Spring 2013, at UCSC:
Ad Neeleman, University College London
May 16th, 2013, at 4pm in Humanities One, Room 210. See the full announcement here.
Person: Inventory and Realization
Joint work with Peter Ackema, of the University of Edinburgh
In this presentation Dr. Neeleman will develop a theory in which person features are more abstract than usually assumed: they do not refer to speaker or addressee, but are rather used to navigate a 'person space'. The theory is confronted with two typological problems. (i) Why is the inventory of persons so limited? Why aren't there 30 persons? (In this context 30 is not a random number, but represents the number of potential persons.) (ii) What explains the typological observation that syncretism between first and third person is much rarer than syncretism between either first and second, or second and third person (Baerman et al. 2005, Baerman and Brown 2011)? If time allows, he will discuss also Dutch as a case study. In this language there are two person endings that arrange themselves in such a way that there is a 2-3 syncretism in the regular case, a 1-2 syncretism under subject-verb inversion, and an optional 1-3 syncretism with a particular lexical class of verbs (modals).

Winter 2012, at UCSC:
Mary Paster, Pomona College
February 24th, 2012, at 4pm in Humanities One, Room 202
Phonologically Conditioned Morphology
This talk addresses the question: What is the best way to model phonologically conditioned morphology? I will present the empirical facts, to the extent they are known, regarding three different phenomena where a phonological property affects or potentially affects a morphological process -- namely, infix placement, phonologically conditioned suppletive allomorphy, and phonologically conditioned affix order. I will then summarize the arguments from Paster 2005a,b, 2006a,b, 2009, to appear, regarding why the original Optimality Theory (OT) account of phonological effects in morphology (McCarthy and Prince 1993a,b) is unsatisfactory. I will discuss the extent to which more recent constraint-based analyses and other alternative models are better equipped to model phonologically conditioned morphology, ultimately arguing in favor of an account in which phonology and morphology are distinct components of the grammar, incorporating aspects of Lexical Phonology (Kiparsky 1982a,b, Mohanan 1986), morphological subcategorization (Lieber 1980, Kiparsky 1982, Orgun 1996, Yu 2003), templatic morpheme ordering (Bloomfield 1962, Zwicky 1985, Anderson 1986, Simpson and Withgott 1986, Speas 1990, Stump 1992, Inkelas 1993, Hyman and Inkelas 1999, Good 2003), and the Scope principle (Rice 2000) and Mirror Principle (Baker 1985).

Spring 2011, at Stanford:
Michael Wagner, McGill University
March 29th, 2011, 12pm in Margaret Jacks Hall, Building 460, Room 126 (Greenberg Room)
The Locality of Allomorph Selection and Production Planning
English -ing varies between two phonologically distinct allomorphs, [iŋ] and [in]. Across different varieties of English this variation has been shown to depend on gender, speaking style, and socio-economic factors (Fischer, 1958; Labov, 1972; Trudgill, 1972). Phonological context has also been shown to be relevant (Houston, 1985): the allomorph [in] is more likely when a coronal segment follows. Strictly localist theories of morphology (e.g., Bobaljik, 2000; Embick, 2010) predict that the phonological context should only be able to affect allomorph selection under syntactic locality conditions. Globalist theories (e.g., theories of allomorph choice formulated within standard optimality theory) predict that in principle any information in a linguistic representation could affect allomorph choice. This paper reports on experimental data involving -ing-allomorphy that seems incompatible with both types of theories.

As illustrated in (1) and (2), we crossed the syntactic environment (local vs. non-local) with the phonological environment (a-[ə] vs. the-[ð]), using a syntactic contrast familiar from studies of prosodic phrasing (e.g., Itzak et al. 2010):

a. Whenever the boy was browsing a book the game would fall off the table.
b. Whenever the boy was browsing the book the game would fall off the table.

a. Whenever the boy was browsing a book would fall off the table.
b. Whenever the boy was browsing the book would fall off the table.

Localist theories predict that the phonological context should be able to affect the choice of allomorph when the word providing the phonological environment is syntactically local as in (1), but not when it is part of the next sentence (2). Globalist theories predict that phonological context should be relevant in both types of cases.

The results show an effect of phonology both in (1) and (2). This is unexpected under the localist account. However, the effect is much smaller in (2), which is unexpected under the globalist account.

The interaction between phonology and syntax suggests that syntactic locality might be relevant after all. However, within the syntactic conditions, there is a quantitative correlation between the strength of the prosodic boundary separating the verb and its complement and the liklihood of a phonological effect of the following word. In other words, whether the phonological form of the following word has an influence on allomorph choice depends gradiently on the strength of the prosodic boundary separating the two words even within the same syntactic condition. Once these quantitative measures of boundary strength are taken into account, the effect of between syntactic conditions vanishes: the difference between (1) and (2) in the size of the phonological effect is completely explicable as a result of the difference in boundary strength between the two structures.

The pattern of phonological conditioning can be accounted for by a model of allomorph selection that is constrained by the locality of production planning. The segmental content of an upcoming word can have an effect on allomorph choice if its phonological form is already available at the time of vocabulary insertion. The strength of a prosodic boundary negatively correlates with the availability of the following word, and can thus serve as a proxy measure for the locality of production planning.

The data suggests that the phonological effect on allomorph choice, at least in this case, can be stated in purely segmental terms. The apparent effect of syntax on the phonologically conditioning of allomorph choice can be explained by its indirect effect on the likelihood that the phonological material of the upcoming word is already planned out at time when allomorph selection happens. This suggests a more modular view of the syntax/morph-phonology interaction across word boundaries than current approaches that assume an interleaving of phonology and syntax.

The account in terms of the locality of production planning provides a potential explanation why individuals in our experiment and the dialects described in the literature only seem to vary in the proportion with which they choose the allomorphs (from almost always [in] to almost always [iŋ]), but none seem to show a complementary distribution according to phonological or syntactic context: the reason is that the conditioning environment is only probabilistically available depending on how much planning is been possible, and this varies depending on the structure of sentence and other factors. In other words, there might be a reason why ing-allomorph selection is consistently a variable process: reliably planning out an entire utterance in all its phonological detail is difficult if not impossible. Other cases of phonologically conditioned allomorphy are considered and their amenability to an account in terms of the locality of production planning is discussed.

Winter 2011, at UCSC:
Norvin Richards, MIT
March 11, 2011, 4pm in Humanities One, Room 210
Generalized Contiguity
In Richards (2010) I posited a universal condition on the prosody of wh-questions, which was intended to predict whether a given language would move its wh-phrases or leave them in situ. The condition requires a wh-phrase to be in the same prosodic domain as the interrogative complementizer which Agrees with it. Whether a language has to move its wh-phrases then depends on how its prosody is organized. Some languages can leave wh-phrases in situ and manipulate the prosody of the sentence to satisfy the prosodic requirement; others cannot do this, and must move the wh-phrase to make it sufficiently prosodically close to C.

In this talk I will generalize the prosodic requirement I posited for the relation between C and wh-phrases, applying it to all pairs of syntactic objects that are related either by Agree or by selection. Data handled by the resulting theory include a variety of facts about the placement of adverbs in languages like English and French (traditionally accounted for via claims about the structural height of verbs), the Final-over-Final Constraint of Biberauer et al (2010), and the requirement that clauses with English quotative inversion cannot have auxiliaries.

Spring 2010:
Alec Marantz, New York University
April 30, 2010, 4pm in Humanities One, Room 202
Locality Domains for Contextual Allosemy
At least since work within Lexical Morphology and Phonology, the issue of the connection between word structure and allomorphy has been heavily investigated by morphophonologists. Recent advances within Distributed Morphology (see in particular Embick 2010) have shown that the general cyclic architecture of a phase-based Minimalist Program syntax provides the proper locality domains for the interaction of information determining contextual allomorphy, although phonology-specific notions like adjacency also play a role, restricting possible interactions even more than what might be allowed within a cyclic domain. Less well understood are the parallel issues at the syntax/semantics interface, namely the computation of possible meanings of morphemes in context. Against some recent work disputing claims in Marantz (1997, 2000) linking the domain of special meanings to phases and against recent proposals that the locality domains for phonology and semantics might differ, this paper clarifies the issues in contextual meaning determination and supports the idea that the locality domains for contextual allosemy are just those for contextual allomorphy. As a specific notion of phonological adjacency further constrains allomorphic interactions, so too does a semantic specific notion of “adjacency” constrain allosemic interactions and may restrict possible interactions among morphemes even more strongly than the general cyclic architecture of phases.

Fall 2009:
Andrew Nevins, Harvard University
Mo' Better Morphotactics: doubling the output of syntax
Doubling is the phenomenon to be explained in forms such as "more better", "most unkindest cut", and "Did they left?", which occur in varieties of English distributed across space, time, and ontogenesis; such doublings are also found in varieties of Spanish with gratuituous plural agreement on clitics ("de-nmelo-n"; Halle & Harris 2005), in varieties of Scandinavian definite article placement, in Bantu causative-applicative-reciprocal-passive templatic effects, in second position clitics in Lithuanian, and all over the Basque auxiliary, as I will present based on a series of papers with Karlos Arregi. Such doublings are not semantically necessary and their very existence would complicate the syntax unduly. They can be understood best in terms of two key notions: morphotactic ordering constraints (both on the relative order of morphemes and on the noninitiality of morphemes within a word), and postsyntactic metathesis operations that act as repairs. An important consequence of the formalism for metathesis that I adopt, that of Halle & Harris 2005, is that it is a special subcase of reduplicative doubling. Variation across time and space (e.g. Shakespeare's "most unkindest") results from pronouncing both instances of the metathetic "chain" that has been created to enact morphotactic repair on the output of syntax.