22 March 2015

Tim Hunter talks in Syntax Workshop

Tim Hunter, this year’s syntax guru, will give a talk in the Syntax Workshop this Thursday,  March 26. We’ll meet in N400, instead of the regular room, and the talk will start at 9:30, rather than the usual 10:00. The title of his talk is “On Finding New Ways to test Old Theories,” and an abstract follows.

This talk will consist of two loosely-connected halves.

The point of departure for the first part is the observation of a surprising exception to the phenomenon known as "vehicle change". These observations have direct consequences for our understanding of the relationship between ellipsis and movement. The generalization that emerges can also be used to construct novel tests that bear on the island-insensitivity of constructions like sluicing, and on whether the EPP is active inside ellipsis sites.

In the second part, I will present an approach to integrating minimalist syntax with information-theoretic sentence complexity metrics, from which it follows that two grammars that are extensionally equivalent --- two grammars which produce the same structures, and differ only in what primitive derivational operations they use to build those structures --- can nonetheless give rise to distinct predictions concerning sentence comprehension difficulty. This provides a linking hypothesis that connects sentence processing observations to subtle questions about the derivational operations that comprise human grammars (merge, move, re-merge, agree, etc.).