Course descriptions

Nominalization and compounding: a syntactic approach (week 2)
Artemis Alexiadou
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin & Leibniz- ZAS Berlin

In this course, we are going to discuss nominalization and compounding by exploring a syntactic model to their respective derivation and structure. Both areas of investigation are perfect test cases for the morphology as syntax perspective adopted within Distributed Morphology and Exoskeletal models. We will first consider criteria that help us determine the structural properties of nominalizations and compounds across languages. We will then discuss to which extent the structure of synthetic compounds resembles that of nominalizations.

Case and Gender (weeks 1-2)
Elena Anagnostopoulou
University of Crete

This seminar is advanced. It requires some background in generative syntactic theory.

This course addresses two related questions that have not been systematically investigated in syntactic theory. First, what determines the distinction between 'neutral case alignment' (no case morphology on subjects and objects) and nominative - accusative alignment (accusative morphology on objects, unmarked nominative on subjects)? Second, what determines the presence and form of accusative morphology in languages with nominative - accusative alignment? Most theories assume that there is no principled answer to these questions, and that the cross-linguistic distribution of accusative morphology is random and idiosyncratic. In the first part of the course we will provide an overview of the relevant phenomena and an overview of existing theories based on either Abstract Case or morphological/dependent case, showing that they all fail to appropriately address and provide answers to these questions.

Next we will present evidence for a novel hypothesis, the Gender Case Hypothesis, which links variation in the presence and form of accusative case morphology to variation in the gender systems of accusative languages. Based on robust synchronic and diachronic evidence from Indo-European, Dravidian, Semitic, Uralic, and Altaic we will establish four new generalizations according to which, the presence or absence of accusative case morphology, the sensitivity of accusative case to purely morphological features (the masculine-feminine-neuter distinction, sometimes systematically combined with the singular-plural distinction) or semantic features (definiteness, specificity, animacy in Differential Object Marking (DOM) languages, sometimes combined with number), and the form of these two types of accusative (i.e. whether accusative is realized on the noun or it has the form of a preposition/marker attached to the DP as a whole), ultimately depends on the type and number of gender-distinctions made by nouns. We will furthermore look at languages with marked nominative case alignment found in Africa, and we will present evidence that the Gender Case Hypothesis can be extended to them, capturing the conditions that govern the distribution of marked nominative morphology in these languages once Topic and Focus features are also taken into account.

In the third part of the seminar, we will explore the implications and importance of these discoveries for our understanding of gender and case. First, what has been called 'gender assignment' (i.e. the sorting mechanism for nouns and pronouns into two or more classes based on biological sex, animacy and/or humanness) is relevant for syntax determining case and agreement, contrary to previous literature that has taken these distinctions to be syntactically inert. Second, the appropriate way of representing cross-linguistic variation in gender distinctions is in terms of interpretable and uninterpretable gender features organized in a feature-geometric fashion along the lines of Harley & Ritter (2002), with different activation patterns of the nodes contained in this geometry in different languages. Third, we can model the presence or absence of accusative case, its sensitivity to gender, number, animacy, definiteness, specificity as well as its realization domains (on the noun or as a marker above the DP) by appealing to case as a means to license features in nominal and determiner domains, in close analogy to the licensing of person features by agreement that has been proposed in the literature on the Person Case Constraint and related restrictions. This will lead to a re-conceptualization of case, agreement and their interaction, to a re-assessment of formal operations like Agree and dependent case assignment, and to the beginnings of a novel theory of case and agreement.

In the final part of the seminar we will investigate (i) apparent and true counterexamples to the Gender-Case Hypothesis, (ii) implications of the Gender Case Hypothesis for languages with five or more genders based on noun-classes (e.g. several Bantu languages) and (iii) the factors determining overt case morphology in ergative languages.

Introduction to Semantics (weeks 1-2)
Rajesh Bhatt
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

The class will cover a set of topics in semantics (and to a more limited extent, pragmatics) that will allow participants to follow the primary literature in these areas. The topics covered will include:
  1. Modelling meaning in terms of truth conditions; different kinds of meaning
  2. Definite descriptions, Modification
  3. Interpreting movement; relative clauses; free relatives
  4. Quantifiers
  5. Variable binding; strict and sloppy identity
  6. Inverse Scope and Quantifiers in object position
  7. Presuppositions and Asserted Content; only and even; Expressive Content
  8. Negative Polarity and Exhaustification

Introduction to Morphology (weeks 1-2)
Eulàlia Bonet
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

In this course we will review some fundamental issues in Morphological Theory, starting with the arguments for and against a morphology based on morphemes, through the discussion of different types of phenomena, and the place of morphology in grammar. We will also consider different kinds of relations between morphemes and morphs or exponents, which include allomorphy and portmanteaux forms, and some debated issues, like the role of paradigms and the morpheme.

Language universals across spoken and signed modalities (week 2)
Carlo Cecchetto
CNRS-Paris 8 & University of Milan-Bicocca

Universal constraints holding across languages in the acoustic and in the visuospatial modalities do exist, although a fully satisfactory formulation needs to take into account findings emerging from the booming field of sign language linguistics.

More specifically, in this class I will discuss some works showing that: (i) clauses in sign languages have a hierarchical and recursive organization, (ii) general constraints on syntactic movement (i.e. the fact that the landing site must c-command the base position) are valid for language across modalities, (iii) ellipsis is governed by similar formal and interpretative constraints in spoken and sign languages and (iv) Principle C of Binding Theory and Vehicle Change are valid in the sign languages that have been studied up to now.

This notwithstanding, sign languages require refinements of analytical categories initially developed for spoken languages and there are some aspects of sign language grammar that seem to resist an analysis based on traditional linguistic categories. Classifier predicate construction and role shift are two examples that we will look at. These challenges do not necessarily speak against universalist approaches. It might well be that the huge bias towards spoken languages has limited the explanatory power of the linguist's toolkit and that the new focus on sign language may lead to significant refinements, which ultimately will allow a better understanding of the mechanisms of universal grammar across modalities.

Typology of intonational systems
Caroline Féry

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Languages differ greatly as to how they use tones and melodies in grammar. A useful categorization makes a distinction between lexical tones, pitch accents, phrasal tones and boundary tones. Some languages have all of them, and some only part of them, and in different constellations. Tones are assigned to (higher-level) prosodic domains that are formed through the mediation of syntax, and semantics can also play a role on tonal patterns. In this intermediate level course, we will elaborate a typology of intonation. Which kind of tones are to be distinguished, which languages, or types of languages use which tones? We will also see that if tones are assigned to prosodic domains of different sizes, they build melodic patterns in a compositional way. Starting at the level of the prosodic word, we will go through the higher-level prosodic domains, and show how languages differ as to which tones they use in each domain. In this course, we will use a tone-sequence model (Pierrehumbert 1980) of intonation.

Modals and Conditionals (week 1)
Kai von Fintel
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This intermediate level course introduces the semantics of modals and conditionals and provides a guide to current research in the area.

Class 1: the possible worlds semantics for modals.
Class 2: the possible worlds semantics for conditionals.
Class 3: the interaction of modals and conditionals and the restrictor theory.
Class 4: current work.

Inductive learning of phonology (week 1)
Gillian Gallagher
New York University

In this course, we'll look at how phonological structure may be learned from a structured, statistical analysis of the input data, and how such models inform hypotheses about the content of universal grammar. Inductive models of sound categories, phonotactics and alternations will be considered. Particular focus will be placed on comparing the generalizations and representations that result from inductive learning procedures to more traditional rule- and constraint-based analysis of core phonological phenomena.

Introduction to Syntax (weeks 1-2)
Sabine Iatridou
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this class, we will discuss some of the main questions and some of the discoveries of the field of syntax. We will explore the hierarchical organization of language and look at a number of syntactic phenomena that are common in completely unrelated languages and try to understand them. We will also look at differences among languages and try to understand what some possible ways are in which languages can differ.

The 'textbook' we will be following is the following MIT OCW course

This class is introductory and will be taught at whatever level proves appropriate for the registered participants.

Syntactic Approaches to Interrogatives in Sign Languages (week 1)
Meltem Kelepir
Boğaziçi University

A brief overview of the syntactic properties of polar and content interrogatives in sign languages with emphasis on those properties that make them appear different from the better-studied spoken languages. Introduction to the issues that these properties have raised for generative syntactic theories, to different syntactic approaches and to the implications of these issues for the typology of interrogatives. Time permitting, the issues that will be discussed include the direction of wh-movement, the position of the specifier of CP, the interaction of information structure with the distribution of the wh-words in content interrogatives, and the notion 'wh-in-situ'.

Architecture of the grammar and the syntax-semantics interface (weeks 1-2)
Winfried Lechner
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

The course addresses the question how choices regarding the ontology of the object language affect the architecture of the grammar. In particular, we will explore consequences of admitting object language variables of different types (situations/events, generalized quantifiers) for modelling the mapping between syntax and semantics. Topics to be discussed include opacity, scope, the Deductive System, head movement, reflexivization strategies and (phrasal) comparatives.

Phonology, and its interface with Syntax, Morphology and Phonetics (weeks 1-2)
Joan Mascaro
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

We will examine several grammatical processes that shed light on the nature of the phonological component and its interface with other components: 1) we will see how allomorphic choice can be determined by lexical subcategorization, but also, in some cases, by phonological optimization (external allomorphy); 2) we will examine cases that show how phonetic factors can explain the typology of phonological alternations; 3) finally, we will address the question of how syntactic structure influences the application of phonological processes by partially determining the organization of phonological material into prosodic constituents.

Agreement Beyond Phi (week 1)
Shigeru Miyagawa
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Syntax: Agreement Beyond Phi (week 1)
I will look at certain syntactic phenomena that are best studied by combining the traditional phi-feature agreement with the discourse features of topic and focus. Issues we will take up include:
This study is based on a recent Linguistic Inquiry Monograph, Agreement Beyond Phi (2017).

Language and animal communication in evolution (week 2)
Shigeru Miyagawa
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We will look at issues surrounding the timing of the emergence of human language, both 'I language' and its externalization. Evidence points to around 100,000 years ago as a crucial time when H. sapiens underwent a fundamental shift in the way they processed information. This appears to be the time when language externalization occurred. The evidence for this comes from archeological artifacts, genomic and DNA studies, and particularly properties of some languages such as that of the Khoisan. We will also consider the possibility that parts of I-language and functions needed for externalization may have existed earlier than 100,000 years ago, possibly as early as 1 million years ago. We will do this through the recent studies of Neanderthals, and also some striking recent findings about the early human cave paintings.

Comparison: Formal and experimental perspectives (weeks 1-2)
Roumi Pancheva
University of Southern California

There has been a lasting interest in comparatives and superlatives, partly because languages employ a great variety of expressions of comparison that need to map to consistent meanings, but also because the grammar of comparison involves the intricate interplay of key syntax-semantics interface phenomena such as quantification, wh-movement, ellipsis resolution, focus interpretation, measurement. This seminar examines classical and recent work on the syntax and semantics of comparatives and superlatives, as well as experimental studies that engage the theoretical issues.

Introduction to Phonology (weeks 1-2)
Douglas Pullleyblank
University of British Columbia

The goal of this course is to provide a foundation in current phonological theory and analysis. The course will survey some of the core areas of theory and analysis, paying attention to "big-picture" conceptual/theoretical claims and assumptions (and their implications) as well as to more detailed issues of formal implementation and analysis of specific types of phenomena (e.g. processes of certain kinds). Students will be made familiar with works of particular significance, and will receive practice in applying formal-analytical methods and theoretical concepts to phonological data, constructing an argument, and writing up an analysis.

Introduction to Sign Language Linguistics (weeks 1-2)
Josep Quer
ICREA-Universitat Pompeu Fabra

This course aims at introducing the student into some of the core issues in Sign Language Linguistics, so that s/he is able to evaluate the results of this research field for the study of the human faculty of language. After a general introduction to sociohistorical aspects of this type of natural languages, we will tackle several central topics in the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of sign languages. We will analyze not only the similarities with spoken languages but also the specific differences deriving from the visual-gestural modality that can shed light on certain aspects of linguistic theorizing. No previous knowledge about sign languages is required.

Ideology and identity in the revival of spoken Hebrew (week 1)
Ivy Sichel
University of California Santa Cruz

The revival of Spoken Hebrew took place in Palestine in the early 20th century, and is often seen as a historically unique example of successful language revival. In this seminar we explore the ways in which Hebrew is also exemplary, of the ways in which our languages speak through us. What is special about Hebrew is that key properties of the revival process its rapidity and recency - make it possible to track mechanisms by which broader ideologies (of nation, ancestry, class, gender, etc.) come to be embedded in the languages we speak. We will focus on East-West diasporic dynamics in the negotiation of accent for the new spoken Hebrew, on the multi-origins of the emergent syntax, and on the shifting values of authenticity and sincerity in the construction of the new native-born speech style."

Topics in Aspect (weeks 1-2)
Rajesh Bhatt1, Kai von Fintel2, Sabine Iatridou2, Roumi Pancheva3, Tim Stowell4
1University of Massachusetts at Amherst
2Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3University of Southern California
4University of California, Los Angeles

The class is co-taught by a number of instructors whose individual research has focused on several aspects of what is called "Aspect". The course will be structured in the following sequence:

Polarity-sensitivity: the landscape of NPIs and PPIs (week 2)
Hedde Zeijlstra
Universität Göttingen

Various elements are sensitive to the polarity (negative or positive) of the clause they appear in. E.g., 'ever' in (1) may only appear in sentences that in one way or the other count as negative; 'somewhat' in (2) may only appear in sentences that in one way or the other count as positive:
In this course we will address the following questions:
After this course, students will be familiar with existing theories of NPI- and PPI-hood and on the interaction between logical and grammatical properties of sentences, and know more about the interface between syntax, semantics and pragmatics.