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The Stanford Syntax and Morphology Circle (SMircle) is an informal forum for the presentation and discussion of new research in syntax and morphology, their interconnections, as well as their connections with semantics and phonology. Everyone is welcome!

Where and When

In Winter Quarter 2016, the group will typically meet on Fridays 1:30-2:30 pm in the Greenberg Room in Margaret Jacks Hall (460-126). Please see below for details and exceptional meeting times.

Winter 2016 Schedule

  • January 8, 2016

No meeting (LSA)

  • January 15, 2016


  • January 22, 2016

Steven Foley (UC Santa Cruz)

Morphological conspiracies in Georgian agreement

A conspiracy arises when more than one (e.g. phonological) process serves to enforce a single constraint on surface forms. A major theoretical advantage of an Optimality Theoretic grammar is the ability to capture conspiracies: instead of relying on otherwise unconnected rules that just happen to prevent some marked structure, OT allows us to refer directly to it by ranking a markedness constraint above relevant faithfulness constraints.

In this talk I identify a morphological conspiracy in Georgian, and use it to argue that morphology is governed by an OT grammar. Again and again, the language’s agreement system goes out of its way to avoid Multiple Exponence — the presence of more than one morpheme in a word exponing a single feature. Abstractly, when probes X and Y both Agree with a single argument for feature [F], and morphemes α and β can spell out [F] on X and Y respectively, multiple exponence of [F] is avoided by blocking the insertion of either α or β. Within Distributed Morphology (DM; Halle & Marantz 1993), such blocking relationships can be derived through some suite of postsyntactic operations, like impoverishment. However, these operations cannot refer to multiple exponence directly, and thus fail to capture the conspiracy.

Instead, building on previous work in OT morphology (Kiparsky 2000, Trommer 2001, Wolf 2008, Caballero & Inkelas 2013), I propose that Vocabulary Insertion — the operation that chooses which morphemes expone which syntactic terminals — is governed by ranked, violable constraints. DM's Subset Principle is decomposed into morphosyntactic faithfulness constraints; highly ranked morphosyntactic markedness constraints (like *MultipleExponence) replace DM's postsyntactic operations. I show that Georgian's conspiracy against multiple exponence, along with other peculiarities of its agreement system, follow from standard constraint interactions.

  • January 29, 2016

Erik Zyman (UC Santa Cruz)

Adjunct Stranding, Late Merger, and the Timing of Syntactic Operations

Since Lebeaux (1991), there has been considerable interest in the hypothesis that syntactic structures are not built in a completely cyclic, bottom-up fashion, but rather, some elements—in particular, adjuncts—can be merged late, or countercyclically. Here, I argue that the stranding of wh-associated adverbs such as exactly and precisely ((1b)) (Urban 1999, McCloskey 2000, Stroik 2009) provides additional evidence for Late Merger of adjuncts, and yields novel insights into how, and when in the derivation, this operation is carried out.

(1a) What exactly did she steal? [exactly is not stranded]
(1b) What did she steal exactly? [exactly is stranded]

Wh-associated adverbs turn out to have what initially seems like a bizarre distribution. For example, a [wh + exactly] constituent within VP can be followed by two other low vP-internal constituents ((2))—but although [wh + exactly] can be moved in this configuration ((3a)), moving the wh alone, stranding exactly, produces severe degradation ((3b)).

(2a) Muriel put WHAT exactly on the table with great care?!
(2b) Who put what exactly on the table with great care?

(3a) What exactly did Muriel put on the table with great care?
(3b) *What did Muriel put exactly on the table with great care?

I argue that these and many other intricate facts about the distribution of wh-associated adjuncts can be explained if Late Merger of adjuncts is not just possible but obligatory, in the following sense: for H a phase head and XP its complement, all adjunction within the HP phase occurs immediately before spellout of XP. The facts of adjunct stranding, then, further our understanding of the relative timing of adjunction and other operations: they suggest that syntax prioritizes satisfying featural requirements (selectional and EPP), and only afterwards adds “inessential” elements (adjuncts).

  • February 5, 2016

Bonnie Krejci (Stanford)

Dative Experiencer Subjecthood in Slavic Languages

  • February 12, 2016
No meeting
    • February 19, 2016

    Jason Ostrove (UC Santa Cruz)


    • February 26, 2016

    Sabrina Grimberg (Stanford)


    • March 4, 2016

    Katie Sardinha (UC Berkeley)


    • March 11, 2016

    No meeting (SemFest)


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    The workshop coordinator is currently Boris Harizanov.

    Upcoming Events

    Jason Ostrove
    Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)
    Ming Xiang
    Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)


    Winter 2015-2016
    The Syntax of English
    Winter 2015-2016
    Foundations of Syntactic Theory II