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
Winter 2018 Schedule
- January 12, 2018
Weather expressions such as It is raining have proven challenging for researchers; languages show considerable variation in how they encode such events (Eriksen et al., 2012). In Romance languages in particular, there has been controversy over whether verbs denoting weather events are unergative or unaccusative (Benincà & Cinque, 1992; Bleotu, 2013; Meulleman & Stockman, 2013; Ruwet, 1991). We show that verbs denoting precipitation events in English (rain, snow, hail) pose the same challenge, and we offer an analysis that explains their apparent hybrid nature. We argue that the unergative/unaccusative behaviors of these English verbs arise from the availability of two distinct event structures, which in turn reflect the availability of two different construals (in the sense of Levin & Rappaport Hovav (2005)) of precipitation happenings. English precipitation events may be construed as substance emission events (1) or directed motion events (2), leading to their variable unergative/unaccusative behaviors.
(1) Substance emission event
a. The well gushed (oil).
b. It rained (a light rain/sulfuric acid).
(2) Directed motion event
a. An apple fell on the ground.
b. A light rain rained on my head.
Our analysis of English precipitation events helps resolve the controversy over the status of weather verbs in Romance languages: when precipitation verbs show unaccusative behavior, they show the hallmarks of a directed motion event structure, and when they show unergative behavior, they pattern as activities (Benincà & Cinque, 1992). More broadly, precipitation verbs further support the association of activities with unergative behavior and of directed motion (or scalar change in general) with unaccusative behavior.
- January 26, 2018
A great deal of crosslinguistic evidence supports the Mirror Principle (Baker 1985): if a Root and some functional heads (F⁰s) above it are packaged into a morphological word, then the higher such an F⁰ is syntactically, the farther from the Root it appears in the word. In Latin, however, verbs seem to both obey and disobey the Mirror Principle (in different inflectional forms). In Passive Subjunctive forms such as (1), Mood occurs much closer to the Root than does Voice (Calabrese 1985 via Cinque 1999:197), seemingly violating the Mirror Principle.
'(that) he/she/it may be praised'
The Mirror Principle being a mainstay of morphosyntactic theory, apparent counterexamples to it deserve scrutiny. We propose an analysis of Latin verb-building on which Latin does in fact obey the Mirror Principle, but this is obscured in forms such as (1) because Latin verb forms are derived by a combination of head movement and phrasal (specifically, vP) movement (cf. Bailey 2010, Gianollo 2016, Danckaert to appear). The analysis has the following positive consequences:
3) Generality: Though the puzzle arose among the finite forms, the analysis extends naturally to nonfinite and even nonverbal forms.
4) Syntactic fit: The analysis makes correct predictions about adverb placement and verb movement.
The analysis also supports the hypothesis that (morpho)phonological "words" need not be syntactic constituents (Julien 2002, Kayne 2017).
- February 2, 2018
Eva Portelance (Stanford University)
In the interest of bridging the gap between natural language processing and syntactic theory, the following project explores the possibility of automating the process of learning a minimalist grammar for a language given a corpus of sentences and our prior knowledge of such formalisms. I will present the current sketch of a generative model for minimalist grammars and preliminary results of grammar induction, and will also describe future applications for this research to both the fields of syntax and natural language processing.
- February 16, 2018
Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley)
The emergence of case matching in discontiguous DPs (joint work with Emily Clem)
Many languages show case concord among various DP-internal elements. Some of these languages, such as Warlpiri, additionally allow discontinuous DPs and preserve concord in these split structures. In this talk, we examine novel data from two unrelated languages, Tiwa (Tibeto-Burman; India) and Amahuaca (Panoan; Peru), which show a distinct, previously unanalyzed pattern: case concord is possible in discontinuous DPs but not in continuous DPs. We argue that this pattern of case concord only under discontiguity arises as a result of multiple DP layers and a restricted mechanism of concord we call "D-concord''. We demonstrate that this style of analysis correctly predicts instances of case stacking in Tiwa and the interactions of case concord and differential case marking found in both languages. From these data, we conclude that while the patterns in Warlpiri and the patterns in Tiwa and Amahuaca may both pretheoretically be identified as concord, they arise due to two distinct mechanisms. Thus, case concord only under discontiguity represents a new type of concord altogether.
- February 23, 2018
Maziar Toosarvandani (UCSC)
Variation and uniformity in constraints on clitic combinations (joint work with Steven Foley)
Languages that have clitic pronouns frequently prohibit certain combinations of these clitics (e.g., the Person-Case Constraint). Why do these constraints restrict just clitic pronouns, not arguments more generally? And, why are only some combinations of clitics prohibited and not others? We identify two patterns in the clitic combinations that are allowed across languages and across phi-domains (across person and gender). These patterns arise, we propose, from how clitics are licensed syntactically; certain asymmetries point, in particular, to the universal role played by a cyclic version of Agree in clitic licensing. The attested variation across languages in how they constrain clitic combinations can then be derived entirely from variation in their lexicons.
- March 2, 2018
Tessa Scott (UC Berkeley)
- March 16, 2018
Anastasiia Ionova (Leiden University & UCSC)
Spring 2018 Schedule
- April 6, 2018
Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley)
- April 13, 2018
Annie Zaenen (Stanford University)
- April 27, 2018
Peter Jenks (UC Berkeley)
- May 11, 2018
David Basilico (University of Alabama at Birmingham)
- May 25, 2018
Zuzanna Fuchs (Harvard University)
Autumn 2017 Schedule
- October 13, 2017
Reuben Cohn-Gordon (Stanford University)
Amharic exhibits an unusual phenomenon, where what seems to be an object marker can appear on intransitive verbs. I discuss the semantic effects of these markers, and then draw some conjectures as to their syntactic analysis and diachrony, based on Ruth Kramer's analysis of Amharic object markers as doubled clitics.
- October 20, 2017
- November 3, 2017
Bonnie Krejci (Stanford University)
In certain clauses in Russian, when the subject apparently consists of two conjoined noun phrases, the intransitive verb may agree with the first noun phrase, resulting in First Conjunct Agreement (FCA), as in (1).
- December 1, 2017
Scott Borgeson (Stanford University)
1. Eile taht-s-in ma jaluta-da.
yesterday want-PAST-1SG 1SG.NOM walk-INF
2. Ma taht-s-in eile jaluta-da.
1SG.NOM want-PAST-1SG yesterday walk-INF
Traditionally, such systems have been explained by positing that 1) the finite verb moves to some phrasal head at the left edge of the clause, and 2) that a single constituent moves to the specifier position of that head (den Besten 1983, Vikner 1995, etc.). Most apparent exceptions to this pattern that are found in the literature (Lindstrom 2001 and 2007, Erelt 2003), can easily be explained with a few simple stipulations— that is, without abandoning the above framework.
In this talk, I document and examine a new construction, which is universally accepted by some speakers, only accepted in certain environments by others, and unacceptable in any environment by a third group. These are clauses which resemble the verb-second pattern, but in which multiple phrasal constituents appear before the fronted verb.
3. Ma seda taht-s-in eile teh-a.
I argue that the traditional verb-second framework is sufficient to capture such sentences if we posit that more than one constituent can move to the specifier position mentioned above. This account has much in common with multiple-specifier accounts of multiple-WH-movement (see Rudin 1988 and Richards 1998), including the prediction that the ordering of the constituents involved must be the same before and after movement, which I will show is indeed borne out. I will also flesh out an alternative account involving multiple phrase heads with a single specifier each, and will demonstrate that it cannot easily capture the data we observe.
- December 8, 2017
Andrew Hedding (UC Santa Cruz)
In Somali, subject clitic pronouns can optionally double an R-expression that is in its base-generated position, but are obligatory if the subject is a topic or a pronoun, and prohibited if the subject is in focus. Additionally, under various types of A'-extraction of a subject (e.g. focus, wh-movement, relative clause construction) the verb displays a partial agreement paradigm, and the subject appears in non-nominative case. In this talk, I argue that previous treatments of Somali syntax cannot account for this pattern, and I discuss the issues that arise when applying other theories of anti-agreement to the Somali facts. Additionally, I sketch a potential analysis that highlights the relationship between clitic doubling and resumption in the language.
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The workshop coordinator is currently Vera Gribanova.