'Variation in P'

Università Ca' Foscari Venezia

10-11 October 2013.

Workshop on (micro-)comparative aspects of prepositional adpositions and P-elements, both across languages and across language domains:

Keynote Speaker: Peter Svenonius (University of Tromsø, CASTL)

Final Round table chaired by Guglielmo Cinque (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

Organising Committee:     Silvia Rossi            sil.rossi at unive dot it
                                      Jacopo Garzonio    garzonio at unive dot it


 Workshop description:

Over the past decades, spatial prepositions have been much studied in the generative framework. Following a long tradition of studies, going back to van Riemsdijk (1990), scholars have argued for the presence of functional structure above the lexical projection of P (preposition), on a par with the DP, v/VP, IP and CP domains. On the basis of a detailed study of the internal and external syntax of Dutch Ps, Koopman (2000) provides the first map for the internal architecture of prepositional phrases (PP), which includes hierarchically ordered projections hosting specific elements. In more recent years, works on single languages (den Dikken 2006 on Dutch; Tortora 2008 on Italian; Terzi 2010 on Modern Greek; Svenonius 2010 on English a. m. o.; cf. the contributions in Cinque & Rizzi 2010) have further enriched Koopman’s original structure, reaching astonishingly similar results. These results have been further investigated and confirmed from a cross-linguistic perspective in Cinque (2010), thus making the split-PP hypothesis part of UG.

Despite the differences in the number, type and order of projections proposed, the major contribution of all these studies is the idea that prepositions, prepositional adpositions, adverbs and particles are but the realizations of different parts of one and same underlying universal structure—the differences in their categorical status and in their external syntax depending on language-specific rules regulating movement or deletion inside and outside the PP domain. The results of these studies provide then an unprecedented starting point and a valuable formal criterion not only for proposing and evaluating more principled hypotheses on the etymological origin of P items in a language family, but also for a more unified treatment of the minimally-different distributional properties the same P element may be associated with in a micro-comparative environment. Conversely, a micro-comparative approach to PP-internal phenomena can offer a significant opportunity for both the empirical testing and the further developments of the existing formal hypotheses on the PP domain as well as on the relations between Ps and other general linguistic phenomena like Case-marking by both P and V/N on argument Ps, argument structure, clausal structure, etc. Yet, despite the considerable number of language specific and cross-linguistic studies on the inner workings of spatial adpositions, a micro-comparative approach on this area of grammar has still to be attempted. A good case in point is for instance the dialectal micro-variation of Italy, which has always offered both a precious test-bed and an invaluable source of data for general linguistic theory, but for which, a comparative study of PP-internal pehonomena seems still to be missing. We intend then bridge this gap, and invite contributions on micro-comparative aspects of prepositional adpositions and P-elements in general.

In particular, we invite contributions addressing the following questions:

  • How can (micro)-comparative data improve our theoretical knowledge of the internal architecture of prepositional adpositions and relation to clause structure?
  • Do the current theoretical proposals offer a reliable model, both descriptively and formally, for an accurate and insightful account of the internal and external morphosyntax of P elements in a group of related languages/dialects?