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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 Autumn Quarter 2015, 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.

Autumn Quarter 2015 Schedule

  • September 25, 2015

Introductory meeting

  • October 2, 2015

reading discussion

  • October 9, 2015 

reading discussion

  • October 23, 2015

Timothy Dozat

An LFG analysis of Finnish clause structure

Finnish is a highly agglutinating language, with the grammatical functions of most words dictated relatively unambiguously by their morphological form. Since a strict word order is not as necessary for determining the relationship between words and meaning (as in e.g. English), word order is much more variable, with certain positions in the sentence being used to indicate the relationship between words and discourse. The freedom of word order makes pinpointing the exact structure of a Finnish sentence difficult; when words with a grammatical function in common regularly appear in the same position, one can say with reasonable confidence that those words form a constituent, but when every word in a sentence can occur in variable positions, sometimes without a perceptible difference in meaning or information structure, identifying constituency structure can be a daunting task. This paper aims to undertake this task using Lexical Functional Grammar--a theoretical framework that has proven to be well-equipped for analyzing other languages with less restricted word orders, such as Warlpiri--in the hopes that finding such an analysis will reveal structures and phenomena useful for modeling other languages with relatively free word order as well.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2015 1:30-3pm

Jonathan Bobaljik (University of Connecticut)

Agreement and case dependencies, revisited

In this talk I (re)consider two broad typological generalizations which indicate that agreement and case are fundamentally distinct types of operation, and that the dependency between them is asymmetrical, a conclusion that runs contrary to the widespread view that case and agreement mark 'two sides of the same coin' (Chomsky) or head vs. dependent marking of a single abstract relation (Nichols).

(i) Dixon (1994) and others have noted that case and agreement may mismatch in their alignment, but only in one way. Languages are well-attested with an ergative/absolutive case alignment but a nominative/accusative [=subject-object] agreement alignment, but the reverse is claimed not to occur. Bobaljik 2008 offers an account of this asymmetry (cf. Baker 2008) which crucially rejects the 'two-sides' view of case and agreement. The talk revisits that argument, arguing that the generalization survives despite subsequent challenges (Legate, Deal).

(ii) Case and agreement also differ in broad terms in the prevalence of active (Split S, Fluid S) alignments, far more robustly attested in agreement patterns than in case patterns. The Dependent Case Theory (DCT, Marantz 1991, Baker 2015), invoked in the account of (i), may predict this distribution. Under this perspective, agreement is a relationship between NPs and functional heads (thus an active pattern is readily described), but case represents a relationship among NPs in a given domain. On this view, the absolute position of a single NP should play no role, thus an active pattern requires additional machinery. We offer a somewhat tentative exploration of ways in which even the best-described active case patterns show evidence of further complexity beneath surface appearances, consistent with the expectations of DCT.

Portions of this talk include joint work with Mark Baker.

  • October 30, 2015

Boris Harizanov

Head movement to specifier positions in Bulgarian participle fronting

Syntactic movement is generally considered to be structure preserving: the moved element has the same phrase structural status in the derived position as it does in the base position. The universal validity of constraints that enforce structure preservation (e.g. Chain Uniformity) is challenged by participle fronting in Bulgarian, which I argue can be best understood as head movement to a specifier position. This analysis combines the virtues of existing approaches to the phenomenon and explains both the X- and the XP-movement properties of participle fronting in Bulgarian, without stipulating a structure-preservation constraint on movement.

  • November 13, 2015

Daniel Galbraith

  • December 4, 2015

Philip Crone and Bonnie Krejci

Agreement in English Existentials with Conjoined Associates

On the basis of corpus data, we show that copulas in English existential clauses with conjoined associates may realize agreement with the entire conjunction, singular agreement regardless of the number features of the associate, or first conjunct agreement (FCA). We provide a unified analysis of these patterns that compares favorably to Sobin (2014)’s analysis of agreement in English existentials. In particular, our analysis avoids stipulating gratuitous phi-features of existential there, locates FCA/agreement in the domain of syntax proper, and draws parallels between FCA in English existentials and similar phenomena in other languages.

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The workshop coordinator is currently Boris Harizanov.

Upcoming Events

Philip Crone and Bonnie Krejci
Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)
Ming Xiang
Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Room (460-126)