Thursday 24th October – Allen Asiimwe & Jenneke van der Wal

Speaker: Allen Asiimwe (Makerere/Leiden) & Jenneke van der Wal (Leiden)
Title: Rukiga augments are like Greek
Date: Thursday 24 October
Venue: Lipsius 2.28
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks afterwards at Café de Keyser)


Rukiga, a Bantu language spoken in Uganda, has augments not just on nouns but also on modifiers. Interestingly, on these modifiers, the augment is ‘optional’:

(1)    e-bi-muri          (e)-bi-rungi              (e)-bi-hango          (e)bingi
         AUG-8-flower AUG-8-beautiful    AUG-8-big              AUG-8-many
         ‘many (of the) big beautiful flowers’

Unlike previous accounts claiming a difference in definiteness or specificity, we argue that the presence of the augment on given modifiers brings about a subsective/restrictive reading (‘the big flower, as opposed to the small one’). Furthermore, we propose that they are in close apposition (unlike augmentless modifiers), just as Lekakou & Szendröi (2012) propose for Greek determiner spread, shown in (2).

(2)    to                 kokino          (to)               podilato
         the.N.SG    red.N.SG      the.N.SG     bike.N.SG
         ‘the red bike’                                                                                         Greek (Kolliakou 2004)

In the talk, we highlight the striking structural as well as interpretational parallels between Rukiga augments on modifiers and Greek determiner spread, showing how they should receive the same analysis.

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Thursday 26 September – Astrid van Alem

Speaker: Astrid van Alem (Leiden)
Title: Complementizer agreement is clitic doubling: evidence from intervention effects
Date: Thursday 26 September
Venue: Lipsius 2.28
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks afterwards at Café de Keyser)


It is well known that many non-standard West-Germanic languages have Complementizer Agreement: not only the verb, but also the complementizer agrees with the subject. This phenomenon has led to a debate in the literature about whether CA is pure syntactic agreement (e.g. Van Koppen 2005) or a PF phenomenon (e.g. Ackema & Neeleman 2004, Fuss 2014). The battleground are cases where an element (usually a focus particle) intervenes between the complementizer and the subject, since this may lead to an anti-agreement effect. In this talk I will discuss variation in the anti-agreement effect under intervention in Frisian, Limburgian, and Bavarian. I argue, based on novel and under-studied data, that neither the syntactic nor the PF approach to CA is correct. Instead, I will argue that the CA morpheme is a doubled clitic, making use of diagnostics from the recent debate about the status of object agreement vs. object clitic doubling.

To account for the anti-agreement effect, I follow Van Craenenbroeck & van Koppen’s (2008) account of clitic doubling in Dutch dialects, combined with Déchaine & Wiltschko’s (2002) decomposition of pronouns. I show that the clitic is of varying structural sizes across the varieties under discussion. This allows us to account of much of the variation with respect to the anti-agreement effect.

The upshots are as follows: first, I show that the question whether something is agreement or clitic doubling is also relevant for cases of (non-canonical) subject agreement. Second, I show that the anti-agreement effect can be reduced to independent properties of the languages under discussion, contra e.g. Baier (2018).

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Thursday 23 May – Isabel Oltra-Massuet

Speaker: Isabel Oltra-Massuet (Universitat Rovira i Virgili)
Title: Theories of argument structure and syntactic priming in comprehension
Date: Thursday 23 May
Venue: Lipsius 2.35(!)
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks follow at Cafe de Keyzer)


Different theories of argument structure attribute different syntactic configurations to intransitives like (1) and transitive structures like (2-6), so that they make different predictions about the processing of these sentence types and the priming relations between them.

(1) Unergative The dog barked in a quiet park at night.
(2) Cognate The man dozed a restful doze on the train.
(3) Creation The cook baked a carrot cake with spelt flour.
(4) Location/Locatum The girl saddled a wild horse in the farm.
(5) Strong transitives The athlete ignored a slight niggle in his knee.
(6) With-Small Clause The worker loaded a rail wagon with hay.

In this talk, I will first review the syntactic structures attributed to (1)-(6) in two competing theoretical approaches to argument structure, (i) Hale & Keyser’s (1993, 2002) approach as developed in Mateu (2002), Acedo-Matellán (2010) and Acedo-Matellán & Mateu (2011, 2013) [AM&M], and (ii) Marantz’s (2005, 2011) [M], as well as their different claims with respect to syntactic priming. Then, I will report the results of a behavioral experiment, a self-paced reading language comprehension study on structural priming. Finally, I will discuss the development of this experiment into an ongoing MEG experiment.

Both experiments are the result of my collaboration with researchers at the Neuroscience of Language Lab – New York University Abu Dhabi.



Acedo-Matellán, V. 2010. Argument Structure and the Syntax-Morphology Interface. A Case Study in Latin and Other Languages. UB, PhD Thesis. Acedo-Matellán, V. & Mateu, J. 2013. Satellite-framed Latin vs. verb-framed Romance: a syntactic approach. Probus 25, 227-265. Hale, K. & Keyser, S. J. 1993. On argument structure and the lexical expression of syntactic relations. The view from Building, 20, 53-109. Hale, K. & Keyser, S. J. 2002. Prolegomenon to a theory of argument structure. MIT Press. Mateu, J. 2002. Argument Structure. Relational Construal at the Syntax-Semantics Interface. UAB, PhD Thesis. Marantz, A. 2005. Objects out of the lexicon: Objects as events. MIT, Ms. Marantz, A. 2011. Syntactic approaches to argument structure without incorporation. Talk presented at the Workshop Structuring the argument, Structures Formelles du Langage UMR 7023 Paris 8/CNRS, Paris, 5-7 September.

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Thursday 25 April – Loes Koring

Speaker: Loes Koring (Leiden university)
Title: Disjointess in Language Acquisition
Date: Thursday 25 April
Venue: Lipsius 2.35(!)
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks follow at Cafe de Keyzer)

A word like ‘somebody’ introduces a novel referent to discourse. Adult speakers of English typically accept (1) in a context in which the person who brought wine is different from the one who brought beer.

(1)          Somebody brought wine and somebody brought beer to the party.

The disjointness in reference in (1) does not follow from the semantics of the existentially quantified argument, but rather from an implicature of disjointness. Results from an experiment with 3- to 5-year-old English-speaking children show that children have no difficulty deriving disjointness in sentences like (1). Results from two more experiments demonstrate that children do have difficulty, however, deriving the disjointness implicature when the existentially quantified argument is left implicit. This is the case in short verbal passives as in (2).

(2)          The girl is being painted.

Verbal passives involve existential quantification of the external argument, giving rise to an implicature of disjointness, like in (1). As a result, (2) is not compatible with a reflexive event in which the girl painted herself. In contrast to adults, 3-year-olds accept (2) as a description of a reflexive event. I will discuss these results as well as the implications for the syntax of adjectival passives.

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Thursday 04 April – Jenneke van der Wal

Speaker: Jenneke van der Wal (Leiden university)
Title: Gender on n in Bantu DP structure: from root-derived nominals to locatives (a joint work with Zuzanna Fuchs)
Date: Thursday 04 April
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks follow at Cafe de Keyzer)

Grammatical gender is a noun-categorizing feature that is not interpretable and largely arbitrary. Big questions are where this gender information is stored (in the lexicon, Num, Gen, or n) and whether this varies crosslinguistically. In this talk we test the proposal that gender is universally on n (Kramer 2015, following Kihm 2005 and Ferrari 2005, among others) by establishing the parameters of variation across a range of Bantu languages. We show in a DM account how gender on n can account for the morphosyntactic properties of noun classes, also in derived nominals (deverbal, diminutive, and locative), and how a structural difference between diminutives and locatives has potential consequences for our thinking about the reference.

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Thursday 21 March – Guido Vanden Wyngaerd

Speaker: Guido Vanden Wyngaerd (KU Leuven)
Title: Phonology-Free Syntax
Date: Thursday 21 March
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

The Principle of Phonology-Free Syntax (PPFS) states that “[i]n the grammar of a natural language, rules of syntax make no reference to phonology” (Miller, Pullum, and Zwicky 1997). Late-insertion theories of syntax, like Distributed Morphology and Nanosyntax, adopt an architecture of the grammar from which the PPFS follows: if the building blocks of syntax are roots and features, i.e. elements with no phonology, then the syntactic rules by which these elements combine cannot make reference to phonological properties. Recently, Harley (2014) has argued that roots must be individuated in the syntax, a proposal that lets the phonology into the syntax through the backdoor again. Harley’s argument involves the phenomenon of root suppletion. We propose a theory of root suppletion that does not require Harley’s backdoor. For such a theory to be possible, a distinction must be made between syntactic √s and morphological roots.

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Thursday 7 March – Gurmeet Kaur

Speaker: Gurmeet Kaur (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
Title: Not all imperatives have a Jussive head- Insights from allocutive imperatives
Date: Thursday 7 March
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

According to the syntactic-pragmatic approach to imperatives, all imperatives contain a dedicated functional head with a 2nd person feature, labeled the Jussive head (Zanuttini 2008; Zanuttini, Pak & Portner 2012); (also see Jensen 2003; Bennis 2006). In this talk, I investigate the (2nd person subject) imperative paradigm in Punjabi, an allocutive Indo- Aryan language, which can encode the addressee of the speech act via overt verbal morphology (Kaur 2017, 2018). The language has two distinct imperatives for the 2nd plural/honorific subject. While the first type of imperative is composed of the bare verb stem and is marked with –o as in (1), the other imperative comprises of a perfective verb form with obligatory allocutive marking je, (2).

(1) (tussii)         kitaab         paRh-o            (*je)
(     book.acc
‘Please read a book!’                                                                                      (Standard imperative)

(2) (tussii)         kitaab         paRhe-yaa-(*o)         je
 (    book.acc
‘Please read a book!’                                                                                     (Allocutive imperative)

I begin the talk by demonstrating that the imperative in (1) supports the presence of a Jussive head, unique to imperative structures. However, in view of the allocutive imperative in (2), I take issue with the across-the-board presence of a (c)overt Jussive head by providing a twofold argument. First, I show that there is an independent ban on multiple occurrences of 2nd person agreement in the inflectional domain in the language (also noted for other allocutive languages such as Basque (Miyagawa 2012); Tamil (McFadden 2017) and Magahi (Alok & Baker 2018, ms)). This weakens the possibility of a co-occurring allocutive and a (c)overt Jussive head, both of which host a 2nd person feature. Secondly, more evidence for the absence of the Jussive head in (2) comes from the ability of the allocutive head to agree with and bind the 2nd person subject, effectively taking over the role of the Jussive head. More specifically, allocutivity in Punjabi is realized at T as a consequence of agreement with the Addressee-DP in the left periphery. In the absence of another case valuing functional head, the allocutive T head undergoes agreement with the 2nd person subject. This forms a multiple agreement chain (in the spirit of Kratzer 2009; Arregi & Hanink 2018; Bronwyn & Zeijlstra 2018; Raynaud
2018) between the T head, the subject DP, and the Addressee-DP, yielding the required imperative syntax. When this multiple agreement relation cannot be obtained, as in scenarios with a phi-complete v head that can value the subject rendering it inactive for further agreement, we obtain a declarative with allocutivity. In conclusion, this paper argues that positing an imperative-specific functional locus of the 2nd person feature across all imperatives is incorrect. What is crucial to imperative syntax is the presence of an ’active’ 2nd person subject, which is available for agreement with a 2nd person feature—in allocutive systems, this 2nd person feature can also be provided by the (clause-type independent) allocutive head.

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Thursday 21 February – Katharina Hartmann

Speaker: Katharina Hartmann (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)
Title: The interpretation of syntactic focus variation
Date: Thursday 21 February
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

In many West-African languages, non-subject focus in questions and answers is expressed in two varying syntactic forms, an ex situ form, and an in situ form. Ex situ focus is syntactically marked in one or several respects involving at least fronting of the focused constituent. In situ focus shows the canonical word order and usually no formal indication of focus. This asymmetry has been taken to indicate an information structural split between two types of focus relating in situ order to new information, and ex situ order to contrastive focus. Whether this semantic distinction is categorical or not, is a matter of contro-versial debate. Critics of the view that form and interpretation vary along the same coordinates have argued that the correlation between ex situ vs. in situ focus and contrastive vs. non-contrastive interpretation is only a tendency, and not a 1:1 correlation, e.g. Hartmann & Zimmermann (2007). Zimmermann (2008) and Zimmermann & Onea (2011) propose to derive the ‘contrastive’ effect of ex situ focus from a discourse-semantic strategy that allows the speaker to indicate unexpected discourse moves.

In this talk, I first discuss new data from Dagbani (Mabia), which support the claim in Titov (t.a.) on Akan that the alternative set represented by an ex situ focus is interpreted as discourse-salient but not exhaustively. Ex situ and in situ focus differ wrt. the discourse-salience of the elements from the focus alternative sets. In situ focus refers to an open set not expressing any expec-tation from the part of the speaker wrt. to the state of mind of the hearer. Ex situ focus on the other hand, refers to discourse-salient alternatives, which, according to Titov (t.a.), are D-linked. This interpretation is naturally compati-ble with a uniqueness interpretation of the focus constituent. Exhaustivity is syntactically coded by a cleft structure not regularly used in focus contexts.

Second, I will fathom the possibility of non-matching pairs of ex situ and in situ questions and answers in some Niger-Congo languages. I show that the se-quence Q in situ A ex situ is often blocked. Departing from the assumption that the alternative sets of in situ and ex situ focus differ in size, I claim that the set denoted by the question must be equal to or contained in the set de-noted by the answer. This accounts for the unavailability of the mentioned sequence. I suggest that this may be derived from a presupposition failure.

References: • Hartmann, Katharina & Malte Zimmermann (2007): Place – Out of Place: Focus in Hausa. Kerstin Schwabe and Susanne Winkler (eds.) On Information Structure: Meaning and Form. Amster-dam: John Benjamins. 365–403. • Titov, Elena (2018): Morphosyntactic Encoding of Information Struc-ture in Akan. To appear in Glossa. • Zimmermann, Malte (2008): Contrastive Focus and Emphasis. Acta Linguistica Hungarica 55: 347–360. • Zimmermann, Malte and Edgar Onea (2011): Focus Marking und Focus Interpretation. Lingua 121: 1651–1670. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2011.06.002


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Thursday 14 February – Myrthe Bergstra

Speaker: Myrthe Bergstra (Utrecht University)
Title: Micro-variation, contact and change: the absentive in Frisian and Dutch
Date: Thursday 14 February
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/006
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs


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Thursday 29 November – Caitlin Meyer

Speaker: Caitlin Meyer (University of Amsterdam)
Title: Rule and order: using structure to acquire ordinal numerals
Date: Thursday 29 November
Venue: Van Eyckhof 3/002
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs
drinks: Cafe de Keyzer

This talk compares the acquisition of ordinals in Dutch and English, and argues that both groups of learners acquire ordinals in a rule-based fashion. This claim is based on data from 250 children (2;08–6;04), which show that children acquire irregular ordinals (such as derde ‘third’) after they acquire regular synthetic forms (such as vierde ‘fourth’) and even after analytic ordinals (e.g., boot zes ‘boat six’). This may seem unsurprising or even obvious: it only makes sense for children to prefer rule-based forms. Or does it?
This pattern is actually quite puzzling: children seem to skip a lexical learning stage before acquiring their ordinal rule. This makes ordinal acquisition unlike cardinal acquisition (where lexical learning is key, e.g., Le Corre & Carey 2007), and unlike the acquisition of inflectional or derivational morphology (where children initially store morphologically complex forms, cf. Clark 2104, Yang 2016). This begs the question: if not from stored evidence, where does this rule come from and how does this rule learning actually work? I argue that the interplay between transparent linguistic knowledge and abstract concepts is just the recipe for children to cook up ordinal meaning from structural ingredients.

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