Archive for the ‘colloquia’ Category

CORRECTION: Bobaljik Colloquium Next Thursday (5/29)

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Getting ‘Better’: On Comparative Suppletion and Related Topics

Jonathan Bobaljik
University of Connecticut

I present and discuss four or five universals drawn from across-linguistic study of comparative and superlative morphology. Special attention is given to three generalizations regarding root suppletion in the comparative degree of adjectives (good-better, bad-worse). These generalizations, I contend, have a variety consequences for morphology, semantics and perhaps syntax, particularly in the areas of lexical decomposition (at whatever level this obtains) and the formal treatment of suppletion vs. irregularity. Although comparative suppletion is rare (though attested) outside of Indo-European, and although the data sample is small within any one language, the generalizations over the total data set are surprisingly robust. Two generalizations are given here:

The Comparative-Superlative Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root/stem, then the superlative is also suppletive. The superlative may use the same root as the comparative, or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root. Thus the schema in (1), where A, B, C refer to phonologically unrelated roots.

(1) A – A – A completely regular: short, short-er, short-est
A – B – B suppletive: bad, worse, worst
A – B – C doubly suppletive: Latin ‘good’: bonus – melior -optimus
A – B – A *unattested* * bad – worse – baddest

I argue that this generalization favours analyses in which the superlative is not merely related to the comparative (e.g., both involve degree operators), but is rather _derived_from_ the comparative: [[[SHORT]-ER]-(ES)T]. Put somewhat more contentiously, I argue (with a qualification) that UG excludes a morpheme “-EST” (Superlative) that attaches directly to adjectival roots.

The Comparative-Change-of-State Generalization:

If the comparative degree of an adjective is built on a suppletive root, then a derived change-of-state verb (inchoative or causative) will also be suppletive. The verb may use the same root as the comparative (bad – worse – worsen; bonus -melior – meliorare), or may be further suppletive, but will not use the basic adjectival root.

By parity of reasoning to the first section, I must conclude (contra Dowty and others) that change-of-state verbs always include the comparative at some level of representation (cf. Kennnedy & Levin). I will defend this view against a variety of possible objections and examine apparent counter-examples.

Hinterwimmer Colloquium on Thursday

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Different alternatives for topics and foci: Evidence from indefinites and multiple wh

Stefan Hinterwimmer (joint work with Sophie Repp)
Zentrum fur Allgemeine Sprachwisenschaft, Berlin

Thursday May 15, 2008
Cobb 201, 3.30- 5 pm

In gapping, topical indefinites as well as wh-phrases can contrast with surface-identical antecedents if the contrast involved is the first of the two (or more) contrast pairs in the gapping coordination. This is not possible for most other types of expressions. We argue that both topical indefinites and wh-phrases introduce a discourse referent with a fixed address, on the basis of which referents introduced by surface-identical expressions can be contrasted. For the indefinites, we argue that the first contrast pair is a pair of contrastive topics which can, at the same time, be a pair of aboutness topics. These introduce individual addresses (Reinhart 1981). For wh-phrases we follow the assumption that they introduce discourse referents by presupposition. Multiple wh-interrogatives then introduce functions by presup po sition whose domain is provided by the first wh-phrase. The function is specified by giving its extension, i.e. the respective pair-list.

González-Vilbazo and López Colloquium on Thursday

Monday, April 28th, 2008

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.

Enoch Aboh Colloquium on Friday

Monday, March 10th, 2008

There will be a special colloquium next Friday from Enoch Aboh of the University of Amsterdam and MIT. The title of the talk is “A Typology of Adpositions” and you can find the abstract here:

The talk will be held at the normal colloquium time in the normal colloquium location (3:30 in the CSL)

Arregi’s Colloquium on Thursday

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Modularity in Morphology: The Case of Basque Finite Auxiliaries

Karlos Arregi
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Thur, Feb 21 2008 3:30-5:00pm, Cobb 201

Many modern theories of morphology are highly modular: morphological phenomena with different properties are accounted for by separate modules of grammar. In this talk, I argue for a particular view of the modularity of morphology based on examination of Basque finite auxiliaries, which have a complex system of clitics that cross-reference ergative, absolutive and dative arguments in the sentence. I argue that a principled analysis of several generalizations regarding these clitics must involve a theory of word-formation with separate modules that have their own well-formedness principles and repair operations. Special attention will be given to verbal forms where these requirements of the separate modules conflict with each other. It will be shown that these conflicts are resolved in a manner that is best accounted for by a theory where the modules involved in word formation are derivationally ordered.

Markman’s talk on Tuesday

Monday, February 18th, 2008

On the parametric variation of case and agreement: implications for (non)-configurationality

Vita Markman
Simon Fraser University

Henry Hinds [5734 S. Ellis Ave.] Room 101.

Tues Feb 19, 2008 3:30-5:00pm

In this talk I will argue that case and agreement features are subject to parametric variation and explore the consequences of this claim with a particular attention to word order. Departing from the view that case and agreement are present in the syntax of every language, but may not be overtly realized (Rouveret and Vergnaud 1980; Chomsky 1981, 1995, 2000, 2001; Harley 1995; Bittner and Hale 1996; Sigurdsson 2003), I will argue that languages can choose to have case features, agreement features, some combination of the two or none at all. The main focus of the talk will be on languages that have agreement features but no case. Specifically, I will demonstrate that languages without case features, but with agreement features will be non-configurational. These include Mohawk, Kinande, and Chichewa. In contrast, languages with case features may allow but not require NP dislocation in the presence of agreement. These are all of the Indo-European languages, Japanese, and Nahuatl.

In addition to addressing the effects of the parametric variation in case and agreement on word order, I will also address a number of other syntactic phenomena that pose a problem for the ‘universal’ approach to case and agreement and are better understood if these features are taken to vary parametrically.

Kandybowicz’s talk on Thursday

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Sometimes Syntax is Syntax. Sometimes Syntax is Phonology

Jason Kandybowicz
Swarthmore College

Thursday, February 14, 2008, 3:30-5:00pm
Cobb 201

In recent years, the field of syntax has seen a shift toward explorations and explanations of syntactic phenomena cast in terms of the interfacing sub-systems of grammar; namely, the phonological and semantic components. This modus operandi necessitates a broader knowledge base than was previously thought necessary. It also entails that the more rigorous analyses in this vein will likely come from those who study languages holistically. Yet curiously enough, holism is far from being the battle cry in today’s interface-driven syntactic frameworks. In this talk, I advance an argument for linguistic holism on the basis of two case studies drawn from the Nupe language, a Benue Congo language spoken in south central Nigeria.

The first case study deals with the language’s restriction on extraction from perfect clauses. The second case study is similar in that it too deals with an extraction restriction. In this case, the restriction involves the prohibition of embedded subject extraction across a complementizer – the so-called Comp-trace effect. Although the phenomena investigated in both case studies have been traditionally referred to as “syntactic” in both the Nupe literature and in the generative literature more broadly, I show that the former is truly syntactic in the narrow sense, while the latter is more phonological in nature. In this respect, then, it is difficult to know in advance of analysis whether a purported syntactic phenomenon is truly syntactic after all. Thus, in light of situations like these, holistic approaches to language take on an elevated level of importance. The talk also addresses a number of theoretical issues raised by the core empirical problems of each case study, including, but not limited to, the syntax-phonology interface.

Runner’s talk at Northwestern

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Northwestern University Department of Linguistics Colloquium presents

On the Role of Syntax on the Interpretation of Elided Reflexives

Jeffrey Runner
University of Rochester

The main explanations for the exceptional behavior of reflexives in “representational NPs” (RNPs), e.g., ‘a picture of herself’, rely on syntactic or argument structure (Chomsky, 1986; Davies & Dubinsky, 2003; Pollard & Sag, 1992; Reinhart & Reuland, 1993). “Reference transfer” (RT) allows reference to a representation of a person by that person’s name, e.g., referring to a statue of Ringo Starr as ‘Ringo Starr’ (Jackendoff, 1992). Like RNP reflexives (Grodzinsky & Reinhart, 1993), RT reflexives may receive coreferential interpretations when elided (Lidz, 2001). Here I present evidence from collaborative work with Micah Goldwater (UT Austin) of two scene verification experiments and two “visual world” eye-tracking experiments suggesting that it may be the representational use of RNP reflexives- and not (just) the syntactic/argument structure- that allows for their exceptional behavior. Interesting differences are found between the two sets of experiments, which can also shed light on the approaches to ellipsis interpretation discussed by Kehler (2000) and Frazier & Clifton (2006).

Friday, February 15, 2008
3:30 p.m.
Chambers Hall (600 Foster Street), Lower Classroom Level

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