González-Vilbazo and López Colloquium on Thursday

University of Chicago, Linguistics Colloquium

Syntactic phases and Codeswitching

Kay-Eduardo González-Vilbazo and Luis López
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Thursday, May 1 2008
Cobb 201

Since Chomsky (1995) there has been ample debate on what exactly the role of little v is (see for instance Kratzer 1996, Marantz 1997 for two early proposals). After Chomsky (2000) and the development of phases as a theoretical construct, the question of little v’s role has become even more complex. This presentation aims to show that the linguistic competence of bilingual code-switchers provides a rich data base to test the value of the little v hypothesis. That is because speakers can switch between a lexical expression of little v and its complement VP, allowing us to extricate their respective contributions to the make-up of the sentence.

The grammar of bilingual code-switchers allows for a structure consisting of a light verb in one language (L1) followed by the main predicate with its arguments in the other (L2). This is exemplified in (1), with L1 Spanish and L2 German. The striking fact is the following: although the constituents of a are fully German in structure, the constituent order, prosodic structure and expression of focus/background of a itself follow the rules and restrictions of Spanish.

(1) Juan ha hecho [a verkaufen die Bücher].
Juan has done sell the books
‘Juan has sold the books.’

Juan ha hecho –> L1, Spanish

Verkaufen die Bücher –> L2, German

We find that little v is directly involved in at least three linguistic properties: linearization of the lexical verb V and its complements, the prosodic structure of VP in neutral contexts and the expression of Focus/Background structure. Thus, features of little v determine (at least) the outcome of the mapping between syntax and PF and syntax and information structure.

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