Tag Archives: Theoretical Linguistics

UIC TiL: Marcel den-Dikken

Greetings everyone!

Next Monday April 23th Marcel den-Dikken from CUNY will be giving a talk at UIC Talks in Linguistics (UIC TiL) entitled ‘Of orphans and twins: Accounting for some peculiar patterns in code-switching’ (see abstract below).

The talk will take place in University Hall 1501 at 3 pm, and as always, light snackswill be provided.

Of orphans and twins: Accounting for some peculiar patterns in code-switching

González-Vilbazo & López (2012) note that in Spanish/German code-switching (CS) a switch at v from a Spanish light verb (inserted in v) to a VP lexified by German vocabulary items leads VO order thanks to the fact that the Spanish v dictates the syntax of the vP (see (1a), analysed as in (1b)). But they also point out that there are speakers for whom the Spanish v=hacer can be followed by a German VP with (German) OV order (as in (2a)). They argue that constructions of the type in (2a) involve what they call an ‘orphan’: a chunk of structure that is not integrated with the rest of the structure of the clause in the regular fashion. The analysis for (2a) that they propose is schematised in (2b), a structure in which there are two vPs, one from Spanish (spelled out as hizo) and the other from German (which is silent); it is the German v that takes the overt VP as its complement, and which causes the VP to be spelled out with (German) OV order.

(1) a.  Juan hizo verkaufen die Bücher Juan did sell the books
‘Juan sold the books’
b. [vP vSp=hizo [VP verkaufen die Bücher]]

(2) a.  Juan hizo die Bücher verkaufen Juan did the books sell
‘Juan sold the books’

       b. [vP vSp=hizo (…)] [vP [VP verkaufen die Bücher] vGe=i]]

González-Vilbazo & López point out that CS constructions with ‘orphans’ such as (2a) behave differently from run-of-the-mill Sp/Ge CS constructions such as (1a) with respect to a number of syntactic properties, including extraction (Worüber has hecho {Tlesen ein Buch/*ein Buch lesen}? ‘about what have you read a book’) and anaphoric dependencies (Juan se ha hecho {Tsehen sich selbst im Spiegel/*sich selbst im Spiegel sehen} ‘Juan saw himself in the mirror’). The ‘orphan’ status of the second vP in (2b) straightfor- wardly explains the fact that nothing can be extracted out of it. But as it stands, the proposal in (2b) leaves two things unexplained: (a) why the object of the OV-VP cannot be anaphorically bound to the subject of the clause, and (b) how the ‘orphan’ relates to the ‘(…)’ in the complement of the non-orphaned v, and what the nature of ‘(…)’ might be.

The problem with (a) is that, since the ‘orphaned’ constituent must be a vP in order for the German v to be able to dictate OV order inside it, and since vP is the locus of base-generation of the external argu- ment, it ought to be possible for the ‘orphaned’ vP in (2b) to have a (null) subject of its own, coreferential with the subject of the clause; an anaphor inside VP should then be able to be locally bound by the null external argument of the ‘orphaned’ vP, and binding should succeed. We will want to make sure that, even though the ‘orphaned’ constituent must indeed be a vP (for word-order purposes), it cannot house an instance of the external argument.

I propose to ensure this by analysing the ‘orphan’ as an asyndetic specifier of the first vP, in a covert coordination structure of the type proposed in work by Koster (2000 et passim). This is a case of asyndetic coordination at the level of vP minus the external argument, which is merged outside the coordinate structure, and introduced by a relator that has the shared external argument as its specifier and the asyndetic coordinat- ion (annotated as ‘:P’, following Koster) as its complement, as in (3).

(3) [RP Juan [RELATOR [:P [vP1 vSp=hizo [VP ec]] [: [vP2 [VP die Bücher verkaufen] vGe=i]]]]]

Coordination/asyndetic specification must be at the level of vP because coordination of acategorial constituents (‘VP’) is impossible; moreover, vP must be present in the second conjunct in order to case- license the object of the German verb. But there is no need to introduce the external argument inside the individual conjuncts: having it be introduced by a relator outside the coordination is derivationally simpler because it involves fewer instances of External Merge (the external argument is merged just once, not twice) and it avoids Across-the-Board extraction of the external argument from the two conjuncts in parallel. (3) is thus the most economical structure for the ‘orphan’ construction — and moreover, it gives the ‘orphan’ an important function: it serves to specify the contents of the empty VP in the first conjunct.

An elliptical VP in the first conjunct thus fills in the ‘(…)’ in the structure in (2b). It must be an empty category because a multi-dominance approach to ‘orphan’ constructions is impossible: having the VP dominating die Bücher verkaufen attached simultaneously to the empty German v and to the Spanish v spelled out as hizo would impose irresolvably conflicting word-order demands upon the VP: since VP would serve simultaneously as the complement of a German and a Spanish v, the object inside VP would have to simul- taneously precede and follow the verb, which is of course impossible. For this kind of Right Node Raising, therefore, an analysis in terms of multi-dominance is out of the question.

Represented this way, the ‘orphan’ construction becomes an instance of a much broader pattern observed in CS constructions: so-called doubling. (2a) is in effectively a doubling construction: the v+VP part of the structure occurs twice, and v is spelled out in both conjuncts — albeit as a null morpheme in the second conjunct, which makes (2a) hard to recognise as a doubling construction. More readily recognisable doubling constructions are utterances such as those in (4), from English/Tamil CS (taken from Sankoff et al. 1990:93).

(4) a.  verb doubling
they gave me a research grant ko`utaa
they gave me a research grant gave.3.PL.PAST ‘they gave me a research grant’

       b.  auxiliary+verb doubling
            I was talking to oru orutanoo`a peesin`u iruntein
            I was talking to one person talk.CONT be.1.SG.PAST ‘I was talking to a person’

       c.  complementiser doubling
just because avaa innoru colour and race engindratunaale just because they different colour and race of-because
‘just because they are of a different colour and race’

I analyse all cases of doubling in CS as involving asyndetic specification, with the ‘shared’ constituent sandwiched between the doublets being the asyndetic specifier of an elliptical constituent in the first conjunct (as in (3)).

Doubling is by no means confined to CS — hence is not a ‘CS-specific’ phenomenon that would justify a separate ‘grammar of CS’. Doubling is found in utterances of monolingual speakers as well. An example occasionally discussed in the literature is complementiser doubling in sentences of the type in (5a) (from Spanish) and (5b) (from Dutch). These constructions are sometimes treated as cases of CP recursion or CP–TopP structures (the latter with a Top-head spelled out as a complementiser) in a strictly right- branching structure. I will present evidence, however, for the conclusion that these are, just like the construc- tions reviewed above, instances of asyndetic specification, with an elliptical TP in the first conjunct. Spanish and Dutch complementiser doubling in addition makes a case for the conclusion that the elliptical TP is a base-generated empty category (ec in (3)), not a PF-deleted full-fledged TP: the sandwiched topic must be base-generated in situ, and can never be followed (in a non-doubling construction) by a non-elliptical TP.

 (5) a.  dice que dinero que no tenía
            says that money that not had
            ‘(s)he says that (s)he didn’t have money’
        b. ik denk dat van brood alleen dat je daarvan niet kunt leven I think that of bread alone that you thereof not can live ‘I think that one can’t live on bread alone’
For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara, Sergio Ramos, or Bernie Issa. Feel free to keep up with past and present talks via the UIC TiL website.

UIC TiL: Brady Clark

UIC Talks in Linguistics invite you to the next TiL this Friday the 13th.

Brady Clark from Northwester will be leading the talk entitled ‘Syntactic theory and the evolution of syntax’

As always, the talk will take place at UH 1750 at 3pm.

Again, this Friday April 13 at 3pm.

Here is an abstract of the talk,

Brady Clark
Northwestern University

Contemporary work on the evolution of syntax can be roughly divided into
two perspectives, the incremental view and the saltational view. The
incremental view claims that the evolution of syntax involved multiple
stages between the noncombinatorial communication system of our last
common ancestor with chimpanzees and full-blown modern human syntax. The
saltational view claims that syntax was the result of just a single
evolutionary development. What is the relationship between contemporary
theories of syntax and these two perspectives on the evolution of syntax?
Jackendoff (2010) argues that there is a dependency between theories of
language and theories of language evolution: “Your theory of language
evolution depends on your theory of language.” For example, he claims that
most work within the Minimalist Program (for background, Chomsky 1995) is
forced to the saltational view. My focus in this talk is the evolution of
syntax, and, in particular, the relation between syntactic theory and
perspectives on the evolution of syntax. I argue that there is not a
simple dependency relation between theories of syntax and theories of
syntactic evolution. The parallel architecture (Jackendoff 2002) is
consistent with a saltational theory of syntactic evolution. The
architecture assumed in most minimalist work is compatible with an
incremental theory.

See you there!

UIC TiL: Ji Young Shim

Join us at our next Talks in Linguistics (TiL)!

This Friday March 30th Ji Young Shim from the CUNY graduate center will be giving a talk entitled ‘A Minimalist Account of Word Order Variation in Code-switching’.

When: Friday March 30th at 3pm

Where: University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607) 1750

We hope to see you there!

For more information, contact: Daniel Vergara (dverga3@uic.edu), Sergio
Ramos (sramos@uic.edu) or Bernie Issa (issa2@uic.edu).

Here is an abstract from his work.

A Minimalist Account of Word Order Variation in Code-switching
Ji Young Shim; CUNY Graduate Center

Under the assumption that monolingual and bilingual grammars are subject
to the same principles, the present study aims to provide a principled
account of word order variation in code-switching (CS). Cross-linguistic
CS data show that not only can a switch occur between languages with
different canonical word orders, such as an OV language (e.g., Japanese,
Korean) and a VO language (e.g., English), but the internal order of a
code-switched constituent may also vary, exhibiting either order of the
two languages involved in CS. One immediate question arises as to how
these different word orders are distributed and derived. The present study
employs three different experimental tasks, which are tested against
Korean-English and Japanese-English bilingual speakers’ introspective
judgments of the CS patterns that are presented to them in the form of a
The statistical results from 34 Korean-English bilinguals show that both
the distinction between light and heavy verbs within a code-switched
constituent and the difference between literal and non-literal/idiomatic
meaning of the phrase play a role to derive different word orders in CS,
which reveals that syntax alone cannot account for the various word order
patterns in CS, but both syntax (particularly, the syntax of light verbs,
which differs from language to language) and meaning (the semantic
compositionality of a phrase) contribute to OV-VO variation in CS. We also
found that there is a correlation between the preferred word order and the
syntactic flexibility of a code-switched constituent.
Based on the findings of the tests, the study proposes a syntactic account
of OV and VO derivation in Korean-English and Japanese-English CS in the
framework of Minimalism. The present talk focuses on Korean-English CS
data, and the findings from a small set of Japanese-English CS tests will
be also discussed for the purpose of comparison.

Conference: UIC Bilingualism Forum

We are proud to announce the 2011 UIC Bilingualism Forum, to be held here at the University of Illinois at Chicago, April 14-15.

The UIC Bilingualism Forum is dedicated to research in any area related to bilingualism: theoretical linguistics, codeswitching, SLA, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, cognitive sciences, heritage acquisition, bilingual acquisition, etc. Presentations will be 20 minutes each with 10 minutes for discussion.

Keynote Speakers

  • Marcel den Dikken, City University of New York
  • Michael Ullman, Georgetown University

Call For Papers

  • Deadline for submission of abstract: 12/1/2010
  • Acceptance response by: 1/15/2011
  • 2 page anonymous abstract including examples and references
  • 1 separate page with name, title, and affiliation
  • Abstract should be submitted via Linguist List

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