Linguistics and English Language

Meaning and grammar seminar

Speakers: Sandhya Sundaresan (Leipzig University) and Thomas McFadden (ZAS, Berlin), based on joint work with Hedde Zeijlstra (Göttingen)

Title: Deriving Selective Opacity via Path-based Locality

Abstract: Adjuncts have long been considered syntactic islands (Ross 1967). Prior approaches to adjunct/argument asymmetries have involved according adjuncts some special primitive status: e.g. claiming that they can sideward A-move (Drummond & Hornstein, 2014) or are late-merged (Lebeaux, 1991; Fox, 2002; Abe, 2018) or are phasal (Chomsky, 2008; Mueller, 2010).

In this talk, we start with the core empirical insight that selective opacity effects involving adjuncts and complements involve a systematic directionality restriction: complements are transparent to syntactic dependencies both into and out of them; in contrast, adjuncts are (selectively) opaque only to dependencies from above but transparently allow syntactic dependencies out of them (e.g. adjunct control). To accommodate such facts, we will extend a particular approach to structure building (Merge) and labeling which unifies insights from Minimalism and Categorial Grammar. On the strength of this, we redefine Agree, the core Minimalist operation driving syntactic dependencies, in terms of sisterhood + path-based locality (a notion that hasn't found much currency in current Minimalism but has parallels in other frameworks like HPSG/LFG, CCG and TAG). This is the idea that two elements X and Y are syntactically visible to each other iff they are connected by an uninterrupted sequence of steps, each of which satisfies the same (syntactic) condition. We will show that this theoretical machinery can accurately account for selective opacity patterns with adjuncts, including certain island effects. A potential concern, which we will discuss, is that the model might be too powerful as it stands, undergenerating in particular the so-called Truswell effects --- licit cases of movement out of adjuncts under particular semantic conditions. A further non-trivial advantage of this model is that it allows us to significantly reduce the need for domain-based locality such as phases.


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Nov 19 2019 -

Meaning and grammar seminar

2019-11-19: Deriving Selective Opacity via Path-based Locality

Room 1.1, Lister Learning and Teaching Centre, 5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU