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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

PhD viva workshop: Bare and not so bare

15 October 2018

Time: 2:00 - 6:00pm
Venue: Scape 0.14

On the occassion of Melisa Rinaldi's PhD viva voce, we will be hosting a workshop on her thesis topic. All welcome!


14:00 N-ways of being event related : nominalizations and the grammatical / conceptual divide
Isabelle Roy, CNRS and Paris VIII

14:50 Nominal predication in Spanish and the ser/estar alternation Melisa Rinaldi, QMUL

15:40 Coffee Break

16:10 Zero N: number features and ⊥ Luisa Marti, QMUL

17:00 One Cycle to Rule Them All Ian Roberts, Downing College, University of Cambridge



N-ways of being event related : nominalizations and the grammatical / conceptual divide
Isabelle Roy, CNRS and Paris VIII

The division of labour between grammatical and conceptual levels, as typically understood by researchers at the syntax-semantics interface, is normally framed as a division between morphosyntax and a lexical/conceptual level where lexical roots reside. There is a robust and ongoing debate on where exactly the line should be drawn between morphosyntax, where meaning is associated with functional morphology/functional heads, and the lexicon, where
meaning is associated with encyclopaedic, conceptual knowledge. However, there is an analogous debate to be had about the division of labor between the grammatical and conceptual domains for nonlexical material. That is, nonlexical conceptual meaning is meaning that is not related to lexical roots, nor to semantics (i.e., the lambda calculus), nor to any structure contributed by the syntax, but which must be interpreted in order to understand the conditions a denotation expresses. In practical terms, nonlexical conceptual material is comprised of the conceptual interpretations of variables (such as event variables, time variables, individual variables) and relational terms (such as mereological relations); in short, the nonlexical ontology.

Set in this context, this presentation offers a general discussion on the event-related interpretational properties of (derived and non-derived) nominals : simple event nominals (party, meeting), complex event nominals (the destruction of the city by the enemy; Grimshaw 1990, Argument Structure-Ns in Borer 2015) and derived agent/instrument - er nominals (dancer / blender). I will argue that the relatively complex and diverse paradigms
can make simple sense if we assume a dual ontology, namely that a 'conceptual' event is not necessarily identical to a ‘grammatical’ event. One consequence of this nonidentity mapping is the possibility for a grammatical individual argument to be mapped to a conceptual—i.e., non syntactically visible—event. The complexity of the paradigms comes, in this view, from the mapping itself, because the grammatical and the conceptual elements being mapped to each other may have different properties. This presentation takes inspiration from previous work by Roy & Soare 2013, 2014, Roy at al. 2016. 

Nominal predication in Spanish and the ser/estar alternation
Melisa Rinaldi, QMUL


In this talk I will start by discussing the properties of nominal predication in Spanish, which has traditionally been assumed to occur only with copula ser. Nominal predicates occurring with this copula can appear bare or with the indefinite article un ‘a’, but this is not an optional choice. Following Roy (2013), I argue that copular sentences withser + NP `be + NP’ are interpreted as the ascription of a property to the subject DP but, departing from Roy’s analysis, I propose that in the version with the indefinite article, the article is actually a degree expression. I will then provide some novel data of nominal predication after copula estar, which paves the way for the second part of this talk – the distribution of the two copulas. The idea defended here is that there are two BEs, the only difference between them being the presence of an interpretable locative feature in the case of estar (cf. Zagona, 2015). In addition to this, I propose that in the so-called evidential uses of estar, there is a functional head that introduces a silent experiencer. Semantically, the silent experiencer relativises the meaning of PredP to the particular point of view of the speaker. Syntactically, it introduces an uninterpretable locative feature (cf. Landau (2010) on experiencers as mental locations).

Zero N: number features and ⊥
Luisa Marti QMUL

I demonstrate that there is a compositional semantics explanation for the number marking that nouns display in the zero N construction in languages such as English (plural) vs. Turkish (singular). The explanation relies on two main ingredients: Martí’s (2017) account of the morphology and semantics of the numeral+noun construction more generally (which in turn relies on Harbour’s 2014 theory of number features) and Bylinina and Nouwen’s (2018)
semantics for zero. 

One Cycle to Rule Them All
Ian Roberts Downing College, University of Cambridge

In this talk I suggest that a range of phenomena (“dependent” object-subject agreement, dependent case, the Final Over Final Condition (FOFC) and further “contiguity effects”) are all cases of a single generalization:

1) Contiguity/dependency generalisation: In a given local domain, if featural property P holds of H1 where H1 is asymmetrically ccommanded by H2, then featural property P of H2 is known.

In turn, (1) derives from the Strict Cycle:

2) Strict Cycle Condition: No rule R can apply to a domain dominated by a node A in such a way as to solely affect
B, a proper subdomain of A.

(2) requires all rule applications R to apply to the smallest piece of structure they can, i.e. to A before B in (3), assuming the structural description of the rule is met in both domains:

3) … [A … [B … ] … ] …

Here, if R can apply to B rather than A then it must do so. Once R has applied to B then A becomes the smallest piece of structure for it to apply to, and so on.

Concerning FOFC, and following an antisymmetric account as in Biberauer, Holmberg & Roberts (2014), if rollup applies in vP first, moving VP around v without moving O around V, we get the standard FOFC violation V > O > Aux (assuming Aux is in v):

4) [vP [VP V O ] v (VP) ]

It emerges that FOFC is the result of the LCA and the Cyclicity Condition in (2): rollup of complements must be maximally local and maximally cyclic.

Concerning dependent agreement (if a language has object agreement, then it has subject agreement (Moravcsik 1978:364, Corbett 2006:59)), applying agreement in domain B of (3) entails it must apply in domain A (but not conversely as the structural description for agreement can fail to hold in domain A). Similarly for dependent case, B is the domain of accusative or ergative case, assigned before the “elsewhere” nominative/absolutive cases. Other
instances of (2) include Bobaljik’s (2012) *ABA constraint on adjectival suppletion in comparatives and superlatives, aspects of binding theory (Pesetsky 2011) and, possibly, improper movement (van Urk 2016). More speculatively, I will suggest that (2) constrains different ways of labelling a category, with interesting cross-linguistic consequences for wordorder variation.

The conclusion is that generalized dependency relations (including FOFC, seen as dependent linearization) follow from strict cyclicity. Cyclicity is thus more “granular” than has recently been thought (since the proposals for phases in Chomsky 2000): it holds everywhere, not just at the phase level (which is a special case of the more general constraint): cyclicity holds of derivational stages as well as derivational layers (Song 2018).

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