29 November 2015

Jesse Harris at UMass

Amanda Rysling writes:

Next week on Monday, November 30th, UMass alumnus Jesse Harris (PhD linguistics '12) will present some of his recent work in the linguistics labs meeting. If you’re planning on coming, and don’t usually attend lab meeting, please let me know (arysling@linguist.umass.edu) so we can ensure there are enough snacks.

We'll meet at the usual time, 4 to 5:30, but in an unusual place: ILC N400


Leland Kusmer writes:

SSRG will meet on Monday, November 30th. At that meeting, we'll be discussing two papers from the journal Syntax:

Hunter, Tim. (2015) "Deconstructing Merge and Move to make room for adjunction." Syntax volume 18, issue 3.

Jenks, Peter. (2014) "Generalized Clausal Modifiers in Thai Noun Phrases." Syntax volume 17, issue 4.

Jon Sprouse gives department colloq

Jon Sprouse (UConn) will give the department colloquium at 3:30 on Friday, December 4, in ILC 400. A title and abstract will be posted here when they become available.

Sánchez in LARC on Friday

Jon Nelson writes:

LARC will meet on Friday, 12/4, at 12:20 in ILC N451. Everyone is welcome! Covadonga Sánchez will present "Experimental ideas for the elicitation of subject focus in L2 Spanish.''

Call for Papers: NonFinite Subjects

The Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes is organizing the conference NonFinite Subjects, to be held in Nantes (France) on April 1-2, 2016.


Misha Becker, University of North Carolina 

Hazel Pearson, ZAS Berlin

Michelle Sheehan,

Anglia Ruskin University

Sandhya Sundaresan, University of Leipzig

The conference aims at providing a forum for discussion of recent, highquality research on the subject position of non-finite structures. Theworkshop focuses on recent findings that shake the standard assumptions onthe syntax and semantics of the subject position of non-finite structures.By scrutinizing data that does not quite fit standard approaches tonon-finite subjects, we seek to question the premises and basic tenetsunderlying standard approaches in order to develop more explanatoryanalyses of the distribution and interpretation of non-finite subjects. 

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

Lexical subjects freely alternating with PRO

The classical approach assumes a strict correlation between finiteness andtypes of subjects: finite constructions display lexical subjects, whilenon-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-finitestructures (see in particular Sundaresan & McFadden 2009), includingEnglish 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-overtsubjects in alternation with lexical subjects in languages such asBrazilian 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 theaforementioned facts, can Case still be said to play a role with respect tothe realizational properties of subjects (cf. Sigurðsson 1991, 2008,Landau 2006, Sundaresan & McFadden 2009, Duguine 2013)? 

'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, Duguine 2013). 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,Duguine 2015, Herbeck 2015)? Furthermore, 'overt PROs' appear to be limitedto 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 othernon-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 correlationhold 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 the notion of syntactic dependency with respect to an antecedent 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.Duguine 2015, 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 ofsubjects 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 orpsycholinguistic 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 onall 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. To submit an abstract, please go to the following Easy Chai rpage: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=nfs2016 


Deadline for submissions: December 11, 2015

Notification of acceptance: January 22, 2016

Conference dates: April 1-2, 2016





Dillon in print

Brian Dillon, Wing-Yee Chow and Ming Xiang's paper, "The relationship between anaphor features and antecedent retrieval: Comparing Mandarin ziji and ta-ziji," has been accepted for publication in Frontiers in Psychology