Omer Preminger (University of Maryland) will give the department colloquium at 3:30 on Friday, October 24, in the seminar hub (ILC N400). The title of his talk is “The syntax (and morphology) of non-valuation.” An abstract follows.
First, I review recent work showing that for several classes of features, what was traditionally thought of as one member in a set of possible feature values actually corresponds to the absence of valued features altogether. Examples include: “nominative”; “singular”; and “3rd person” (cf. Nevins 2007). While this has been argued before regarding, e.g., the morphology of pronouns (Harley & Ritter 2002), I will argue that this holds at the level of syntactic computation.
Next, I show that this move amounts to more than a mere relabeling of the feature space (e.g. designating one value in each feature set as the “non‑value”). Instead, this view makes available new analytical possibilities with respect to the way different syntactic operations interact, and revives types of interactions (in particular, bleeding) that are impossible in Chomsky’s (2000, 2001) generate-and-filter architecture (esp. when coupled with a phase-level, all-at-once application of operations, as in Chomsky 2008).
I will argue that this view of (non‑)valuation leads to empirical advancements in the domains of case assignment and agreement intervention, advances that are unavailable on the standard view that takes categories like “3rd person”, “singular”, and “nominative” to be the result of successful valuation.