Syntax and Semantics

Deal colloquium

September 15, 2022

The 2022-2023 colloquium series begins on Monday, September 19, with a talk by our very own Amy Rose Deal, taking place in Dwinelle 370 and synchronously via Zoom (passcode: lxcolloq) from 3:10-5pm. Her talk is entitled "On ditransitive person restrictions in primary object languages," and the abstract is as follows:

When a ditransitive is expressed with clitic pronouns or agreement for both objects, oftentimes restrictions are in place on the relative person of the two objects. A typical pattern is that the theme object must be 3rd person. This pattern has been the subject of intensive study by syntacticians over the last two decades. In this talk I investigate the implications of this work for primary object languages, where the "object markers" controlled by the patient in a monotransitive are controlled by the goal/recipient in a ditransitive. Various prominent syntactic analyses of person restrictions, when put together with commonly assumed ideas about the syntax of primary object languages, lead to the prediction that person restrictions should be absent in ditransitives in languages of this type. This prediction is wrong: in fact, it has proven hard to find a primary object language that LACKS a person restriction in ditransitives. I critically review two lines of analysis that have been pursued regarding these person restrictions, and propose a new approach grounded in my recent work on the person-case constraint (Interaction, Satisfaction, and the PCC).

Bossi presents at SuB 27

August 17, 2022

Sinn und Bedeutung 27 is taking place in Prague on September 14-16. Congrats to Madeline Bossi, who will be presenting a talk entitled "Higher order ignorance in Kipsigis epistemic indefinites"!

Phonologically determined nominal concord as post-syntactic: Evidence from Guébie

Hannah Sande

This paper brings novel data to bear on whether nominal concord relationships are formed in the narrow syntax or post-syntactically. In Guébie, a Kru language spoken in Côte d’Ivoire, nominal concord marking on non-human pronouns and adjectives is determined not by syntactic or semantic features of the concord-triggering noun, but by the phonological form of the noun. Specifically, concord marking on pronouns and adjectives surfaces as a vowel with the same backness features as the vowels of the head noun. Assuming that syntax is phonology-free (Pullum & Zwicky 1986, 1988), the fact...

Line Mikkelsen

Professor of Linguistics

PhD, UC Santa Cruz

Syntax, semantics, morphology, Danish and other Germanic languages, Karuk and other languages of California, philosophy of language

Peter Jenks

Associate Professor of Linguistics

PhD, Harvard

Syntax, semantics, phonology, fieldwork; Moro and other Niger-Congo languages; Thai, Mandarin, and other East and Southeast Asian languages

Amy Rose Deal

Associate Professor of Linguistics

PhD, UMass Amherst

Syntax, semantics, fieldwork, Nez Perce

Yiddish Linguistics

Isaac L. Bleaman

Linguistic studies of Yiddish span several centuries and incorporate a wide range of research questions and methodologies, from philological analyses of Old Yiddish texts to generative approaches to particular grammatical constructions. The historical development of the language has undoubtedly been, and continues to be, the most hotly debated research topic in Yiddish linguistics. However, other productive areas of inquiry have included structural analysis (e.g., syntax, semantics, and phonology), dialectology and other fields of sociolinguistics (e.g., language contact and interspeaker...

Implicit Standardization in a Minority Language Community: Real-Time Syntactic Change among Hasidic Yiddish Writers

Isaac L. Bleaman

The recent turn to "big data" from social media corpora has enabled sociolinguists to investigate patterns of language variation and change at unprecedented scales. However, research in this paradigm has been slow to address variable phenomena in minority languages, where data scarcity and the absence of computational tools (e.g., taggers, parsers) often present significant barriers to entry. This article analyzes socio-syntactic variation in one minority language variety, Hasidic Yiddish, focusing on a variable for which tokens can be identified in raw text using purely morphological...

Minority language maintenance and the production-prescription interface: Number agreement in New York Yiddish

Isaac L. Bleaman

Standardization is a focus of language maintenance efforts in many, but not all, minority language communities. What is the impact of this choice on interspeaker variation in maintained languages? This study investigates variable number agreement in Yiddish, a minority language spoken by two distinct communities in the New York area: (1) Hasidic Jews, who maintain the language without standardization, and (2) Yiddishists, who are overtly committed to maintaining a "correct" Yiddish. An analysis of data from 40 sociolinguistic interviews shows that Yiddishists have significantly higher...