04 October 2015

SSRG meets tomorrow

Leland Kusmer writes:

As we discussed, we're going to move the date of the next meeting earlier by a week to avoid Columbus Day. As such, our next meeting will be next Monday, October 5th.

For that meeting, we'll be reading two of the papers we overviewed last night. They are:

Sichel, Ivy. (2014) "Resumptive Pronouns and Competition". LI volume 45, number 4.

Syrett, Kristen. (2015) "Experimental Support for Inverse Scope Readings of Finite-Clause-Embedded Antecedent-Contained-Deletion Sentences". LI volume 46, number 3.

Gerry Altman at Cognitive Brown Bag

Gerry Altmann of UConn Psychology will be giving the Cognitive Brown Bag on Wednesday, 10/7, at 12:00 in Tobin 521B.  The abstract for the untitled talk is:

Language is often used to describe the changes that occur around us – changes in either state (“I cracked the glass…”) or location (“I moved the glass onto the table…”). To fully comprehend such events requires that we represent the ‘before’ and ‘after’ states of any object that undergoes change. But how do we represent these mutually exclusive states of a single object at the same time? I shall summarize a series of studies, primarily from fMRI, which show that we do represent such alternative states, and that these alternative states compete with one another in much the same way as alternative interpretations of an ambiguous word might compete. This interference, or competition, manifests in a part of the brain that has been implicated in resolving competition. Furthermore, activity in this area is predicted by the dissimilarity, elsewhere in the brain, between sensorimotor instantiations of the described object’s distinct states. I shall end with the beginnings of a new account of event representation which does away with the traditional distinctions between actions, participants, time, and space. [Prior knowledge of the brain is neither presumed, required, nor advantageous!].

Semantics position at Queen Mary

Queen Mary University of London is one of the world’s leading universities (in the top one per cent of universities in the world according to Times Higher Education). We have an impressive reputation for academic excellence, reinforced by our membership of the Russell Group of leading UK universities, which helps us to attract some of the brightest minds to study, teach and research here. We work across the humanities, social sciences, law, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering. We are based in a creative and culturally diverse area of east London and are the only London University able to offer a completely integrated residential campus at our Mile End home.

The School of Languages, Linguistics and Film intends to appoint a Lecturer in Linguistics with a focus in Formal Semantics.  The successful candidate will be expected to convene and teach introductory and advanced modules in semantics at undergraduate and MA level, and enrich the graduate and research life of the department by incorporating his or her expertise into the Syntax and Semantics research group. S/he will also be expected to undertake PhD supervision and to contribute to the life of the School in a more general way, for instance by undertaking appropriate administrative and pastoral duties.

The post is full-time and permanent, with an expected start date of 1 September 2016.  Starting salary will be in the range of £39,351 - £41,553 per annum.  Benefits include 30 days annual leave, a defined benefit pension scheme and interest-free season ticket loan. 
Although QMUL does not require candidates to submit their work as part of their application, we recommend that you enclose 1 - 2 representative articles with your application and/or provide us with a web link to access samples of your work online.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate their eligibility to work in the UK in accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Where required this may include entry clearance or continued leave to remain under the Points Based Immigration Scheme.
The Department of Linguistics

The department of linguistics was ranked first among UK linguistics departments in the last two national research assessment exercises: REF 2014 and RAE 2008. Present research strengths of the department are within the areas of syntax and semantics and their interface; sociolinguistics, phonetics, and their interface; and neurolinguistic/psycholinguistic perspectives on the above.  As well as a popular MA programme, the department is home to a thriving and vibrant PhD student community.

Within the areas of syntax and semantics, the department boasts an extremely strong research profile with 6 permanent members of the academic staff and a dozen or so active teaching fellows, visitors, and syntax/semantics Ph.D. students.  A full list of staff in the department and their research interests, as well as any additional information about the department, can be found on our website at http://linguistics.sllf.qmul.ac.uk.  Details about the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film can be found at www.sllf.qmul.ac.uk.

For more information, go here.

Randall Munroe's theory of polarity items


Call for papers: Non-Finite Subjects

The Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes (LLING) is pleased to announce the NonFinite Subjects Conference, to be held at the University of Nantes, Nantes (France) on April 1-2, 2016. The conference aims at providing a forum for discussion of recent, high quality research on the subject position of non-finite structures.

Misha Becker, University of North Carolina 
Hazel Pearson, ZAS Berlin
Michelle Sheehan, University of Cambridge
Sandhya Sundaresan, University of Leipzig

Deadline for submissions: December 11, 2015
Notification of acceptance: January 22, 2016
Conference dates: April 1-2, 2016

This workshop focuses on recent findings that shake the standard assumptions on the syntax and semantics of the subject position of non-finite structures. By scrutinizing data that does not quite fit standard approaches to non-finite subjects, we seek to question the premises and basic tenets underlying standard approaches in order to develop more explanatory analyses of the distribution and interpretation of non-finite subjects.

We invite submission of abstracts on the syntactic, semantic and psycholinguistic aspects of this topic, with potential questions that include, but are not restricted to the following issues:

Lexical subjects freely alternating with PRO.
The classical approach assumes a strict correlation between finiteness and types of subjects: finite constructions display lexical subjects, while non-finite ones only allow PRO (here used pretheoretically) or NP-traces. However, a multiplicity of data contradicts this generalization. 

In many languages lexical DPs alternate with PRO in non-finite structures (see in particular Sundaresan & McFadden 2009), including English gerunds (Reuland 1983, Pires 2007), personal infinitive constructions in Romance (Elordieta 1992, Mensching 2000, Herbeck 2011), and raising structures across a variety of languages (Szabolcsi 2009). 

Structures that are apparently finite allow PRO-like non-overt subjects in alternation with lexical subjects in languages such as Brazilian Portuguese, a phenomenon dubbed 'finite control' (for discussion cf. Rodrigues 2004, Ferreira 2007, Holmberg et al. 2009, Modesto 2011).
What are the theoretical consequences of this non-complementary distribution? Should the PRO vs. lexical subject dichotomy be abandoned?

The standard approach relied on Case theory (Chomsky 1981). But given the aforementioned facts, can Case still be said to play a role with respect to the realizational properties of subjects (cf. Sigurðsson 1991, 2008, Landau 2006, Sundaresan & McFadden 2009)?

'Overt PRO'.
Languages such as Hungarian, Korean, Italian or Portuguese allow overt pronouns with the properties of Obligatory Control PRO (Borer 1989, Szabolcsi 2009, Barbosa 2009). How does the existence of 'overt PROs' fit in current approaches to non-finiteness (and in particular to control/raising)? Should we conclude that the silent nature of PRO is nothing more than a circumstantial fact (cf. Livitz 2013, Sundaresan 2014, Herbeck 2015)? Furthermore, 'overt PROs' appear to be limited to pro-drop languages (Barbosa 2009). Is this a causal correlation? 

Overt PROs are pronouns in many languages, but have reflexive or anaphor-like properties in languages such as Korean (Borer 1989, Lee 2009). Can a unified explanation be given of this cross-linguistic variation?

Beyond infinitives: Degrees of (non-)finiteness and subjects.
From a cross-linguistic perspective, the finiteness vs. non-finiteness dichotomy is intricate. Besides infinitives, languages display other non-inflected structures, such as gerundive constructions, or nominalizations whose subject positions can have properties that contrast with those of infinitives (cf. Pires 2007). Moreover, certain subjunctives, in particular in languages that lack non-inflected constructions, such as Greek and other Balkan languages, have been shown to display OC properties, while in other languages (e.g. Romance languages) the subject of subjunctives is typically obviative (cf. Szabolcsi 2010). A further relevant topic is that of inflected infinitives and the variety of subjects they allow (cf. Sheehan 2013, 2014). How can this range of phenomena be accounted for? How do we correlate the typology of (non-)finiteness and the distribution/interpretation of subjects and what theoretical implications should we draw? 

From a more general perspective on clausal structure, assuming a whole spectrum of non-finiteness (Haddican & Tsoulas 2012, Wurmbrand 2014), is there a corresponding array of subjects and how do the precise features of this continuum interact with the typology of subjects? Are the properties of the C-layer relevant in this regard (Rizzi 1997, Adger 2007)? What about tense and/or agreement (Wurmbrand 2001, 2014, Landau 2004)?

Interpretation of finite vs. non-finite subjects.
Beyond forcing the subject to be non-overt, a further tenet of the standard approach is that non-finiteness also forces the subject to be anaphoric/referentially dependent. To what extent does this correlation hold since, as noted above, in many languages referentially free expressions (overt or null) also occur in nonfinite constructions.  How can these differences be accounted for? 

Should we abandon the idea that (non-)finiteness and referential dependence are causally related? In which case, should we still maintain the hypothesis that the silence of PRO-like expressions is related to their anaphoric nature (cf. Livitz 2013)? Is a notion of 'syntactic dependence' (cf. Sundaresan 2012) relevant for characterizing the types of subjects found in non-finite constructions ? Ultimately, should we consider (at least) PRO and pro to be two facets of a single phenomenon (cf. Herbeck 2015; see also Sundaresan 2014)?

There is also the issue of the relation with the higher finite structure. Are the properties of non-finite subjects determined by the matrix verb that selects the non-finite construction (Borer 1989, Sundaresan & McFadden 2009, Pearson 2013, Grano 2015)? What then determines the nature of subjects of e.g. non-finite clauses in adjunct position or subject position?

Experimental evidence.
How do children acquire the intricate patterns of finiteness and the corresponding subject properties? Are the different constructions discussed above processed differently?
More generally, what experimental or psycholinguistic evidence can be brought to bear on the issues discussed above?

Abstracts should not exceed two pages in letter-size or A4 paper, including examples, tables, figures and references, with 1 inch or 2.5 cm margins on all sides and 12 point font size. The abstract should have a clear title and should not reveal the name of the author(s). The abstracts must be uploaded as PDF attachments to the EasyChair site. Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author, or two joint abstracts per author. 



Job at McGill

The Department of Linguistics, McGill University, invites applications for a tenure-track position in syntax or semantics at the rank of Assistant Professor, effective August 1, 2016. The Department welcomes applications from candidates whose research agenda complements the existing strengths of the Department, including candidates whose work draws on data obtained through experimental, quantitative, or computational methods or field methods. General qualifications are a PhD in linguistics or a related discipline and demonstrated excellence in research and teaching in the area(s) of specialization. Duties will include undergraduate and graduate teaching, graduate research guidance and administrative responsibilities. 

Application Deadline: To ensure full consideration, all materials should be submitted by: Friday, November 6, 2015. 

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply; however, in accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. English is the language of instruction at McGill; knowledge of French is an asset. 

McGill University is committed to diversity and equity in employment. It welcomes applications from: women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, visible minorities, and others who may contribute to diversification. 

Interested candidates should submit an application consisting of a letter of introduction, a curriculum vita, a research statement, a teaching statement, samples of research, and teaching evaluations (if available). Applicants should also arrange for three referees to submit letters of reference. 

The application must be uploaded directly to the application website below (position ID: McGill Linguistics ASSTPROF LING #6070). The letters of reference should also be uploaded to the application website. 

Prof. Bernhard Schwarz Chair, Search Committee Department of Linguistics McGill University 1085 ave Docteur-Penfield Montreal (Que) Canada H3A 1A7