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Figure 1. A sample video sequence, Experiment 1  
Discourse prominence effects on 2.5-year-old children's interpretation of pronouns
  • Article
  • Full-text available

December 2007


155 Reads


Three experiments examined 2.5-year-olds' sensitivity to discourse structure in pronoun interpretation. Children heard simple two-character stories illustrated by pictures on two video screens. In Experiments 1 and 2, one character in each story was established as more prominent than the other in several context sentences because it was mentioned first, appeared in subject position, was mentioned more often, and was pronominalized once. In Experiment 3, one character was singled out as more prominent only by being mentioned first and placed in subject position. In all three experiments, after hearing a pronoun subject in the final (test) sentence of each story, children looked longer at the character established as more prominent in the preceding sentences. These experiments show that 2.5-year-olds, like older children and adults, interpret pronouns relative to a discourse representation in which referents are ranked in prominence, and that the prominence of discourse referents is influenced by some of the same factors that guide pronoun interpretation in adulthood.

Aspectual Inflection, Verb Raising and Object Fronting in American Sign Language.

February 2004


190 Reads

This paper examines the object fronting construction of American Sign Language (Liddell, 1980; Matsuoka 1997), and its relation to verb raising and aspectual inflection. In this construction, word order, canonically S-V-O, is modified to O-S-V. Matsuoka (1997) argues persuasively for a relationship between object fronting and overt verb raising, driven by the presence of an affixal verbal inflection (per Lasnik, 1995b). Thus, her analysis reduces ASL object fronting to an instance of 'object shift' as occurs in the Scandinavian language family (Bobaljik & Jonas 1996). However, evidence is provided here, from the distributions of adverbs and modals, and from the interaction of object fronting with question formation and raising contexts, which indicates that ASL object fronting targets a position high in the clause.A new model of ASL object fronting is developed against the backdrop of Matsuoka (1997) and the Lasnik (1995b) theory of verbal morphology. This new framework has much in common with Matsuoka's account, while attaining greater empirical coverage. In this framework, as in Matsuoka, overt verb raising is triggered by the presence of an aspectual head (Asp). However, I argue that AspP is part of an articulated COMP layer (Rizzi, 1997). Object fronting targets spec-AspP, an A'-position. This model is shown to provide a better account of the distribution of adverbs and modals in object-fronted clauses, as well as explanations of the behavior of object fronted clauses in questions and in embedded contexts.Lasnik's (1995b) model of verbal morphology is extended such that verbs in (some varieties of) ASL allow both derivational and lexical options for aspectual inflection. This mechanism provides for an explanation of the infelicity of object fronted clauses in embedded contexts. The analysis crucially relies on the categorial status of object-fronted clauses and the mechanism of c-selection. <<<<<< Offprint is available here: >>>>>>

Figure 1.  
Wh-questions: Moving beyond the first Phase

February 2011


620 Reads

The paper presents a feature-checking theory of wh-movement that attempts to accommodate both adult grammar and the path of acquisition by which children handle long distance movement, indirect questions and partial movement. Partial movement is not a grammatical option in English but it is adopted as an option in development. The account makes several predictions about the performance of children with Specific Language impairment (SLI), and also predicts a particular advantage for children who speak African American English (AAE) over those who speak Mainstream American English (MAE). The empirical data are taken from a study of 590 children, both typically-developing and language-impaired, and both AAE and MAE speaking, aged four to nine years. The tasks involved answering wh-questions after stories as part of the field-testing of a new language assessment instrument. The questions included multi-clause questions with or without medial wh-complementizers. The predictions are borne out that children with language impairment have prolonged difficulty with real long distance movement and medial questions, and that children who speak AAE are at an advantage in avoiding certain errors (partial movement) because of the dialect's characteristic marking of indirect questions via inversion in the lower clause.

Who did Buzz see someone? Grammaticality judgement of wh-questions in typically developing children and children with Grammatical-SLI

February 2011


163 Reads

This paper tests claims that children with Grammatical(G)-SLI are impaired in hierarchical structural dependencies at the clause level and in whatever underlies such dependencies with respect to movement, chain formation and feature checking; that is, their impairment lies in the syntactic computational system itself (the Computational Grammatical Complexity hypothesis proposed by van der Lely in previous work). We use a grammaticality judgement task to test whether G-SLI children's errors in wh-questions are due to the hypothesised impairment in syntactic dependencies at the clause level or lie in more general processes outside the syntactic system, such as working memory capacity. We compare the performance of 14 G-SLI children (aged 10-17 years) with that of 36 younger language-matched controls (aged 5-8 years). We presented matrix wh-subject and object questions balanced for wh-words (who/what/which) that were grammatical, ungrammatical, or semantically inappropriate. Ungrammatical questions contained wh-trace or T-to-C dependency violations that G-SLI children had previously produced in elicitation tasks. G-SLI children, like their language controls, correctly accepted grammatical questions, but rejected semantically inappropriate ones. However, they were significantly impaired in rejecting wh-trace and T-to-C dependency violations. The findings provide further support for the CGC hypothesis that G-SLI children have a core deficit in the computational system itself that affects syntactic dependencies at the clause level.

Grammatical feature dissimilarities make relative clauses easier: A comprehension study with Italian children

September 2010


324 Reads

The Relativized Minimality approach to A'-dependencies (Friedmann et al., 2009) predicts that headed object relative clauses (RCs) and which-questions are the most difficult, due to the presence of a lexical restriction on both the subject and the object DP which creates intervention. We investigated comprehension of center-embedded headed object RCs with Italian children, where Number and Gender feature values on subject and object DPs are manipulated. We found that, Number conditions are always more accurate than Gender ones, showing that intervention is sensitive to DP-internal structure. We propose a finer definition of the lexical restriction where external and syntactically active features (such as Number) reduce intervention whereas internal and (possibly) lexicalized features (such as Gender) do so to a lesser extent. Our results are also compatible with a memory interference approach in which the human parser is sensitive to highly specific properties of the linguistic input, such as the cue-based model (Van Dyke, 2007).

The emergence of complexity in prosody and syntax

October 2011


79 Reads






The relation between prosody and syntax is investigated here by tracing the emergence of each in a new language, Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language. We analyze the structure of narratives of four signers of this language: two older second generation signers, and two about 15 years younger. We find that younger signers produce prosodic cues to dependency between semantically related constituents, e.g., the two clauses of conditionals, revealing a type and degree of complexity in their language that is not frequent in that of the older pair. In these younger signers, several rhythmic and (facial) intonational cues are aligned at constituent boundaries, indicating the emergence of a grammatical system. There are no overt syntactic markers (such as complementizers) to relate clauses; prosody is the only clue. But this prosodic complexity is matched by syntactic complexity inside propositions in the younger signers, who are more likely to use pronouns as abstract grammatical markers of arguments, and to combine predicates with their arguments within in a constituent. As the prosodic means emerge for identifying constituent types and signaling dependency relations between them, the constituents themselves become increasingly complex. Finally, our study shows that the emergence of grammatical complexity is gradual.

How prosody constrains comprehension: A limited effect of prosodic packaging

July 2009


146 Reads

Prosody has a large impact on language processing. We contrast two views of how prosody and intonation might exert their effects. On a 'prosodic packaging' approach, prosodic boundaries structure the linguistic input into perceptual and memory units, with the consequence that material in earlier packages is less accessible for linguistic processing than material in the current package. This approach claims that such lessened accessibility holds true for the comprehension of all constructions, regardless of the particular kind of linguistic dependency that needs to be established using the earlier constituent. A 'specialized role' approach, by contrast, attributes to prosodic boundaries a role in making grouping decisions when building hierarchical structure, but attributes to pitch accents the major role in determining the accessibility of a constituent. The results of four listening studies with replacive sentences (Diane thought Patrick was entertaining, not Louise) support the predictions of the specialized role hypothesis over the prosodic packaging approach.

Sign Languages: Contribution to Neurolinguistics from Cross-Modal Research

December 2010


243 Reads

Using sign language research as an example, we argue that both the cross-linguistic descriptive approach to data, advocated by Evans and Levinson (2009), as well as abstract ('formal') analyses are necessary steps towards the development of "neurolinguistic primitives" for investigating how human languages are instantiated in the brain.

The Uniformity and Diversity of Language: Evidence from Sign Language

December 2010


281 Reads

Evidence from sign language strongly supports three positions: (1) language is a coherent system with universal properties; (2) sign languages diverge from spoken languages in some aspects of their structure; and (3) domain-external factors can be identified that account for some crucial aspects of language structure -- uniform and diverse -- in both modalities. Assuming that any of these positions excludes the others defeats the purpose of the enterprise.

The Interface of Language and Theory of Mind

December 2007


233 Reads

The proposal is made that the interface between language and theory of mind is bidirectional. It seems probable that the conceptual developments of early Theory of Mind form an essential basis for helping to fix at least word reference. In development from two to four years, no basis exists in research for conclusions about the direction of influence between language and Theory of Mind. At the stage of false belief reasoning, after age four, the role of the mastery of syntactic complementation is highlighted as a representational tool, that is, language development assists reasoning. The paper presents a brief summary of Theory of Mind, ranging from its earliest beginnings in infancy to the appreciation around age four years that others might hold false beliefs and act according to them. For each development, the parallel language developments are described, and questions are raised about the interface between the two. In particular, research that might determine the direction of influence from one to the other is discussed. More work is called for, especially with nonverbal tasks, good experimental linguistic work, and other special populations, that might allow a more precise delineation of how language and Theory of Mind interrelate at the interface.

The function of HAVE

April 1997


103 Reads

This paper proposes a unified analysis of all uses of main verb have, including causative and experiencer readings, alienable and inalienable possession, the locational reading, and is extended to account for properties of auxiliary have. Our analysis is based on the assumption that the lexical representation of have has no independent semantic content. By this we mean that it lacks the lexical semantic content generally associated with main verbs that mean ‘cause’, ‘experience’, ‘possess’, or ‘contain’. Rather, the various interpretations of have are derived from the syntactic structure.We argue that there is only one verb have, that have is a functional item with no thematic roles to assign, and that have provides the additional syntactic structure necessary for the insertion of an extra argument. As a consequence, have is unable to provide an interpretation for its subject, and the subject must be related to some other constituent in order to get an interpretation. Finally, the specific meaning of have is determined post-lexically by the nature of the syntactic relation it sets up.We show that while have lacks lexically specified semantic content, it does acquire an interpretation as a consequence of the relation it sets up between the subject and the predicate. The subject of have receives an interpretation by one of two means: For eventive predicates, we assume that all arguments receive a syntactically determined event role, so the subject of have is interpreted by virtue of the role it plays in the event; for non-eventive predicates, the subject receives an interpretation via coreference with a constituent in the predicate.

Bickerton, D.: Language evolution: A brief guide for linguists. Lingua 117, 510-526

March 2007


912 Reads

For the benefit of linguists new to the field of language evolution, the author sets out the issues that need to be distinguished in any research on it. He offers a guided tour of contemporary approaches, including the work of linguists (Bickerton, Carstairs-McCarthy, Chomsky, Hurford, Jackendoff, Pinker, Wray), animal behaviour experts (Dunbar, Hauser, Premack, Savage-Rumbaugh), neurophysiologists (Arbib, Calvin), psychologists (Corballis, Donald), archaeologists (Davidson), and computer modellers (Batali, Kirby, Steels). He criticises the expectation that recent discoveries such as ‘mirror neurons’ and the FOXP2 gene will provide easy answers. He emphasises the extremely interdisciplinary nature of this field, and also the importance of involvement in it by linguists, after more than a century of neglect.

Europa Vasconica-Europa Semitica: Theo Vennemann, Gen. Nierfeld, in: Patrizia Noel Aziz Hanna (Ed.), Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 138, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 2003, pp. xxii + 977

December 2006


256 Reads

In this review article we evaluate Theo Vennemann's provocative theories on the role of Afroasiatic and Vasconic (e.g. Basque) languages in the pre-historic development of Indo-European languages in Europe as presented in the volume Europa Vasconica-Europa Semitica, a collection of 27 of Vennemann's essays. First, Vennemann argues that after the last ice age most of Central and Western Europe was inhabited by speakers of Vasconic languages, the only survivor of which is Basque. These speakers formed a substrate to the later-arriving Indo-Europeans. The primary evidence for the presence of Vasconic throughout much of Europe is drawn from the Old European hydronyms originally identified by Hans Krahe as Indo-European and reanalyzed by Vennemann as Vasconic. Second, Vennemann maintains that Afroasiatic speakers colonized coastal regions of Western and Northern Europe beginning in the fifth millennium BCE. According to his theory, these speakers formed a superstrate or adstrate in Northern Europe and had a profound impact on the lexical and structural development of Germanic. In the British Isles the language of these colonizers, which Vennemann calls “Semitidic” (also “Atlantic”), had a strong substratal influence on the structural development of Insular Celtic. In this essay we examine the evidence for and against Vennemann's theories and his methodology.

Ten years of synchronic Austronesian linguistics (1991–2002)

November 2002


282 Reads

This paper presents a summary of developments in Austronesian linguistics during the period 1991–2002. The aim is to introduce a general linguistic public to the synchronic study of Austronesian languages. General typological characteristics and interesting features of Austronesian phonology, lexicons, morphology and syntax are discussed, followed by a summary of how these characteristics, or issues related to them, have featured in recent theoretical debates. The paper also summarises work on Austronesian sociolinguistics, speech levels, language shift and mixed languages.

Before the Lingua Franca Pidginized Arabic in the eleventh century A.D

April 1986


64 Reads

This paper presents and analyzes a ten-sentence text written in a form of pidginized Arabic in the mid-eleventh century A.D. Linguistic features of the text are compared to features of modern Arabic-based pidgins and the Arabic-based creole Ki-Nubi; to Classical Arabic and modern colloquial Arabic dialects; and to Berber languages, which were spoken widely in the part of the Sahara from which the text apparently came. The results of this comparison show that the text shares a significant number of features with the modern pidgins and creole. Although a single brief text hardly provides enough evidence to establish the existence of a fully crystallized pidgin language, we argue that social conditions in towns along the medieval Arab trade routes in northern Africa were likely to have been appropriate for the development of a pidgin. Finally, the main theoretical point we make is that the common view of pidgins and creoles as an exclusive, or almost exclusive, result of European trade and global colonization arises from an accident of history - namely, the fact that most Western scholars are familiar only with European writings from relevant periods - and not from an examination of all the available evidence from multilingual contact situations in which no Europeans were involved.

Domain-general abilities applied to domain-specific tasks: Sensitivity to probabilities in perception, cognition, and language

April 1994


39 Reads

Perceptual and cognitive abilities that are species- and domain-specific may nonetheless have components that are widespread across species and apply to numerous domains. For example, all theories of sentence parsing are constrained by the operations of a limited-capacity memory that is a general characteristic of cognition. This paper discusses another ability that is general across species and, within a species, across numerous cognitive and perceptual domains. We review evidence from the animal learning and human cognitive literature that animals (a) possess fine- grained sensitivity to probabilistic patterns in their environment and (b) use multiple probabilistic cues to solve particular problems. Such sensitivity is advantageous because the structure of the environment itself can often be characterized as probabilistic. The chances of success at solving various problems, from foraging to depth perception, would therefore increase if animals were sensitive to probabilistic cues and could determine whether multiple cues converge on a solution. We discuss the implications of these claims for language processing, and argue that the domain- general ability to detect and exploit probabilistic information is brought to bear on numerous language-specific problems.

At the C-T boundary: Investigating Abruzzese complementation

August 2010


241 Reads

The present article explores the complementizer system of Abruzzese. This system apparently features as many as three different complementizers, and is hence richer than the usual double-complementizer systems found in southern Italian dialects. While a richly articulated conception of the left periphery is demonstrated to provide a simple explanation for the various forms and distribution of two of the Abruzzese complementizers, the same set of structural assumptions are shown to run into severe difficulties when applied to the supposed third Abruzzese complementizer. Evidence is adduced to demonstrate that this element is best viewed, not as a complementizer, but, rather, as a T-element lexicalizing modal features associated with the embedded verb. This is an important finding since it demonstrates how a fine structural interpretation of the C-domain can lead to novel and enlightening analyses of traditional categories, even those traditionally assigned to the complementizer class. At the same time, the analysis highlights how current cartographic assumptions about the fine structure of the C-domain do not necessarily have to be directed towards, or lead to, the discovery of new functional categories and/or candidates for their lexicalization but, rather, can be profitably exploited to throw light on the structure of the T-domain without the postulation of additional functional structure.

On the absence of tense on determiners

December 2005


29 Reads

Wiltschko (2003) proposes that Halkomelem Salish possesses interpretable T features on D, and as a consequence lacks both nominative Case and a TP projection. In this reply to Wiltschko's paper, I argue instead that Salish languages have tense and Case systems which are fundamentally similar to those of English. I then discuss the consequences of these findings for a theory of cross-linguistic variation. I suggest that there will be no languages with interpretable T features on D, and that we should reject the use of parameters with which have consequences in disparate modules of the grammar.

Subject-based and absolutive-based syntactic processes in Kamchadal

August 1978


7 Reads

One of the most important typological distinctions in morphology and syntax has been that between ergative and nominative (also called accusative) languages. There are two primary criteria for classifying languages along these lines - a morphological basis dependent on surface cases and verbal agreement and a syntactic basis developed within the framework of relational grammar. Kamchadal cannot be readily classified according to either criterion, although related languages in its family are ergative. In this paper I will explain how the Kamchadal system developed through a historical change that affected both surface morphology and deeper syntactic processes. Further, I will suggest how the framework of relational grammar should be modified to accommodate Kamchadal syntax. This modification will also accommodate recent theoretical findings of Anderson (1976) and Moravcsik (1978).

Deriving syntactic effects of morphological case by eliminating abstract case

May 2001


25 Reads

It has often been observed in the literature that the presence of a morphological case system tends to correlate with certain syntactic phenomena such as relatively free argument order or the occurrence of nominal complements of adjectives. This paper proposes a theoretical explanation of this traditional observation based on the Minimalist framework. Two main claims are made. First, it is argued that the UG concept of abstract Case, which has played a central role for the analysis of nominal constituents in the generative literature, can be eliminated from the gramar because the phenomena that have been related to abstract Case can be derived from the interaction of the categorial feature matrices of the elements contained within a clause. And secondly, as a consequence which is made possible by the elimination of the concept of abstract case, it is proposed that syntactically represented case features only occur in language with a rich morphological case system and that these case features are the source of the syntactic phenomena that have traditionally been related to morphological case. This paper thus provides support for recent proposals (cf. Bobaljik, 1995; Bobaljik and Thráinsson, 1998; Thráinsson, 1996) according to which morphological properties have an important influence on the syntactic representation and hence on the syntactic processes occurring within a clause.

Semantic types of abstract entities

September 2003


46 Reads

Clauses denoting propositions, facts, reasons and situations share semantic behavior in three areas: pronominal anaphoric reference to the entities they introduce into a discourse; coordination; and quantification by quantity adverbs over their denotation domains. Clauses denoting events do not share these semantic properties, nor do nominals denoting propositions, facts, reasons, or situations. These facts are explored, and an explanation is developed based on semantic types.

Where does loanword prosody come from?: A case study of Japanese loanword accent

June 2006


253 Reads

In this paper we analyze loanword accentuation in Japanese with main focus on its relation with native accentuation. At first glance, loanwords display remarkably different accent patterns from native words, with the former but not the latter favoring the accented pattern over the unaccented one. We present statistical evidence that this impression cannot empirically be supported. Loanwords differ from native words in several phonological structures, notably in the abundance of heavy syllables and epenthetic vowels. If these differences are properly controlled, the two types of words, whether lexically accented or unaccented, exhibit very similar accent patterns and preferences although loanwords still show a stronger tendency towards the accented pattern than native words. This study provides a significant implication for the phonetics vs. phonology controversy in the loanword literature, too. We will demonstrate that perceptual and phonological factors interact with each other in a very interesting way with the first factor determining the overall pitch shape of loanwords, which is then constrained by the prosodic system of the recipient language to yield an appropriate output form.

On accent, stress and quantity in West Slavic

November 2001


38 Reads

Among the Indo-European languages with mobile stress, the Slavic languages are distinguished by possessing, in addition to accented and unaccented morphemes, a class of post-accenting morphemes, whose cognates in the other IE languages are accented. The paper employs Idsardi's (1992) metrical theory of stress and accent to account for the evolution of this class of morphemes. It is proposed that the development of these morphemes was a consequence of Dybo's Law, a rule that rendered certain accented vowels unstressable. This proposition also provides a straightforward explanation for the striking fact that the West Slavic cognates of the post-accenting morphemes are exceptions to the otherwise pervasive vowel shortening process and hence preserve the original quantity contrasts. Since West Slavic (except for Kashubian) lost mobile stress many centuries ago, it has been proposed (e.g., by Garde, 1976) that Dybo's Law by-passed West Slavic. This common sense conclusion, however, is untenable in the light of the length preservation facts noted above. It is shown that the Idsardi's metrical theory of prosody allows for a full account of this complex body of data. The paper thus explains not only a hitherto puzzling set of facts, but also provides important empirical support for the Idsardi theory of prosody.

Tonal association and derived nuclear accents—The case of downstepping contours in German

June 2009


388 Reads

We report on two production experiments which together provide additional support for treating downstep as orthogonal to the tonal structure of utterances, in the sense that certain intonational meanings are expressed by a downstep relation between two H tones, rather than by a particular accent type or accent sequence. The intonational meanings investigated were inferentially accessible information on the one hand and broad focus on the other. In the first experiment an increase in pitch span provided evidence for an analysis of the early peak accent under investigation as H+!H* rather than H+L*, since the starred tone was raised along with pitch span increase, as would be expected of a high tone. Thus we confirmed the presence of a downstepped tone in this accent. In the second experiment we showed that the distribution of accents favoured a downstep in broad focus utterances, as opposed to narrow or contrastive focus utterances.Within each of these contexts alternation was found between downstep across accents (e.g. H* !H*) and downstep within an accent (H+!H*). This suggests first of all that downstep applies independently of how the tones are associated (e.g. whether they are the starred tones of two separate accents, or the leading and starred tone of a single accent), and secondly that H* !H* and H+!H* are related and should be analysed as such.

Accentuation and empty vowels in Ondarroa Basque: Against the concept of phonological derivation

August 1996


19 Reads

In Ondarroa Basque there is a lexical distinction between accented and unaccented morphemes. Words containing accented morphemes receive word-penultimate prominence. Other words are unaccented and, in medial position, surface without prominence on any syllable. Phrase-finally, lexically unaccented words receive phrase-penultimate prominence. Interestingly, certain empty vowels are counted for the assignment of phrasal prominence to lexically unaccented words, but not for the placement of lexical accents on the penultimate syllable of the word. This situation is incompatible with the traditional concept of phonological derivation. On the other hand, the facts receive a straightforward account in terms of constraints operating on surface patterns.

Word accentuation in Hindi

January 1989


96 Reads

This paper presents an analysis of stress in Hindi using a new mode of foot construction, called the conjugational mode, which takes into account the relative weights of rimes. This mode of foot construction is motivated by the system of stress in Hindi, which is sensitive to both quantity and rhythm. A theoretical consequence of the present analysis is that the tree analysis is found superior to a grid-only analysis. The tree theoretic framework, however, must be revised in order to accomodate the present analysis. In particular, the branchingness constraint must be restricted to be applicable to Q-sensitive systems only, not to QR-sensitive systems such as Hindi. The essential claim of the paper is orthodox: trees for the assignment of prominence relation to syllables, grids for interpreting and evaluating their rhythmic form.

On incremental interpretation: Degrees of meaning accessed during sentence comprehension

September 2004


125 Reads

One of the most basic assumptions regarding language comprehension is that it proceeds incrementally, i.e. by seeking to maximise the degree of interpretation computed with each new word that is encountered. This perspective has often been though to entail that the thematic interpretation of an argument may be derived from its grammatical function, for example, via a preference-strategy associating a subject with a Causer. In the present paper, we argue that these conclusions are not supported by experimental findings. Rather, as we show on the basis of a number of studies using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), the degree of meaning derived from a given sentence fragment (form) during online sentence comprehension differs as a function of the morphological informativeness of the sentential arguments. Finally, we present a new model of sentence comprehension, the Argument Dependency Model (ADM), which is designed to capture these differences in the way that meaning is computed incrementally. Specifically, the ADM assumes that argument processing proceeds via two alternative processing pathways, one of which is syntactic, and the other of which is thematic (interpretive) in nature. Whereas both pathways seek to establish hierarchical relations between arguments, only the thematic pathway allows for incremental interpretation to be maximised. Which of the two pathways is chosen during the comprehension of a given sentence crucially depends on the morphological informativeness (i.e. presence or absence of unambiguous morphological case marking) of the arguments. Consequences for language architecture arising from this model will be discussed.

A connectionist account of French syllabification

March 1995


15 Reads

In this paper, we present a connectionist approach to phonology. We show that a process like syllabification, which in a symbolic framework is generally thought of as being the outcome of some kind of parsing by a dedicated algorithm, can be accounted for in a pure dynamic way. In this approach, syllables and syllabic constituency are by no means primitives and the labelling of syllable parts is not axiomatic. They are the by-product of the linear integration process of segments. In other words, syllables are not the building parts of words. On the contrary, in as much as words are made of sounds, given the dynamic properties of those sounds and in particular their tendency to interact in a continuous manner, our model predicts that the aggregation of sounds will give rise to self-organized processes from which syllables and syllabic constituents finally emerge. The universality of syllabic organisation in human languages is thus given a materialistic, quasi-phonetic grounding.

A focus account of moved wh-phrases at s-structure in Chinese

May 1990


37 Reads

Chinese is presumed to lack wh-movement at S-structure (Huang(1982, 1984a)), yet wh-phrases do appear in preclausal position in natural discourse. To deal with this phenomenon, Xu and Langendoen (1985) regard such wh-phrases as base-generated topics. But we will provide evidence showing that these wh-items are indeed moved categories. We assume S-structure move-wh in Chinese to be motivated by an abstract syntactic feature, FOCUS, which interacts with semantic focus in interesting ways. More importantly, we will argue that our move-wh hypothesis allows a unified treatment of wh- and contrastive focused structures in Chinese. In arguing for FOCUSed movement of wh- phrases in Chinese, we propose the dispensation with certain stipulations in Chomsky (1986). That is, in the present analysis, we suggest that (i) IP has the same status as any Xmax category in terms of barrierhood; and (ii) wh-operators, like other quantifiers, can adloin to IP. We will evaluate the effects of (i) and (ii) on Subjacency and the ECP to illustrate the legitimacy of the postulated mechanisms of FOCUSed movement.

Semantic incorporation as an account for some bare singular count noun uses in English

February 2009


82 Reads

This work investigates inter-related syntactic and semantic issues concerning bare singular count nouns (BSCNs) in English. I explore differences in interpretation, distribution, and possible underlying nominal structure to investigate how BSCNs fall out when considered as semantically incorporated nominals. By examining their interaction with discourse anaphora, number neutrality, and modification, I conclude that some uses of English bare singulars show the behavior of full referential DPs, while others are best explained as semantically incorporated nominals fused with a preposition or intransitive verb.

Prosodic filters on syntax: An interface account of second position clitics

February 2006


42 Reads

In this paper, we propose a derivational mode of interface, in which syntax feeds phonology and second position effects are accounted for without employing movement in the PF. More specifically, we claim that a phonology-controlled optimization procedure is responsible for second position clitic effects in Cypriot, Silli and Cappadocian. The syntax provides pairs of equally well-formed syntactic structures where the clitic is placed both before and after its verbal host, and the phonology picks up the ‘optimal’ one. As a consequence, the prosodic system that determines how clitics are to be incorporated in the prosodic structure, i.e. prosodic word or phonological phrase, also selects where a clitic will surface. A welcome result of the present proposal is that the ‘special’ position of clitics is not a lexical property of a group of clitics anymore nor the result of parochial alignment constraints, but the outcome of the grammar, i.e. constraint ranking.

Echo questions: A pragmatic account

December 1994


187 Reads

According to Banfield (1982), echo questions are distinguished from non-echo questions by the fact that they question the style of an utterance and not the what they refer to. This paper argues against this view, showing, first that echo questions can be used to question not only the words uttered by a speaker, and second, that what distinguishes echo questions from non-echo questions is simply the fact that they are echoic. The key to this analysis is Sperber and Wilson's (1986) notion of representation by resemblance, a notion which is general enough to encompass both the echo questions that Banfield has in mind and those cases in which the echoer is questioning the thought communicated by the preceding utterance. Indeed, this analysis, in contrast with Banfield's, allows questions which reformulate the preceding utterance to be regarded as a species of echo question.

Clitics in Grecia Salentina Greek: A dynamic account

December 2009


84 Reads

In this paper, we attempt an analysis of Grecia Salentina Greek (GSG) clitics within the Dynamic Syntax (DS) framework (Kempson et al., 2001; Cann et al., 2005). We argue that the use of a parsing oriented framework can provide us with an account of a number of puzzling phenomena regarding GSG clitics and clitics in general. In specific, we will argue that the proclisis–enclisis alternation is the result of two different parsing triggers being available in the lexical entries for GSG clitics. The parsing triggers posited will be argued to be the outcome of a routinization process in the sense of Pickering and Garrod (2004), with the pragmatics atrophying over time within such a process (Bouzouita, 2008a). We furthermore discuss sequences of clitics, and argue that strict dat–acc ordering can be accounted by assuming an analysis where dative clitics as well as 1st/2nd person accusative clitics compete for the first fixed node in the tree, while 3rd person accusative clitics on the other hand do not. These assumptions will straightforwardly account for strict dat–acc ordering. Finally the Person Case Constraint (PCC) is taken to derive from the same ordering principles that give rise to dat–acc ordering by further positing that 1st/2nd person accusative like dative clitics compete for the first fixed position in the tree structure.

The change in negation in middle English: A NEGP licensing account

March 1997


83 Reads

During the Middle English period (1150–1500 AD), the sentential negator of English changed from the preverbal ne to the postverbal not. During the transition, there was frequent use of a bipartite ne … not negator. This paper presents a detailed quantitative study of the change. I show that as not changes from sentence adverb, with a distribution parallel to never, to sentential negator, ne is lost. However, the rates of change in the use of not and ne are significantly different, indicating that these two forms are not in direct, grammatical competition. An account of the indirect connection between ne and not is given using a licensing condition for the projection of negation, NEGP. I also show that the overlapping use of the two systems of negation, ne … not, does not constitute an independent system. The change in negators shows that both functional and structural considerations are relevant in properly modeling syntactic change, and thus that diachronic change reflects aspects of competence and performance.

Argument-function mismatches in Mandarin resultatives: A lexical mapping account

January 2007


41 Reads

This paper seeks to account for the argument-function mismatches observed in Mandarin resultative compound verbs. The account is formulated within a revised Lexical Mapping Theory (LMT) which incorporates a unified mapping principle. Under the simplest and also the strictest interpretation of this mapping principle (or the θ-Criterion), a composite role, formed by two composing roles, receives syntactic assignment via one composing role only; the second composing role is thus suppressed. Argument-function mismatches are due to the competition between composing roles for syntactic assignment. This LMT account also facilitates a natural explanation of markedness among the competing syntactic structures.

Greek and Hebrew locative prepositional phrases: A unified Case-driven account

March 2008


131 Reads

In this paper we investigate the occurrence of Greek and Hebrew locative expressions in two syntactic frames: (i) direct complementation, and, (ii) complementation mediated by a ‘light’ P(reposition). The main claim is that these two frames correspond to two Case mechanisms: PF Case licensing in the domain of a prosodic word, and syntactic Case checking via a light P, respectively. We attribute the particular implementation of each frame to the different syntactic status of locatives in each language; Hebrew locatives are argued to be P heads, while their Greek counterparts are phrasal modifiers. Consequently, direct complementation resulting in PF Case licensing is widely attested in Hebrew, because most Hebrew locatives are construct heads, forming a Construct State, namely, a single prosodic word, with their complements. Direct complementation is limited to clitics in Greek, because only they can be part of the prosodic word of the locative. Syntactic Case checking via a light P is widespread in Greek because Greek locatives are phrasal, therefore, unable to check Case of their DP complements in syntax. The same mechanism is limited in Hebrew to a particular variety of locatives, which are argued to be free P heads, lacking a Case feature.

Extraposition and expletive-movement: A minimalist account

August 1996


52 Reads

CP expletives have generally been construed as substitutions of, or replacements for, CP arguments. This article argues that these expletives are actually generated in the Spec of CPs at base argument structure and that they then must move into the Spec of an AGR projection to satisfy Case checking. Support for this movement analysis of base-generated CP expletives comes from a wide range of extraction data.

Reading between the (head)lines: A processing account of article omissions in newspaper headlines and child speech

October 2009


66 Reads

In psycholinguistic research, minimized, or reduced structures, are a characteristic property of the child and agrammatic Broca’s aphasics’ speech. These constructions have received much attention in the linguistic literature, with a particular focus on the omission patterns the two populations exhibit. In most cases, such minimization or reduction has been explained in terms of different underlying knowledge mechanisms, for example as an incorrect parameter setting, or a partial reduction (“pruning”) of a syntactic tree. It is remarkable, however, that in unimpaired adult speech reduction (or minimization) of structure is also possible. As a characteristic of unimpaired speech, these utterances have been investigated to a much lesser degree. In this article we offer a processing account of the cross-linguistic similarities and differences observed in the pattern of article omissions in newspaper headlines, one of the so-called special registers. We demonstrate that there are interesting similarities between this register and the pattern of omissions observed in small children. Furthermore, this pattern is observed both in Dutch and Italian: two languages that differ in their inventory of the article system. We present an information theoretical model of article selection and production that explains the optional nature of the structure reduction in both child speech and newspaper headlines. We conclude that minimization (or reduction) of structure can be explained in terms of optimization of the underlying processing mechanisms.

Accounting for the instability of Palenquero voiced stops

December 2003


15 Reads

This paper presents an analysis of the patterns exhibited by Palenquero voiced stops, which reveals that there is a close connection between spirantization, prenasalization, flapping, and lateralization as they are articulatory maneuvers that a language may use to reduce the effort cost of implementing underlying voiced stops. Spirantization, prenasalization, and lateralization facilitate the production of voicing by allowing venting through one of the valves that separate the supraglottal cavity from the atmosphere. Flapping, on the other hand, yields this effect by reducing the temporal coordinates of the constriction target. The consequences that these articulatory adjustments have for the production of voicing are captured within the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince, Alan, Smolensky, Paul, 1993. Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. Ms., Technical Report No.2 of the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University) through a system of interacting constraints where Lazy, a principle that embodies the tendency to reduce articulatory effort (Kirchner, Robert, 1995. Contrastiveness is an epiphenomenonas of constraint ranking. Rutgers Optimality Archive, 51-0295; Kirchner, Robert, 1998. An Effort-based Approach to Consonant Lenition. Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers Optimality Archive, 246-0898), rivals with Ident (Feature), the drive to preserve underlying feature specifications [University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers, 18 (1995) 249]. Central to this analysis is also the view that the sound component of a language may comprise several co-phonologies (Inkelas, Sharon, Orhan Orgun, C., Zoll, Cheryl, 1996. Exceptions and static prohonological patterns: cophonologies vs. prespecification. Rutgers Optimality Archive 124-0496; Inkelas, Sharon, Orhan Orgun, C., Zoll, Cheryl, 1997. The implications of lexical exceptions for the nature of grammar. In: Roca, Iggy (Ed.), Derivations and Constraints in Phonology. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 393–418), some of which are restricted to certain morphemes. This is used to account for the unpredictability and optionality exhibited by some of these processes.

Constraining the arbirariness of exaptationist accounts of the evolution of language

July 2011


30 Reads

This article shows that both earlier and more recent accounts on which certain features of language arose by exaptation are arbitrary in not including pertinent evidence for the claims expressed by them. By way of illustration, it analyzes in some depth Noam Chomsky's account of the origin of the operation called “Merge”, an account which assigns a central role to the phenomenon of emergence. The shortcomings of the accounts under consideration are shown to result from the fact that they are not underpinned by a restrictive general theory of exaptation from which appropriate conditions of evidence can be derived. Drawing on Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy's account of the origins of complex language, the article outlines in conclusion a possible approach to constraining the arbitrariness of the exaptationist accounts at issue.Highlights► Critical appraisal of exaptationist accounts of language evolution. ► Accounts found not to be underpinned by general theory of exaptation. ► Accounts consequently insufficiently constrained by pertinent evidence. ► Illustrated with reference to Noam Chomsky's account of origin of Merge. ► Work by Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy suggestive of a means of constraining accounts.

Some listener-oriented accounts of h-aspiré in French

December 2007


71 Reads

This article shows that the usual speaker-based account of h-aspiré in French can explain at most three of the four phonological processes in which it is involved, whereas a listener-oriented account can explain all of them. On a descriptive level, the behaviour of h-aspiré is accounted for with a grammar model that involves a control loop, whose crucial ingredient is listener-oriented faithfulness constraints. These constraints evaluate phonological recoverability, which is the extent to which the speaker thinks the listener will be able to recover the phonological message. On a more reductionist level, however, the pronunciation of h-aspiré and its variation is accounted for with a new, very simple, grammar model for bidirectional phonology and phonetics, which uses a single constraint set for the four processes of perception, recognition, phonological production, and phonetic implementation, and in which phonological and phonetic production are evaluated in parallel. In this model, the phenomenon of phonological recoverability is not built in, as in control-loop grammars, but emerges from the interaction of four equally simple learning algorithms.

On the distribution of ergative and accusative patterns

August 1978


117 Reads

The purpose of the paper is to contribute to the characterization of the range of noun phrase classes that grammatical rules of human languages make reference to; and, in particular, to the establishment of principles in terms of which ergative-type and accusative-type noun phrase classifications may be predicted for any given rule in any given language. That the noun phrase classification system employed by the grammatical rules of a language does not simply follow the classification system employed by the general case-marking rules of the language in the case of ergative languages has already been shown by previous research. The evidence marshalled in this paper is aimed at showing the same for accusative languages: it is argued that just like ergative languages have both ergative and accusative patterns, accusative languages, too, have patterns of both major types. Some universally or subuniversally predictive hypotheses are proposed that can account for a proper subset of the facts presented about the distribution of the two types of pattern.

Another look at the latin accusative and infinitive

February 1982


19 Reads

Reasons are given for accepting the proposal that the Latin accusative and infinitive developed from a reanalysis of the arguments of verbs of ordering. It is claimed that reanalysis took place as a result of the existence of the alternative ut clause complement that verbs of ordering could govern. Distinctions between Latin infinitival complement types are drawn, and it is concluded that, whereas the Equi complement types should be analysed as VPs, the accusative and infinitive complements must be derived from underlying sentences. It is further shown that accusative and infinitive complements are themselves subclassifiable on the basis of the illocutionary force of their underlying sentence. Suggestions are made for the synchronic analysis of Latin infinitival complementation, taking these various factors into account, and implications for the study of diachronic syntax are discussed.

Achieving spatial coherence in German Sign Language narratives: The use of classifiers and perspective

July 2007


85 Reads

Spatial coherence in discourse relies on the use of devices that provide information about where referents are and where events take place. In signed language, two primary devices for achieving and maintaining spatial coherence are the use of classifier forms and signing perspective. This paper gives a unified account of the relationship between perspective and classifiers, and divides the range of possible correspondences between these two devices into prototypical and non-prototypical alignments. An analysis of German Sign Language narratives of complex events investigates the role of different classifier-perspective constructions in encoding spatial information about location, orientation, action and motion, as well as size and shape of referents. In particular, I show how non-prototypical alignments, including simultaneity of perspectives, contribute to the maintenance of spatial coherence, and provide functional explanations in terms of efficiency and informativeness constraints on discourse.

Acquiring the phonology of lexical tone in infancy

August 2000


107 Reads

Phonology is bimodular: prosody (relational aspects) and melody (‘phonetic’ aspects) are to some extent autonomous in steady-state (adult) language. Therefore the acquisition of individual melodic and prosodic modules and their subsequent orientation with respect to one another must constitute three different developmental tasks. The acquisition of melodic primes may take place independently of any other process. If infant perception has this kind of phonological import, then disparate phonetic reflexes which are predicted as phonologically identical might show parallels in acquisition.In Government Phonology, general theory argues that the same abstract melodic objects underlie both laryngeal contrasts in stops and lexical tonal contrasts. Earlier studies show that language-specific attunement to stop contrasts has taken place by the age of six to eight months. Tests on lexical tone perception are now reported, using both adults and infants. The results show that at around six months of age, babies acquiring Yorùbá, a language which has a three-way contrast for tone, attend more closely to pitch changes within the minimal domain word than do English controls. Further, they only attend to those pitch changes that possess phonological import within that domain in the steady-state language. In this their perception exactly parallels that displayed by the adult speakers. Finally, both adults and infants display a particular asymmetry in perception in that they discriminate the high/mid tone distinction but fail to perceive the mid/low contrast where no linguistic context is present. This was not predicted at the onset of testing, but it is argued that it may well have a phonological explanation, which could align this finding with the typological asymmetries to be found in the distribution of lexical tone in Yorùbá and other west African languages.

Acquiring perfectivity and telicity in Dutch, Italian and Polish

November 2008


107 Reads

This paper presents a crosslinguistic study into the acquisition of form-to-meaning correspondences in the domain of aspect. How may form affect the acquisition process and how may meaning do so? The results from aspectual comprehension experiments with Dutch, Italian and Polish L1 learners reveal that both form and meaning properties affect the acquisition path and lead to developmentally different patterns across languages. The semantics of perfective aspect is acquired earlier than imperfective aspect. Moreover, there is a surprising discrepancy in the understanding of perfective aspect. Whereas Dutch and Polish children have acquired the completion entailment of their Present Perfect and perfective aspect respectively by the age of 3, Italian 3-year-olds perform at chance with their Present Perfect. These results do not support the hypothesis of Uniformity of Aspect Acquisition, which claims that certain aspectual notions (in particular, perfective aspect) are acquired around the same age independent of the language-specific encoding. Instead I put forward an acquisition theory of form-to-meaning correspondences that is sensitive both to form – Morphological Salience, namely, the idea that the semantics of morphologically salient paradigms is acquired early – and to meaning – Semantic Complexity, namely, the idea that the semantics of simple aspectual operations is acquired early.

Biological evolution of the Saussurean sign as a component of the language acquisition device

February 1989


110 Reads

Most linguistic theories assume lexicon entries which incorporate the idea of the Saussurean sign, a bidirectional mapping between a phonological form and some representation of a concept. This Sign, like grammars generally, is unbiased with respect to perception or production, and provides part of the cognitive map which speakers use both in speaking and in interpreting the utterances of others. This bidirectionality of the Sign, or code, is a design feature of human language although workable communication does not necessarily incorporate such a feature.Part of the Language Acquisition Device is a mechanism which mentally constructs such a biderectional mapping, on the basis of observed samples of communicative behaviour (transmission and reception). This basic aspect of the LAD presumably evolved because of its superiority over other conceivable mechanisms for acquiring a basis for communicative behaviour from a sampling of observed transmission and reception data.Three conceivable strategies for acquiring the basis of communicative behaviour, here labelled the Imitator, Calculator, and Saussurean strategies, are defined as functions from samplings of observed behaviour to acquired behaviour patterns. Essentially, the Imitator imitates the transmission and reception patterns in the observed sample; the Calculator constructs optimal reception responses to the transmissions in the observed sample and optimal transmission responses to receptions in the observed sample; the Saussurean imitates the transmission behaviour in the sample, but shapes his reception behaviour to mirror the acquired transmission behaviour, thus internalizing the equivalent of a set of bidirectional Saussurean signs. Extensive simulations of populations endowed with these innate strategies show the Saussurean strategy to be a winner in evolutionary terms; it produces individuals who communicate more successfully than individuals endowed with the other two strategies.

Developmental reorganization of phonology: A hierarchy of basic units of acquisition

September 1979


41 Reads

Data are presented that chart one child's acquisition of Mexican-Spanish consonants during the period from 1;7 (when only twelve words were produced) to 2;1 years of age (when over 150 words were used). Towards the goal of specifying the basic units of acquisition, three possible units are considered, the ‘word’, the ‘phoneme’ and the ‘feature’. The main proposition of this paper is that an analysis that recognizes ‘word patterns’ and the prosodic treatment of words (1) describes the dvelopment of the consonant structure of words, (2) accounts for several unusual segmental correspondence and, in addition, (3) captures significant facts about frequency of word types and phonemes-in-certain-positions better than an analysis that assumes the phoneme to be the basic organizational unit of the child's early development. In the later stages, however, the phoneme appears to replace the word as the basic structural unit. The evidence regarding the role of the feature is equivocal. Data from this child show more variation and a less systematic progression of stages than is sometimes reported for children. Thus, these data are also evaluated in relation to reported ‘universals’ of acquisition, and the issue of individual differences is discussed.

Frequency and Economy in the Acquisition of Variable Word Order

November 2010


105 Reads

This paper discusses how children deal with word order variation in the input, focusing on the effects of frequency and economy in the acquisition process. We consider two contexts where Norwegian displays variable word order, viz. subject placement in main and embedded clauses, and the variable word order found inside the DP in possessive constructions. We identify the conditions under which each word order is chosen in the target language, both with respect to syntax and information structure, and investigate the frequency of the different orders in child-directed speech. In both cases it is shown that the children have both word orders in place from the onset of production of relevant utterances and that they are sensitive to the distinctions between the two from early on. Nevertheless, in their earliest production, the children seem to have a preference for the word order that is the least frequent one in the input. These findings indicate that frequency by itself is not sufficient to explain children's preferences in early production. Instead, the findings in the child data are accounted for in terms of an economy principle of movement that is argued to be operative in early child language.

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