Thursday 7 December – Norbert Corver

Speaker: Norbert Corver (UiL-OTS, Utrecht University)
Title: Getting imaginative with a brain full of adverbs
Date: Thursday 7 December
Venue: Van Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs


Adverbs and adverbial expressions have played a somewhat subordinate role in the history of generative linguistics; see, though, Cinque’s (1999) seminal study on adverbs. Plausibly, this is due to their somewhat “elusive” nature. As has become clear from studies on adverbial syntax, the boundaries of the concept “adverb”, its grammatical characterization and its internal syntax are often unclear and not agreed upon by researchers (see among others Bowers 1975, Jackendoff 1977, Emonds 1985, Travis 1988, Baker 2003, Alexiadou 2013).

Many adverbs and adverbial expressions display “small elements” (functional material) whose status is not always immediately clear. In Dutch, for example, we find the element -s in adverbial expressions such as anders (other-s, ‘differently’) and straks (soon-s, ‘soon’). This -s also shows up in adverbial expressions such as voorzichtigjes (careful-dim-s, ‘carefully’), which features the diminutive morpheme -je besides the “adverbial” morpheme -s. And what about expressions like op z’n Trumps (at his Trump’s, ‘in a Trump-like way’), which display a possessive pronoun in combination with what superficially looks like a possessor noun phrase? Trying to be (as) imaginative (as rapper Eminem), I hope to give some insight into the linguistic nature and behavior of these small functional elements and this way also into the inner structure of adverbs/adverbial expressions.

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Thursday 23 November – Rint Sybesma

Speaker: Rint Sybesma (Leiden University)
Title: VO-OV in Chinese languages and Voice and little v
Date: Thursday 23 November
Venue: Van Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

In Chinese languages, both SVO and SOV surface orders are common. We see variation both within and between languages. Some languages, like Cantonese opt almost exclusively for SVO, while languages from the Wu and Min families tend to have SOV as soon as either the V or the O is more than just a bare V or a bare O. Mandarin, finally, shows both orders in several contexts. In this talk I try to find out whether we can understand what is going on if our analysis of these patterns involves Voice and little v, which may or may not be split or bundled all the time.

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Thursday 9 November – Norma Schifano

Speaker: Norma Schifano (University of Cambridge)
Title: The expression of progressive aspect in an endangered variety: the case of Grico
Date: Thursday 9 November
Venue: Van Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Joint work with Adam Ledgeway and Giuseppina Silvestri (University of Cambridge)

The aim of this talk is to investigates the expression of progressive aspect by means of verbal periphrases in the Italo-Greek variety known as Grico, spoken in Salento (southern Italy). Building on the extremely valuable, yet out-dated, description of Rohlfs (1977), we first present an overview of the array of different patterns brought to light by our recent fieldwork and through a survey of a selection of both early and contemporary sources which include combinations of (non-)inflected STAND with (non-)finite forms of a lexical verb, optionally linked by functional elements. After describing the empirical scenario, we assess the degree of grammaticalization of the patterns which are still productive today, reconstructing their evolution from earlier periphrases and paying particular attention to the grammaticalization of the ambiguous element pu ‘where; from; that’. Finally, we analyse a hybrid structure currently consistently produced by semi-speakers from different villages, which seems to instantiate a new ‘third’ option within the local repertoire. We conclude with of a number of observations about the role of this case study for our knowledge of diatopic morphosyntactic microvariation in Grico and for the nature of language contact and language change.

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Thursday 26 October – Marijana Marelj

Speaker: Marijana Marelj (Utrecht University)
Title: The vagueness of HAVE(ing)
Date: Thursday 26 October
Venue: Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs


Whether characterized as “semantically impoverished” (Butt 1995), “semi-lexical” (Corver and van Riemsdijk 2001), “vague” (Bruening 2015), or as “having no independent semantic content” (Ritter and Rosen 1997), different researchers seem to agree on the intuitive description of what the notion “light verb” is about. The formalization of what it means to be “light” or “semantically vacuous”, however, seems to elude us.

Taking the empirical domain of HAVE as a testing ground and the work of Ackema and Marelj (2012) as a starting point, I pursue the formalization of thematic lightness while maintaining the lex parsimony, i.e., having one single entry for all the guises of HAVE. This will further lead us to discuss the purported “specialness” of the complements of HAVE and probe into the relation between the Thematic and the Aspectual realms.

The upshots of the talk are the following:

  1. HAVE: <[ ]> , where [ ] is an interface, unvalued feature.
  2. The complements of light verbs are not per se aspectually “special”. It is the aspectual “scaffolding” they are embedded in that makes them look “special”.
  3. Thematic & Aspectual roles cannot and should not be collapsed into each other.

Selected  Bibliography

Ackema, Peter (1999). Issues in Morphosyntax. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Corver, Norbert & Henk van Riemsdijk (2001). Semi-Lexical Categories. The function of Content Words and the Content of Function Words. Berlin/NY: Mouton de Gruyter.
Marelj, Marijana (2004). Middles and Argument Structure across Languages. Ph.D. dissertation, Utrecht University.
Marelj, M. (2012). To have the Empty Theta Role.  The Theta System: Argument Structure at the Interface Oxford: Oxford University Press. Met Martin Everaert en Tal Siloni. Met Peter Ackema.
Pesetsky, David & Esther Torrego (2007). The syntax of valuation and the interpretability of features. In Phrasal and Clausal Architecture: Syntactic derivation and interpretation in honor of Joseph E. Emonds, ed. Simin Karimi et al. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 262-294.
Ritter, Elizabeth and Sara Thomas Rosen (1997). ‘The Function of Have’. Lingua 101, 295-321.

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Thursday 12 October – Cora Pots

Speaker: Cora Pots (KU Leuven)
Title: Te wel of niet (te) hoeven (te) plaatsen:
Variation in te-placement in Dutch non-finite verb clusters
Date: Thursday 12 October
Venue: Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

The morphosyntactic variation in Dutch finite verb clusters has been studied extensively (Barbiers et al. 2005; Wurmbrand 2017), in contrast to their non-finite counterparts. This talk focuses on regiolectal variation in verb clusters consisting entirely of non-finite verbs, and in which the infinitival marker te ‘to’ is required to appear based on selection requirements. I conducted a large-scale questionnaire study of three types of non-finite three-verb clusters, in which selection requirements dictate te should appear on V1 (te-V1-V2-V3) on V2 (V1-te-V2-V3; cf. (1)), and on V3 (V1-V2-te-V3). The data show that there is variation among speakers regarding the presence/absence of te and the placement of te. That is, there are speakers who: (i) allow or need te to be absent, contrary to selection requirements, (ii) allow or need te to be raised, i.e. to appear on a higher verb in the cluster than is required by selection requirements, and (iii) allow te to be doubled, i.e. to appear twice, when only one te is required.

(1) Koen zal    vandaag  niet [ (te)  hoeven1   (te)   gaan2   voetballen3 ].
Koen will   today       not     to    need.INF  to     go.INF
‘Koen won’t have to go play football today.’

In (1), the highest verb within the non-finite verb cluster, hoeven ‘need’, selects a te-infinitive: selection requirements thus dictate te to appear on V2 gaan ‘go’. However, the data show that te can be either completely absent (te-drop), appear on V1 instead of V2 (te-raising), or appear on both (te-doubling).
I analyze Dutch non-finite verb clusters are cases of functional restructuring (Wurmbrand 2001; IJbema 2001; Ter Beek 2008). I argue that variation in te-drop is due to differences in structural complement size of the verb selecting the te-infinitive. Furthermore, I argue that te-raising is a case of clitic climbing, a well-known restructuring phenomenon of other restructuring languages such as Italian (Rizzi 1982; Cinque 2001). Te-doubling is analyzed as spell-out of both copies of raised te. By showing that clitic climbing is also attested in Dutch non-finite verb clusters, this talk fills a previously unexplained gap in the cross-linguistic distribution of restructuring phenomena across Germanic and Romance.

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Thursday 28 September – Gertjan Postma

Speaker: Gertjan Postma (Meertens Instituut)
Title: Loss of the infinitival marker tau ‘to’ in Brazilian Pomeranian: language converence or accommodation to Portuguese?
Date: Thursday 28 September
Venue: Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 16.00-17.15 hrs (Different time than usual)

When various dialects enter in intense and prolonged mutual contact in a new sociological setting, they may converge (Weinreich 1954, Trudgill 1986) in a process of koineisation (Chambers & Trudgill 1980). This situation occurs with enhanced intensity in newly-colonized areas, in so-called language islands (Rosenberg 1994): convergence of a conglomerate of mutually intelligible dialects towards this new koinè. In this talk we study a well-known, but often ignored mechanism and outcome: retreat to default settings, the rise of the unmarked. The case study pursued here is the complete loss of the infinitival prefix tau ‘to’ in Pomeranian, a West Germanic language, extinct in Europe, but still spoken in isolated communities in Brazil. While the original Pomeranian dialects in Europe had a considerable amount of variation in this particular domain, Pomeranian in Brazil has converged to a remarkably uniform new construction, which was not present in Europe in the days of emigration. We will evaluate the koineisation hypothesis vis-a vis the alternative that language contact with Portuguese be at stake.

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Thursday 21 September – Hiromu Sakai

Speaker: Hiromu Sakai (Waseda University)
Title: Typological variation in the time-course of sentence production. A view from eye-tracking studies on Kaqchikel, Spanish, and Japanese.
Date: Thursday 21 September
Venue: Eyckhof 2/004 (room changed!)
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Native speakers can produce sentences describing a simple event in a fast and accurate manner. Given a wide range of typological variation in the world languages, the time course of sentence production should differ significantly from one language to another. In a series of studies using the eye-tracking during sentence production (Griffin and Bock, 2000) paradigm, we examined how much differences exist in production processes of languages with different word orders and when the processes diverge in their time-course.


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Friday 23 June – Jason Merchant

Speaker: Jason Merchant (University of Chicago)
Title: Ranked resolution strategies for ellipsis
Date: Friday 23 June
Venue: Lipsius 147
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Abstract ComSyn lecture Jason Merchant

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Thursday 15 June – Christos Vlachos

Speaker: Christos Vlachos (Queen Mary University of London)
Title: Unselected Embedded wh-Questions
Date: Thursday 15 June
Venue: Lipsius 2.03
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

In this talk, I claim that a functional D-layer may introduce a wh-question in the complement position of a propositional-attitude predicate (a predicate that does not typically select questions). As regards syntax, the wh-question is the complement of D, while the entire DP is the complement of the predicate. In the semantics, D translates to an existential indefinite that ranges over the set of propositions discharged by the wh-question. This claim completes a so far incomplete conjecture about clausal complement selection that can be traced back to the very beginnings of the theory of Generative Grammar, up to more recent implementations: clausal arguments are dominated by some kind of nominal shell (Chomsky 1995; Rosenbaum 1967; Kiparsky & Kiparsky 1971; Adger & Quer 2001; Kayne 2010; Takahashi 2010; a.o). To motivate the claim above, I look into two types of wh-questions, both of which are instantiated in German (wh-Integrated Parentheticals; Reis 2000, 2001), while only one of them in English (wh-slifting; Ross 1973; Haddican et al. 2014). It has been convincingly shown that both types of wh-questions are comparable to typical wh-scope marking constructions of the German/Hindi sort (Kayne 1998; Reis 2000, 2001; Stepanov and Stateva 2016; a.o.), despite argumentation for the opposite direction vis-a-vis English wh-slifting (Haddican et al. 2014). However, the two types of wh-questions have never been compared to each other, nor is there any consideration about what distinguishes between them. In this talk, I argue that the two types of wh-questions are wh-scope marking variants of a subordination strategy, which extends the strategy proposed for typical wh-scope marking constructions in German by Herburger (1994). To this end, I draw not only from empirical evidence (word order, interpretation, phonology), but also from recent experimental data. Overall, the talk makes three novel contributions, each to a distinct level of linguistic theorizing: its theoretical import is that it completes a picture about clausal complementation that has remained incomplete; its analytical input is that it extends a wh-scope marking strategy (subordination) beyond what this strategy has been designed for; and its empirical value is that it brings together two types of wh-questions (wh-Integrated Parentheticals and wh-slifting) that have not been compared so far.

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Thursday 11 May-Neda Todorovic

Speaker: Neda Todorovic(Institute of Linguistics OTS at Utrecht University)

Title: On the syntax-semantics interplay in licensing future interpretation

Date: Thursday  11 May

Venue: Lipsius 30

Time: 15:15 – 16:30 hrs


In this talk I focus on different ways to obtain future interpretation in a variety of contexts in an aspectually rich language, Serbian. I show that certain restrictions arise only with perfective aspect. While such an aspectual distribution at first appears unsystematic, I argue that it can be captured in a principled manner by the syntax-semantic interplay. Regarding semantics, I argue that the perfective is restricted in contexts in which the duration of the reference time interval is very short (along the lines of Todorović 2015, 2016). Such an analysis predicts the perfective to be restricted with semantic present, but not in past and future contexts. Interestingly, in addition to the canonical forms, future interpretation in Serbian can be obtained with morphological present – in some of those cases, the perfective is felicitous. In those instances, I argue, possibility of the perfective is an indication that the structure contains a covert modal/future component which provides a longer reference time interval needed for the perfective to be felicitous (in the infelicitous cases, this component is lacking). Regarding syntax, I argue that the covert modal/future component requires syntactic licensing. Thus, the story turns out not to be about licensing the perfective – whether the perfective is permitted in a certain environment is actually a reflection of the presence/absence of a covert modal/future component or, more generally, of the composition of the temporal/modal clausal domain.

To show that Serbian is not peculiar and that the requirement to license a covert modal/future element exists elsewhere, I provide additional data from Lillooet Salish, Paraguayan Guaraní, Chinese, Korean and Washo.

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