Schedule and readings

Luka Crnič, Negative polarity items: logic, probability and grammar (14.4., 21.4., 28.4.)

posted Apr 15, 2013, 12:21 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Apr 15, 2013, 12:22 AM ]

Meetings: 14.4., 21.4., 28.4., always 11 AM-2 PM, Room 401, Webb building

Twenty years since Kadmon and Landman’s (1993) groundbreaking study of NPIs, their insights as well as those of Fauconnier and Ladusaw are still largely prevailing: first, the distribution of NPIs reflects an interaction of logic and grammar and, second, this interaction can be captured by relating NPIs to appropriate information maximization mechanisms (see also Krifka 1995, Lahiri 1998, Chierchia 2010). However, several issues continue to plague our understanding of NPIs, e.g., the distribution of NPIs in non-monotone and certain modal environments as well as the variation of NPIs with respect to their distribution. In this course, I will tackle these issues by limning and comparing different (sets of) assumptions that may resolve these issues. In particular, I will ad- vance an approach to NPIs that regards them as sensitive to probabilistic considerations, i.e., I will argue that the distribution of NPIs directly reflects an interaction of probability theory and gram- mar and only indirectly that of logic and grammar (cf. Heim 1984, Lahiri 1998 for entertaining but ultimately rejecting similar apporaches). Our exploration of NPIs will be suffused by discusion of even and other scalar particles, whose distribution to great extent mirrors that of NPIs.

Roni Katzir and Ezer Rasin, An evaluation metric for Optimality Theory (21/5)

posted Apr 11, 2013, 12:29 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Apr 11, 2013, 12:31 AM ]

Meeting will take place from 16:30-18 at LLCC (HUJI). Abstract and other details to be added.

Summer Workshop

posted Jun 28, 2012, 9:59 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Jul 4, 2012, 2:14 AM ]

Location: Tel Aviv University, Webb 001
Time and date: 9AM - 5.45PM, July 9th, 2012



Galit Wiedmann-Sassoon (HUJI)
Rethinking of for-phrases

Uli Sauerland (with Kazuko Yatsushiro) (ZAS, Berlin)
Question Acts have a Complex Syntactic Structure

Coffee Break

Nora Boneh (with Léa Nash, Paris 8/CNRS) (HUJI)
On the theme and goal hierarchy

Danny Fox (HUJI/MIT)
Exhaustification, uniqueness and pair-list readings


Alex Grosu (TAU) 
An additional look at Japanese IHRCs: Insufficiently understood or explored aspects

Coffee Break

Yael Greenberg and Keren Khrizman (BIU)
Strengthening Across Domains: The case of the Hebrew Focus and Polarity Sensitive bixlal

Aldo Sevi (with Nirit Kadmon) (TAU)
Rethinking Focus

Hadas Kotek, What Hebrew multiple questions can teach us about interrogative probing, and how (15/01)

posted Jan 11, 2012, 5:27 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Jul 3, 2012, 3:13 PM ]

(The meeting will take place at 2:30 PM in Rosenberg 211.)

The study of wh-movement has distinguished among several types of wh-fronting languages that permit distinct patterns of overt and covert movement, instantiated for example by the Slavic languages, English and German. This talk extends the cross-linguistic typology of multiple questions by arguing that Hebrew instantiates a new kind of wh-fronting language, unlike any that are presently discussed in the literature. I will show that Hebrew distinguishes between two kinds of wh-phrases: those that are headed by a wh-word (wh-headed phrases: what, who, [DP which X], where, how ...) and those that contain a wh-word but are headed by some other element (wh-containing phrases: [NP N of wh], [PP P wh]).

The evidence for the existence of two kinds of wh-phrases will come from three sources: superiority, intervention effects and possible readings of the questions. We observe the special status of wh-headed phrases when one occurs structurally lower in a question than a wh-containing phrase. In that case, the wh-headed phrase can be targeted by Agree/Attract operations that ignore the presence of wh- containing phrases in the same structure.

I develop an account of the sensitivity of interrogative probing operations to the head of the wh-phrase within Q-particle theory. I propose that the Hebrew Q has an EPP feature which can trigger head- movement of wh to Q and that a wh-probe exists alongside the more familiar Q-probe, and I show how these two modest modifications to the theory can account for the intricate dataset that emerges from the talk, which is otherwise left unexplained 

Omer Preminger, Against "crashes": Evidence from Kichean and Zulu (25.12.)

posted Dec 18, 2011, 10:05 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Dec 18, 2011, 10:06 AM ]

(The meeting takes place at 11am in Jerusalem at Mt. Scopus campus. Room TBA)

Over the last few decades of linguistic research, syntactic theory has fluctuated -- sometimes without taking too much notice -- between theories that generate grammatical sentences by positively specifying the possible paths of well-formed derivations, and theories that generate well-formed and ill-formed structures alike, filtering out the latter through a collection of late-applying constraints (for an early example, see Perlmutter 1968). And of course, at any given point in time, the theory has often involved some mixture of both approaches.

In most cases, the battle between these two approaches has been waged on conceptual grounds (see the "Global Rules" debate of Lakoff 1970, 1972 and C. L. Baker & Brame 1972; and more recently, Frampton & Gutmann 2002, 2006). In this talk, I present a different kind of argument, empirical in nature, against at least one kind of late-filtration approach -- namely, the attempt to derive the obligatory nature of agreement from constraints on the derivational state of phi-features themselves (as in Chomsky's 2000, 2001 "uninterpretability" approach). The argument is based on the existence of attempted-but-failed agreement in the Agent-Focus construction of Kichean (Mayan), in utterances that are nonetheless perfectly grammatical.

The obligatoriness of phi-agreement, I propose, is better captured in terms of an operation whose invocation is always triggered, but whose successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar. Furthermore, I argue that coming to terms with the existence of attempted-but-failed agreement in grammatical utterances can shed light on another set of facts, involving systematic asymmetries between person agreement and number/gender agreement (Nevins 2011, M. C. Baker 2008, 2011).

The argument is independently supported by evidence from Zulu (Halpert, to appear), where one finds a system with the same formal properties, but where the substantive categories participating in the system are not 1st/2nd/3rd-person and singular/plural, but rather so-called "conjoint/disjoint" and augmented vs. augment-less nominals.


- Baker, C. L. & Michael K. Brame. 1972. Global rules: A rejoinder. Language 48(1). 51–75.
Baker, Mark C. 2008. The syntax of agreement and concord. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Baker, Mark C. 2011. When agreement is for number and gender but not person. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29(4). 875–915. doi:10.1007/s11049-011-9147-z.
- Chomsky, Noam. 2000. Minimalist inquiries: The framework. In Roger Martin, David Michaels & Juan Uriagereka (eds.), Step by step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik, 89–155. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Frampton, John & Sam Gutmann. 2002. Crash-proof syntax. In Samuel David Epstein & T. Daniel Seely (eds.), Derivation and explanation in the Minimalist Program, 90–105. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
- Frampton, John & Sam Gutmann. 2006. How sentences grow in the mind: Agreement and selection in efficient minimalist syntax. In Cedric Boeckx (ed.), Agreement systems, 121–157. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
- Halpert, Claire. to appear. Structural case and the nature of vP in Zulu. In Proceedings of the 42nd conference of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 42), Amherst, MA: GLSA.
- Lakoff, George. 1970. Global rules. Language 46(3). 627–639.
- Lakoff, George. 1972. The arbitary basis of transformational grammar. Language 42(1). 76–87.
- Nevins, Andrew Ira. 2011. Multiple agree with clitics: Person complementarity vs. omnivorous number. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29(4). 939–971.
- Perlmutter, David M. 1968/1971. Deep and surface structure constraints in syntax. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
- Preminger, Omer. 2011a. Agreement as a fallible operation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Doctoral dissertation.
- Preminger, Omer. 2011. Asymmetries between person and number in syntax: A commentary on Baker’s SCOPA. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29(4). 917–937.

Ivy Sichel on Structure, Competition and the Interpretation of Resumptive Pronouns (18/12)

posted Dec 15, 2011, 4:43 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Dec 15, 2011, 4:44 AM ]

Recent studies of resumption have shown that cross-linguistically, resumptive pronouns in non-island contexts sometimes allow reconstruction and sometimes do not. The talk addresses the factors which determine this. I argue that one factor is the structure in which the pronoun occurs (raising vs. head-external relative clause). The second factor decides which structure the pronoun will inhabit, and this has to do with the optional/obligatory nature of the pronoun and the existence of alternatives. I will present two cases which seem to exhibit this sort of competition, one in Hebrew and one in Jordanian Arabic. I will try to show that despite some interesting differences, they follow from the same Economy principle which says that the tail of a movement chain should have as little structure as possible. 

Danny Fox on relevance and presupposition projection (27/11, 4/12)

posted Nov 22, 2011, 3:40 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Dec 1, 2011, 4:32 AM ]

(The meeting on 27/11 starts at 1PM on TAU campus, Rosenberg 211. The meeting on 4/12 startys at 1PM on HUJI campus, Humanities 2601.)

There will be two goals to my presentation. The first is to present new evidence that different quantifiers project presuppositions differently (see Chemla 2008). More specifically, focusing on projection from the nuclear scope of a quantifier, I will try to argue in favor of the pattern of projection predicted by certain trivalent systems (Strong Kleene or Supervaluation). These systems have been deemed inappropriate given the prevalence of left right asymmetries in projection. However, such asymmetries can be introduced to the relevant trivalent systems, as noted by Peters (1979) and Beaver and Krahmer (2001), and can receive a general characterization, as pointed out in George (2008, 2010) (see also Beaver and Geurts 2010, Fox 2008, Schlenker 2009.) I will argue that the predictions are appropriate in conjunction with the existence of presupposition strengthening (as in the “proviso problem”) and local accommodation.

The second goal is to develop, and argue in favor of, a proposal I made in Fox (2008), namely that the trivalent predictions should be derived in a classical bivalent system with the aid of a modified bridging principle – a modification of the principle suggested in Stalnaker (1978) to connect formal presuppositions to pragmatic conditions of language use. As is clear from Fox (2008), both parts rely heavily on the proposal of Schlenker (2008), and in particular on the idea that the theory of presupposition projection should be divided into two components: (a) a conceptually simple theory of projection which has no left right asymmetry and (b) a principle that incrementalizes this theory of projection thus introducing asymmetry.

Readings: Fox (2008), Charlow (2009)

Luka Crnič on polarity and scalarity (20/11)

posted Nov 3, 2011, 4:39 AM by Luka Crnic   [ updated Dec 13, 2011, 5:36 AM ]

The first meeting of the group will take place at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University (see Locations). It will be on Sunday, November 13th, at 14:30. After we deal with administrative minutia, Luka Crnič will discuss some issues in polarity.

The readings for the meeting are Krifka's (1995) and Lahiri's (1998) papers (see attachments below). The discussion will zoom in on some consequences of an assumption made in both papers: the distribution of certain polarity items is governed by even. If time permits, we will also touch on some recent work by Gennaro Chierchia in this domain.

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