11 October 2015

Syntax Guru arrives

This year's syntax guru arrives on Tuesday, October 13. She is Claire Halpert, from the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD from MIT in 2012 with a dissertation on Zulu agreement and argument structure. She has worked on raising constructions, Aspect and modality, Case, movement typology and locality constraints and the syntax-prosody interface, frequently drawing on her fieldwork in Zulu. You can learn more about her work, and see a likeness, at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~halpert/.

Claire will be in residence until the end of October. Make your appointments early and often -- she can be reached at halpert@umn.edu. Claire will give a talk on Friday, October 23, in N400 at 3:30. A title and abstract follow.

Escape clause

In this talk, I investigate the syntactic properties of clausal arguments, looking in particular at whether A-movement is permitted out of finite clauses and at whether these clauses themselves may undergo movement or establish agreement relationships. In English, argument clauses show some puzzling distributional properties compared to their nominal counterparts. In particular, they appear to satisfy selectional requirements of verbs, but can also combine directly with non-nominal-taking nouns and adjectives. Stowell (1981) and many others have treated these differences as arising from how syntactic case interacts with nominals and clauses. In a recent approach, Moulton (2015) argues that the distributional properties of propositional argument clauses are due to their semantic type: these clauses are type e,st and so must combine via predicate modification, unlike nominals. In contrast to English, I show that in the Bantu language Zulu, certain non-nominalized finite CPs exhibit identical selectional properties to nominals, therefore requiring a different treatment from those proposed in the previous literature. These clauses, also like nominals, appear to control phi-agreement and trigger intervention effects in predictable ways. At the same time, these clauses differ from nominals (and nominalized clauses) in the language in certain respects. I will argue that these properties shed light on the role that phi-agreement plays in the transparency/opacity of finite clauses for A-movement and on the nature of barrier effects in the syntax more generally.