Tag Archives: Syntax

UIC TiL: Fall 2012 Schedule

Mark your calendars and save these dates because the fall line-up for UIC Talks in Linguistics has been announced. All talks are scheduled on Fridays at 3 PM and will take place in University Hall 1750, located at 601 S. Morgan Street here in Chicago. We look forward to seeing you there for some interesting talks on a wide array of linguistic topics.

  • September 21: Masaya Yoshida, Northwestern (Psycholinguistics)
  • October 19: Kay González-Vilbazo, UIC (Code-switching)
  • November 2: Bernie Issa, UIC (SLA)
  • November 16: Craig Sailor, UCLA (Syntax)
  • November 30: Nicholas Henriksen, Michigan (Phonology)

Titles of the talks as well as abstracts will be announced closer to the dates listed for each.

Linguistic Links: An Ebonics Primer

With the DEA’s recent call for linguists who specialize in Ebonics, Gabriel Arana presents a basic reminder on how AAVE is not based on lexical differences alone. For instance, in terms of syntax there is a difference in expressing state of being:

(1) James happy.
(2) James be happy.

In (1), the omission of the verb ‘to be’ expresses that James is happy right now, whereas in (2), its inclusion signifies that James usually a happy person. As one commenter points out, this is the same distinction between the Spanish verbs ‘estar’ and ‘ser’, a split common in many other languages as well.

Extra, extra…

Some linguistics-related links for your clicking pleasure:

Conference: Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics

From March 28 to 31 of next year there will be a conference on Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics in Berlin, Germany. The deadline for submissions is November 15, 2010.

Quantitative models of linguistic phenomena have been increasingly informing linguistic theory by testing, confirming and falsifying linguists’ hypotheses, and translating their insights into language based applications. Despite this, the divide between theoretical linguistics and empirical research remains substantial, with many theories being expressed in terms that are not conducive to data-based testing, and conversely, the appearance of a variety of data-based studies and applications with no adequate theory to frame and explain
their results.

Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics (QITL) offers a forum for researchers who aim to bridge this gap from any linguistic discipline or methodology, and in particular, but not limited to:

- Quantitative corpus based studies
- Psycholinguistics
- Computational linguistics / NLP
- Historical linguistics
- Lexicography
- Second language acquisition / applied linguistics
- First language acquisition

UIC TiL: Bryan Koronkiewicz & Tara Toscano

This Friday, March 19th, we’ll be having our semesterly student session of UIC Talks in Linguistics. Bryan Koronkiewicz will present a talk entitled, “Exceptional Hiatuses in Spanish: An Extension of Cabré & Prieto (2006)” and Tara Toscano will be presenting a talk entitled, “The Strandability of Prepositions in Spanish-English Code-switching”

Join us at 3 PM in 1650 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for some talks and refreshments.

Bryan Koronkiewicz (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Exceptional Hiatuses in Spanish: An Extension of Cabré & Prieto (2006)

In Spanish phonology, the syllabification of rising sonority vocoids predicts diphthongization. Yet in various dialects, with a variety of words, speakers favor the creation of a hiatus in such a context. For example, the word *piano* can be realized by Spanish-speakers either as the expected form ['pja.no] or alternatively as [pi.'a.no]. The work of Hualde (1999, 2002) and Colina (1999) attests that word initiality, distance to stress, and morpheme boundaries all have strong effects on the realization of these so-called exceptional hiatuses. However, more recently these effects have been reexamined by Cabré & Prieto (2006) with dissimilar results, arguing that they are not as strong.

In this talk I will continue to explore the potential explanations for exceptional hiatuses. This current study recreates and expands the work of Cabré & Prieto (2006). Continuing their approach, Peninsular Spanish-speakers are tested on their tendency toward exceptional hiatuses, examining the specific parameters that may be influential. Furthermore, Mexican-Spanish-speakers are also tested to see if the effects are similar cross-dialectally.

Tara Toscano (University of Illinois at Chicago)
The Strandability of Prepositions in Spanish-English Code-switching

I have tested the acceptability of Preposition stranding in English-Spanish code- switching contexts by having sequential bilinguals perform a sentence judgment task. The term Preposition stranding (P-stranding) refers to an instance where the object of the preposition is extracted and the preposition is not pied-piped as shown in (1):

(1) Who did John talk [PP to[ t]]?

While P-stranding is found in some languages, it does not appear in others. P-stranding is quite common in English as shown in example (1). But in Spanish there is a lack of P-stranding:

(2) *Quién habló Juan  [PP con [ t]]?
Who   spoke John        with

Code-switching allows insights into the two grammars that are otherwise opaque in monolingual utterances. I hypothesized that the language of the preposition in code-switching would determine the acceptability of P-stranding regardless of the language of the DP or NP. I explored 2 hypotheses:

1. Spanish prepositions will not allow P-stranding in a code-switching context, as in (3c) and (3d), and English prepositions will, as in (3a) and (3b).

(3) a. Quién salió John with?
b. Quién did John leave with?
c. Who did John leave con?
d. Who salió John con?

2. The language of Tense (T), or more specifically little v, will determine the acceptability of P-stranding. English T will trigger P-stranding (see (3b) and (3c)) while Spanish T will prohibit it (see (3a) and (3d)).

No conclusions can be made regarding the element or layer of the structure that sanctions P-stranding because this phenomenon occurs in the Spanish dialect of the participants.

UIC TiL: David Pesetsky

This week we’re honored to have MIT’s David Pesetsky at UIC’s Talks in Linguistics.  His talk, entitled, “Islands, case and licensing: the neglected role of the attractor,” will take place at 3 PM on Friday, March 5th.  Please note that the location is in Grant Hall 304 (703 S. Morgan Street 60607).

David Pesetsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Islands, case and licensing: the neglected role of the attractor

In this talk, I focus on two justly celebrated syntactic proposals that nonetheless fall short of solving the full range of problems that one might expect them to:  (1) Case Theory as an explanation for the surface distribution of arguments; and (2) Phase theory as an explanation for island constraints on movement.  I argue that the right supplement to Case Theory simultaneously explains certain islands — so that Phase theory, at least, turns out to need neither supplement nor revision once Case Theory is properly supplemented and revised.

Case Theory has accounted successfully for a range of restrictions on nominal arguments not found with non-nominals, but fails to predict an array of restrictions with a similar flavor that make distinctions among the non-nominals.  In response to this observation, Pesetsky & Torrego (2006) have argued that case theory interacts with a distinct but closely related requirement that I will call here “Extended Licensing” — which restricts certain possibilities for clausal complementation that would otherwise be allowed by standard Case Theory.

The theory of Phases (Spellout Domains) — when embedded in a theory in which movement is motivated by the featural properties of an attractor — accounts for the necessity of successive-cyclicity. and predicts those island effects that can be attributed to the blocking of the phase-peripheral escape hatch by other material.  Nonetheless, at least two types of islands, clausal complements to N (one case of Ross’s CNPC) and subject position (Chomsky’s 1973 “Subject Condition”), have received no explanation in these terms, since normal escape routes through phase-edges appear to be available in both configurations.

I will argue that given the need for successive cyclicity imposed by Phase theory and the hypothesis that movement requires a featurally appropriate attractor, the CNPC and the Subject Condition turn out to reflect independently detectable constraints imposed by Extended Licensing theory on the distribution of the attractor itself.  One key argument for this proposal will come from hitherto unnoticed parallels between the distribution of phases whose head hosts successive-cyclic A-bar movement and phases that host A-bar movement that does not proceed further (such as embedded questions).

UIC TiL: Luis López

Join us tomorrow, February 19th, for another installment of UIC Talks in Linguistics.  Our own Luis López will be presenting a talk entitled, “Indefinite objects: Differential object marking, scrambling and choice functions.”

The talk will take place different time than usual, starting at 2pm in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607).  Join us there for the talk and as always, light refreshments are provided.

Luis López (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Indefinite objects: Differential object marking, scrambling and choice functions

The polyvalent behavior of indefinites has always been a matter of curiosity among linguists. For instance, in (1), the indefinite object ‘a philosopher’ takes scope outside the conditional, suggesting that the scope of indefinites depends on a semantic operation rather than QR (Reinhart 1997, among many others). In (2) we do not know if Mary is looking for any individual that has the properties of being a secretary and speaking German or whether Mary is looking for a specific individual – known to Mary or to the speaker – who we happen to identify by using these properties:

(1) If Bert invites a philosopher, Lud will be angry.
(2) Mary is looking for a secretary that speaks German.

There have been three traditions that have approached the grammar of indefinites. The scholars working in Differential Object Marking (henceforth DOM, see Bossong 1985, Aissen 2003) have connected a piece of morphology
with a specific interpretation. Other linguists (Diesing 1992 in particular) have linked specificity with scrambling. Finally, Reinhart (1997) and many others have argued that indefinite DPs obtain wide scope by means of choice
functions, implicitly denying any role for syntax. Of particular interest for our purposes are the proposals in Chung and Ladusaw (2004), according to which indefinite nominal phrases may combine by means of Restrict (simple
conjunction) or Satisfy (an operation that turns an indefinite object into a choice function variable.). Restrict leads to narrow scope while Satisfy allows a variety of scopes dependent on where the function variable is existentially closed.

In this paper I synthesize the three traditions. The gist of my proposal is shown as follows:

(3)  [vP EA v [aP Obj.dom a [VP V Obj]]]
Satisfy             Restrict

That is, DOM and wide scope of indefinites entail scrambling. The paper will substantiate this claim using data from Spanish, Hindi-Urdu and Persian (Farsi).

The main theoretical contribution of this research project is that it allows us to develop a more nuanced view of the syntax-semantics interface. Diesing and many others argued that syntactic positions are linked to semantic interpretations. I argue that syntactic configuration limits the range of possible modes of semantic composition, which eventually limits the range of possible semantic representations.

Generative SLA Workshop

On January 29th, 2010 UIC will be hosting a Generative Second Language Workshop featuring:

  • Tania Ionin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    “Production and interpretation of articles in second language acquisition”
  • Silvina Montrul, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    “Morphological Errors in L2 Learners and Heritage Language Learners: Missing Surface Inflection or simply experience?”
  • Roumyana Slabakova, University of Illinois
    “The Bottleneck Hypothesis: What is easy and what is hard to acquire in a second language”

The workshop will take place from 3 PM to 6 PM in Grant Hall 207 (703 South Morgan Street, 60607).

Tania Ionin (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Production and interpretation of articles in second language acquisition

Among the learning tasks faced by second language (L2) learners is to map linguistic form to its corresponding meaning. Recent investigations into L2-acquisition at the syntax/semantics interface have shown that learners face particular difficulties when the form-meaning mappings in the learners’ first language (L1) are different from those in the L2; at the same time, these difficulties are not insurmountable, and L2-learners have been found to exhibit sensitivity to subtle syntax-semantics mappings that are not present in their L1 and not subject to explicit instruction (see Slabakova 2008 for an overview).  The domain of article semantics is one area in which L2-learners have to acquire subtle form-meaning mappings. For example, L2-English learners coming from an article-less L1 (such as Russian or Korean) have to acquire the contrasts between definite, indefinite, and bare (article-less) noun phrases; and L2-English learners coming from an L1 which has articles (such as Spanish) have to reconfigure some aspects of article semantics, for example in the area of generic reference. This talk will report on several experiments probing how L2-English learners from different L1s use and interpret English articles a variety of semantic environments; these experiments aim to tease apart L1-influence from learners’ sensitivity to semantic universals.  The findings show that (i) L1-transfer plays a role in how L2-English learners use and interpret English articles; and (ii) L2-learners are sensitive to subtle contrasts in meaning which are not morphologically marked in their L1, and not subject to (much) classroom instruction, such as the contrasts between specific and non-specific indefinites, and between definite and indefinite generics. It is argued that L2-learners, regardless of their L1, have access to semantic universals through Universal Grammar. Errors with article choice are shown to be due to L1-transfer and to difficulties acquiring language-specific form-meaning mappings, but not to lack of semantic knowledge. Implications of these findings for both semantic theories and theories of L2-acquisition are discussed.

Silvina Montrul (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Morphological Errors in L2 Learners and Heritage Language Learners:
Missing Surface Inflection or simply experience?

Morphological variability and the source of these errors have been hotly debated in generative approaches to L2 acquisition. A recurrent finding is that postpuberty L2 learners often omit or use the wrong affix for nominal and verbal inflections in oral production, but less so in written tasks. According to the Representational Deficit View (Hawkisn & Chan 1997, Tsimpli and 2007), morphological errors arise from deficits at the level of linguistic representation due to maturational effects. But for the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (Prévost & White 1999, 2000), L2 learners have intact functional projections and their parameterized features, but errors stem from problems during production only (a mapping or processing problem). Interestingly, inflectional morphology is also a problem area for heritage language speakers, who were exposed to the language earlier in life than the L2 learners. In this talk I compare knowledge of Spanish nominal and verbal morphology in L2 learners and heritage speakers and examine whether these theoretical accounts can be extended to explain the patterns of morphological variability observed in many heritage language learners. The results suggest that while the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis correctly characterizes the performance patterns observed in L2 acquisition, it does not correctly describe the performance of the heritage language learners tested in this study. I argue that morphological errors in the two populations seem to be related to the type of experience.

Roumyana Slabakova (University of Iowa)
The Bottleneck Hypothesis: What is easy and what is hard to acquire in a second language

In recent years, the modular view of the L2 acquisition experience and the interlanguage grammar has been gaining in importance. It is no longer controversial to argue that the different components of the L2 grammar may have different sensitive periods of acquisition. This argument is supported by evolving views of the language architecture (Minimalism, Jackendoff 2002). The current emphasis is on the relative difficulty of linguistic features and constructions, as well as on how the language architecture, input properties, and speakers’ processing resources affect developmental sequences. Based on comparison of findings on the L2 acquisition of inflectional morphology, syntax, the syntax-semantics and the syntax-context/discourse interface, the Bottleneck Hypothesis argues that the functional (inflectional) morphemes and their features are the bottleneck of L2 acquisition; acquisition of syntax and semantics (and maybe even the syntax-discourse interface) flows smoothly (Slabakova, 2006, 2008). I will present recent experimental studies supporting this view. I will also discuss a pedagogical implication of this model, namely, that an enhanced focus on practicing grammar in language classrooms will be beneficial to learners.

UIC TiL: Brad Hoot & Álvaro Recio

Tomorrow we will have a student session of TiL featuring our own Brad Hoot (UIC PhD student) and visiting student Álvaro Recio (University of Salamanca PhD student).  Brad Hoot will present, “An Optimality Theoretic Analysis of Focus in Spanish and English.” His presentation will be conducted in English. Álvaro Recio will present, “Las propiedades argumentales de los complementos del nombre en español,” and his presentation will be given in Spanish.

As always the talk will be at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall with light refreshments provided.

Álvaro Recio (University of Salamanca)
Las propiedades argumentales de los complementos del nombre en español

Son muchos los autores que en las últimas décadas han puesto de relieve el paralelismo existente entre la estructura interna del sintagma nominal y del sintagma verbal. No todos los modificadores realizan la misma aportación al significado de un sintagma, ni tienen idénticas propiedades formales ni gozan del mismo estatuto sintáctico.

De la misma manera que el verbo posee una red argumental que le permite seleccionar determinado tipo de complementos, ciertos sustantivos, bien por herencia deverbal, bien por su propia semántica interna, seleccionan igualmente complementos argumentales. En consecuencia, en el interior de los grupos nominales, de forma paralela a las oraciones, también es preciso distinguir entre argumentos y adjuntos. Si bien en otras lenguas, fundamentalmente inglés, italiano y francés, se han dedicado  numerosos estudios al respecto, en el ámbito hispánico apenas se han esbozado unas pautas generales de clasificación de estos complementos, por lo que se revela necesario un análisis exhaustivo y profundo aplicado al español.

El objetivo de esta charla es presentar las características generales de un proyecto que trata de ahondar en la estructura interna del sintagma nominal en castellano, en los llamados complementos argumentales del sustantivo. Para ello, se expondrán los rasgos fundamentales que permiten determinar qué clases de sustantivos pueden seleccionar argumentos en español, cuál es la estructura de estos y qué tipo de vínculo los enlaza con el núcleo nominal, pues parece que no todos los argumentos tienen el mismo peso dentro del sintagma: el de mayor relieve temático podría ser considerado el “sujeto” del sintagma nominal.

Especial atención se dedicará a las subordinadas sustantivas que se vinculan a un nombre a través de una preposición (por ejemplo, la idea de comprar un coche o el problema de que los alumnos no estudien), ya que muchos aspectos de su funcionamiento están todavía desatendidos. Una rigurosa descripción de los modificadores del sustantivo no puede ignorar este tipo de construcciones y requiere analizar las características de los núcleos que las aceptan, el carácter argumental o no de la oración, así como la elección del modo correspondiente en el verbo subordinado.

E-Interview: Natascha Müller, Part 3 – Testable Assumptions

In the final segment of our e-interview with Natascha Müller she presents some testable assumptions, which she has corroborated in her own research.

“The two assumptions for delay effects are testable, since they make different predictions. In my research I have argued against Serratrice, Sorace & Paoli (2004) and I have assumed that the presence and direction of the influence is not a question of MORE-or-LESS constraints, but a question of whether pragmatics decides on syntactic options or not. The invasive function of pragmatics is complex (Italian, Spanish), non-invasiveness is derivationally neutral (English, German, French). If delay is not due to a default strategy (processing load in one language) but motivated by cross-linguistic influence where the linguistically more complex analysis of language A is avoided in favor of the less complex analysis of language B, we can make the following predictions which have been corroborated in the child data we have analyzed:

a)  The effect should only be observable in bilingual children with particular language combinations, i.e. it is not due to the fact that the children acquire two languages, one with more, the other with less constraints, generally speaking. Only an approach to delay effects which takes into account the structure of the two languages involved will be able to account for Continue reading