Linguistics Colloquium 05/10/13 – Sanghoun Song and Justin Goodenkauf

Friday, May 10, 2013
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
MGH 241

Sanghoun SongResolving Discrepancies between Form and Meaning in Information Structure
Sanghoun Song
University of Washington

This talk aims to provide a fine-grained way to resolve discrepancies between forms of expressing information structure and information structural meanings. Just with other linguistic phenomena, information structural meanings do not always coincide with grammatical forms of expressing it. The mismatches between them should be taken into consideration in the study of information structure (King, 1997). The grammatical framework that this study relies on is HPSG (Pollard and Sag 1994). Within the framework, this study employs MRS (Minimal Recursion Semantics; Copestake et al. 2005) as the formalism for semantic representations.

Justin GoodenkaufJustin Goodenkauf
University of Washington

The nature of Arabic SVO/VSO agreement asymmetry has been a confounding factor in Semitic Syntax.  In Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), subjects which raise into a position above the verb will show full subject-verb agreement with the verbal morphology, in the manner of many Romance languages. However, when the subject remains in a post-verbal position, the verbal morphology shows a default agreement with only the subject’s grammatical gender appearing.
In this paper, I will explain the process by which this agreement asymmetry takes place.  I will describe the conditions in which this asymmetry appears and show that it depends heavily on the conditions imposed by MoodP and ForceP.  I will show how phi-features responsible for the subject-verb agreement in MSA are split among the functional projections which appear within the MSA CP-domain.  Depending on the clausal conditions (reliant upon MoodP and ForceP), some functional projections may be missing, thus resulting in fewer phi-features for the verbal morphology in VSO default agreement derivations.
In addition, I will also use this phi-feature split to explain the nature of MSA embedded clause subject clitics.  By modifying the C-to-T inheritance to better conform to the nature of Semitic languages, we can see how these phi-features, only present in clause types which have all functional heads, can also explain the “dual” subject which only appears in embedded indicative clauses.  Rather than contradict current assumptions on null-subject languages, this analysis can integrate with current CP-layer models to better predict null-subject language behaviors.

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