A head shot of a woman in her late twenties with a brick wall behind her. She has short brown hair and glasses and is wearing a grey T-shirt. Her head is slightly tilted to her left, and she has a small closed-mouth smile.
Photo by Sarah Phillips

Hi, my name is Masha (Maria) Esipova (she or they). I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in linguistics at the University of Konstanz. Previously, I was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (PI of EU project 891493 “GeMeTIC”) at the University of Oslo (2020–2022) and a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer at Princeton University (2019–2020). I hold a PhD in linguistics from New York University (2019).

I am a formal semanticist with a profound interest in how meaning composition and meaning expression are situated within a larger architecture of grammar. Within the UniKn project I am on (“Alternative Questions and Beyond”, PI: Maribel Romero), I work on prosody–syntax–semantics–pragmatics of different types of questions, with the current focus on rhetorical questions. This ties naturally into my prior and current work on questions, responses to questions, and exclamatives in Russian. Besides that, much of my recent work has focused on performative meaning, i.e., meaning that is intrinsically linked to the act of producing a certain form (e.g., expressing one's immediate emotions by uttering words like damn) and, thus, cannot be recovered during ellipsis/anaphora resolution and does not lend itself well to modeling in terms of truth conditions. Within truth-conditional meaning, I have also worked extensively on various aspects of the at-issue vs. not-at-issue distinction. In addition, I am interested in the syntax–semantics–pragmatics of event and situation descriptions, in how language can be used to maintain power imbalances and to fabricate false or misleading narratives, and in meaning–form mappings beyond language (with focus on pictorial representations and athletic movement).

When working on a specific topic, I systematically look at how the relevant meaning is expressed via various channels (e.g., for spoken language: strings of segments, prosody, hand and body gestures, facial expressions, etc.). By doing so, I acknowledge that we can combine conventionalized and non-conventionalized meaning–form mappings, where the form can in principle have any physical manifestation, within a single coherent compositional structure, and I aim to investigate both channel-independent universals of meaning composition as well as channel-specific constraints on meaning expression. In terms of specific languages, my research relies primarily on data from English and Russian, with occasional inclusions from other languages. In my pre-PhD years, I also worked on Russian Sign Language and hope to be able to work on signed languages again in the future.