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Sally McConnell-Ginet

Professor Emerita

Sally McConnell-Ginet

Morrill Hall, Room 103


My research moves between two poles: on the one hand, I work on formal models of natural language meaning, including the relation between syntactic structures and semantic interpretation, and, on the other, I work on the interaction of language with the social and cultural milieux in which it is used, especially on how gender and sexuality link to language use. From the formal viewpoint, I have worked on the semantics of comparative constructions, adverbials, relative adjectives, middles and generics. I have also worked on the formal analysis of vagueness and presupposition, both topics that have implications for considering how language connects to cognition and to social life. In my recent socially-oriented work, I have begun to explore how certain features of linguistic structure are exploited by language users in constructing their selves and their social worlds. I have paid special attention to the relative emptiness of linguistically determined lexical meaning and the discourse process through which meanings are proposed, negotiated, and contested. And I am now focusing in my more formal semantic work on context-dependence, which is where the two strands of my research ultimately connect. During 2005, I am serving as Vice-President of the Linguistic Society of America, and during 2006, I will serve as President. 


  • Linguistics

Graduate Fields

  • Linguistics
  • Cognitive Science
  • Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies


  • Semantics
  • pragmatics
  • language and gender


  • (in press) Why defining is seldom 'just semantics': Marriage, 'marriage', and other minefields. In B. Birner & G. Ward, eds., Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning: Neo-Gricean Studies in Pragmatics and Semantics in Honor of Laurence R. Horn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • (2003) 'What's in a name?': social labeling and gender practices. In J. Holmes & M. Meyerhoff, eds.,The Handbook of Language and Gender (Oxford: Blackwell), 69-97.
  • (2003) Language and Gender. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. [coauthored with Penelope Eckert]
  • (2002) 'Queering' semantics: Definitional struggles. In K. Campbell-Kibler, R. Podesva, S. Roberts, and A. Wong, eds., Language and Sexuality: Contesting Meaning in Theory and Practice, CSLI (Stanford), 137-160.
  • (2000). Meaning and Grammar: An Introduction to Semantics (rev. 2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [coauthored with Gennaro Chierchia] Korean translation published by Hankook Publishing Company with brief new preface in English in 2004. Tr. by Ik-Hwan Lee, Kyoung-Won Kson, and Im-Young Jhee.
  • (1994). On the non-optionality of certain modifiers. In M. Harvey and L. Santelmann (Eds.),Proceedings from the Semantics and Linguistic Theory IV Conference, pp. 23-250. Ithaca: DMLL Pubs, Cornell.
  • (1989, 1998). The sexual (re)production of meaning: A discourse-based theory. In F. W. Frank and P. A. Treichler (Eds.), Language, gender and professional writing: Theoretical approaches and guidelines for nonsexist usage. New York: MLA Publications, 35-50. Rpt. (slightly shortened and with introduction) in D. Cameron, ed. (1998), The feminist critique of meaning: A reader. London and New York: Routledge.
  • (1982) Adverbs and logical form: A linguistically realistic theory. Language 58, 144-84.