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.