classroom can be found here.
  • Read my advice on how to write linguistics papers, abstracts and grant proposals here.
  • Rettymology Many people are curious about the etymology of my last name. It comes from Friuli, a region of north-eastern Italy where my father’s family is from. My Friulian relatives spell it Ret; the extra t was added when my great-grandparents emigrated to the US. The name itself comes from the word Raetia or Raeti, the pre-Roman name of the region and people (who were possibly Etruscan). The same root gives its name to a branch of (Gallo-)Romance languages, the Rhaeto-Romance languages, of which Friulian is a member.