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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Wednesday 26 April – James Griffiths

Speaker: James Griffiths (University of Konstanz/LUCL)
Title: Echo fragments: preliminary remarks
Date: Wednesday 26 April
Venue: Lipsius 30
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs
Echo fragments (1b) are the fragmentary (i.e. elliptical) versions of true echo questions (1a) (Sobin 2010).

  • Context: A and B are organising the Oscars award ceremony.

A:          Make sure the Oscar is presented by the husband of Michelle Obama.

Incredulous that A wants an Oscar to be presented by an ex-president, B replies:

  • B: Make sure it’s presented by the husband of whom?
    B: Make sure it’s presented by the husband of Michelle Obama?


  • B: Presented by the husband of whom?
    B: Presented by the husband of Michelle Obama?

To date, echo fragments have received scant attention in literature that adopts a PF-deletion (Ross 1969, Merchant 2001) approach to ellipsis (for cursory remarks, see Abe & Tancredi 2013). This oversight is unfortunate, as echo fragments, being in-situ questions in wh-movement languages such as English, have the potential to be highly instructive for such theories.
To remedy this oversight, Güliz Güneş, Anikó Lipták, and I have recently embarked on the first in-depth cross-linguistic investigation of echo fragments (which focusses on English, Hungarian, and Turkish). This talk provides an introduction to data collected so far, highlights points of cross-linguistic variation, and provides speculative remarks about how these data should be analysed and what they might tell us about the nature of ellipsis (and echoicity more generally).

Abe, J. & C. Tancredi. 2013. Non-Constituent Deaccenting and Deletion: A Phase-Based Approach. Ms., Tohoku Gakuin University & Keio University.
Merchant, J. 2001. The Syntax of Silence. OUP.
Merchant, J. 2004. Fragments and ellipsis. Linguistics & Philosophy 27: 661-738.
Ross, John R. 1969. Guess who? In R. Binnick et al. (eds.) CLS5. Chicago Linguistic Society, 252–286.
Sobin, N. 2010. Echo questions in the Minimalist program. Linguistic Inquiry 41: 131-148.

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Thursday 20 April – Heidi Klockmann

Speaker: Heidi Klockmann (Utrecht University /Leiden University)
Title: The semi-lexicality of quantificational nouns in English pseudopartitives
Date: Thursday 20 April
Venue: Lipsius 30
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs
In this talk, I discuss the use of the quantificational nouns lot, ton, and bunch (Q-nouns) in English pseudopartitives. These elements show a mixed behavior, functioning as quantifiers (i.e. they say something about the quantity of the following noun), despite having an apparently nominal morphosyntax. In particular, they surface with both an indefinite article and the particle of (1)-(3), just as non-quantifying nouns do (4). Ton and lot, furthermore, allow for plural marking (5)-(6) in their quantifying function.
(1)           A bunch of people

(2)           A ton of flowers

(3)           A lot of books

(4)           A gathering of friends

(5)           Tons of flowers

(6)           Lots of books

I report on the morphosyntactic properties of these Q-nouns, including their behavior with regards to Agreement, drawing extensively on data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davies 2008-), as well as speaker judgments. I explore the similarity of Q-nouns to other quantificational elements, like numerals (three, a hundred) and quantifiers (a few, many), as well as their similarity to lexical nouns. I develop the hypothesis that Q-nouns are semi-lexical (see van Riemsdijk 1998, Corver and van Riemsdijk 2001, among others), and show how a proper understanding of their semi-lexicality can allow us to account for their mixed behavior.

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Thursday 13 April – Jaklin Kornfilt ***DATE CHANGED***

Speaker: Jaklin Kornfilt  (Syracuse University)
Title: NP versus DP: A cross-linguistic parameter?
Date: Thursday 13 April
Venue: Lipsius 307
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

In a series of studies, Bošković (e.g. 2008, 2012, 2013) proposes a linguistic typology based on a posited dichotomy between languages whose “traditional” NPs are actually DPs and languages where the relevant projection does not go beyond the level of NP. (This would challenge, among others, the proposal in Abney (1987), according to which all languages have DPs.) One immediate clue for the relevant type of a language in this respect would be whether it has articles or not. More interestingly, Bošković proposes additional properties which a language would or would not exhibit, depending on whether it is an “NP-” or a “DP-” language (e.g. NP- languages disallow clause-mate NPI licensing under Neg.-Raising (NR), and DP- languages allow it; only DP-languages allow the majority superlative reading; inverse scope is unavailable in NP-languages).

In a related study, Bošković & Şener (2014) claim that Turkish is an NP-language, and that it therefore exhibits the properties which Bošković’s system would ascribe to it. They further posit a structure of the NP from which (at least some of) the relevant properties of Turkish would follow, according to their claims.

In this presentation, I challenge: 1. most of the details proposed for the Turkish NP by Bošković & Şener; 2. the posited correlation between the NP/DP “typology” and the properties which are claimed to be found in “DP-” versus “NP-” languages, and 3. illustrate my criticism via examples mainly from Turkish, but also from German and English, i.e. from “DP-languages”. By doing so, I hope to show that the problems discussed go beyond a mischaracterization of the discussed languages; rather, the proposed typology based on whether any given language is an “NP-language“ versus “DP-language”, if true, would be true for reasons other than those given in the literature mentioned, and would have to be based on other criteria.

Abney, S. (1987) The English noun phrase in its sentential aspect. Doctoral dissertation, MIT.
Bošković, Z. (2008) “What will you have, DP or NP?” Proceedings of NELS 37. Bošković, Z. (2012) “On NPs and Clauses”; in Discourse and Grammar: From Sentence Types to Lexical Categories; G. Grewendorf and T. E. Zimmermann (eds.), pp. 179-242.
Bošković, Z. (2013) “Phases beyond clauses”; in The Nominal Structure in Slavic and
Beyond; L. Schürcks, A. Giannakidou, U. Etxebarria, P. Kosta (eds.)
Bošković, Z. & S. Şener (2014) “ The Turkish NP”; in Crosslinguistic Studies on Noun
Phrase Structure and Reference; P. Cabredo Hofherr and A. Zribi-Hertz; Leiden: Brill, pp. 102-140.

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