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Crosslinguistic Research in Syntax and Semantics

Crosslinguistic Research in Syntax and Semantics: Negation, Tense, and Clausal Architecture

Raffaella Zanuttini
Héctor Campos
Elena Herburger
Paul H. Portner
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  • Book Info
    Crosslinguistic Research in Syntax and Semantics
    Book Description:

    Presenting cutting-edge research in syntax and semantics, this important volume furthers theoretical claims in generative linguistics and represents a significant addition to present scholarship in the field. Leading scholars present crosslinguistic studies dealing with clausal architecture, negation, and tense and aspect, and the issue of whether a statistical model can by itself capture the richness of human linguistic abilities. Taken together, these contributions elegantly show how theoretical tools can propel our understanding of language beyond pretheoretical descriptions, especially when combined with the insight and skills of linguists who can analyze difficult and complex data. Crosslinguistic Research in Syntax and Semantics covers a range of topics currently at the center of lively debate in the linguistic literature, such as the structure of the left periphery of the clause, the proper treatment of negative polarity items, and the role of statistical learning in building a model of linguistic competence. The ten original contributions offer an excellent balance of novel empirical description and theoretical analysis, applied to a wide range of languages, including Dutch, German, Irish English, Italian, Malagasy, Malay, and a number of medieval Romance languages. Scholars and students of semantics, syntax, and linguistic theory will find it to be a valuable resource for ongoing scholarship and advanced study.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-305-6
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This volume in the 2004 Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) series comes from the conference that took place March 26–29, 2004, with the theme Comparative and Crosslinguistic Research in Syntax, Semantics, and Computational Linguistics. While the conference was open to any research within this broad theme, the conference announcement noted that presentations focusing on the following issues were especially welcome: the syntax and semantics of clause types; syntactic variation across varieties of English; the internal structure of the noun phrase; negation, negative polarity, and negative concord; tense and aspect in formal and/or computational semantics; microvariation...

  4. 1 Three Benchmarks for Distributional Approaches to Natural Language Syntax
    (pp. 13-24)

    There has been a good deal of recent interest in statistical learning models for language (Manning and Schütze 1999) and in evidence that humans can learn and use at least some distributional statistics (MacDonald, Pearlmutter, and Seidenberg 1994; Saffran, Aslin, and Newport 1996). Although it has been shown that there are some quite simple statistical patterns that humans are not good at tracking (Newport and Aslin 2004; Pena et al. 2002), there appears to be widespread optimism in some circles that discovery of the right statistical learning procedure will ultimately provide adequate account of human linguistic abilities and obviate the...


    • 2 Argument Fronting in English, Romance CLLD, and the Left Periphery
      (pp. 27-52)

      This chapter explores the syntactic distribution of fronted arguments. The focus will be on the contrast between English argument fronting and clitic left dislocation.

      In a seminal paper on the composition of the left periphery of the clause, Rizzi (1997) proposes that the CP layer is decomposed into a number of articulated projections which are hierarchically organized as in (1). Summarizing his analysis and simplifying somewhat, Rizzi proposes for English that focalized constituents move to the specifier of FocP (2a), topicalized arguments without a resumptive element occupy the specifier of TopP and are associated with an empty operator in Spec,...

    • 3 A Detailed Map of the Left Periphery of Medieval Romance
      (pp. 53-86)

      A line of research that has received a strong impulse from recent empirical work is the so-called cartographic program, which aims to provide a map of the functional projections in the structure of the clause. In the framework of this project so far, a highly articulated functional structure has been drawn, where specialized positions appear to have the same respective order across languages. Some of the results of this research can be found in Cinque (2002), Rizzi (2004), and Belletti (2004). In this chapter, I present some descriptive generalizations based on medieval Romance as a contribution to the outline first...

    • 4 Questions and Questioning in a Local English
      (pp. 87-126)

      In this chapter, I investigate a small question—why the examples in (1) and (2) are possible:

      (1) a. I wondered would I be offered the same plate for the whole holiday.

      Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, 154

      b. I wondered would the place always look like an abandoned building site. Ibid., 192

      c. I wondered was he illiterate. Ibid., 96

      d. I asked Jack was she in his class. Ibid., 96

      e. I’m sure she wasn’t far from the truth when she asked was he thinking of throwing her in.

      John McGahern, That They May Face...

    • 5 VP-, D°-Movement Languages
      (pp. 127-148)

      In the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995), syntactic movement is triggered by a requirement that the computational system eliminate features that are uninterpretable at the relevant interface. Once we understand which elements move, it is just an exercise to determine which features might be responsible for the movement for which we have independent evidence. Looking at the system that is eventually created, however, in a system of features, one is led to ask certain questions about the typology of movement. In this paper, I examine asymmetries that arise in the system as it stands and ask whether the asymmetries are derivable...


    • 6 Parasitism, Secondary Triggering, and Depth of Embedding
      (pp. 151-174)

      In den Dikken (2002), I present what is to my knowledge the first detailed discussion in the literature of the peculiar properties of a Dutch polarity item (PI), the word heel, cognate of English whole, illustrated in (1a).

      (1) a. ik ken die hele vent *(niet)

      I know that whole bloke not

      ‘I don’t know that bloke at all.’

      b. die (*hele) vent kent me niet

      that whole bloke knows me not

      I argue there that “polar heel” is dependent for its direct licensing on a sentential negation that does not have scope over it, as becomes evident from a...

    • 7 Light Negation and Polarity
      (pp. 175-198)

      Baker (1970a) observed that in certain linguistic environments, positive polarity items like some and already can be interpreted in the immediate scope of sentential negation, from which they would normally be prohibited. This phenomenon has since come to be known as rescuing (Szabolcsi 2004, Schwarz 2004). Ladusaw (1979) analyzed rescuing as involving a special negation morpheme homophonous with regular sentential negation, which, unlike regular negation, permits positive polarity items to appear in its immediate scope. This chapter provides empirical support for the special negation morpheme that Ladusaw posited, which we dub light negation, and thus for Ladusaw’s view of rescuing.¹...

    • 8 Marking and Interpretation of Negation: A Bidirectional Optimality Theory Approach
      (pp. 199-219)

      Languages generally have ways to express negation, that is, something that corresponds to the first-order logic connective ¬. In English, this would be not. Many languages also have nominal expressions negating the existence of individuals having a certain property, that is, something that corresponds to ¬3x. In English, this would be nobody, nothing. If we assume that knowledge of first-order logic is part of human cognition, we would seem to predict that negation and negative quantifiers behave alike across languages. From empirical research by typologists and theoretical linguists, we know that this is not the case. The key insight is...


    • 9 Cohesion in Temporal Context: Aspectual Adverbs as Dynamic Indexicals
      (pp. 221-230)

      In dynamic semantics of natural language, communicating agents are represented by information states, understood to capture the information they hold at any one time to be true. Communicating information between agents is accordingly analyzed as an algorithmic update procedure adding new information to the given information state of its recipient. The widened perspectives of this research program open up new pathways to integrate issues of information sharing, commonly considered pragmatic in nature, with the more classical concerns of natural language semantics analyzing only truth-functional aspects of meaning and interpretation. Mere consistency of an information state (= truth of all sentences...

    • 10 Tense, Adverbials, and Quantification
      (pp. 231-247)

      This chapter addresses the issue of how to account for the interaction of tense morphemes and temporal PPs (henceforth, tPPs) in a compositional manner. The main focus of the chapter is the behavior of quantified tPPs such as during every meeting, on a Sunday. This is a response to Pratt and Francez (2001) and von Stechow (2002), who are both concerned with the same issue. I will contend that past tense sentences like (1a) contain a covert adverbial (e.g., on Monday last week, in the past) that restricts the extension of the temporal noun meeting to a past interval. That...