Referential and relational approaches to syntactic asymmetries

Workshop at the DGFS 2018 Meeting in Stuttgart (7th-9th March)

Invited speakers:

Workshop Description:

There are a number of well-known asymmetries between syntactic elements, for example, between subjects and objects with regard to that-trace effects (Perlmutter 1971), sub-extraction (Huang 1982), resumption (McCloskey 1990), the distribution of bare nouns (Contreras 1986), anti-agreement (Ouhalla 1993), noun incorporation (Baker 1988), adjunct control (Rosenbaum 1970) and reflexivization (Safir 1997). Other asymmetries exist between arguments and adjuncts, e.g. with regard to island sensitivity and weak islands (Huang 1982, Engdahl 1986) and reconstruction (Freidin 1986, Lebeaux 1988), as well as between indirect and direct objects with respect to scope/binding (Barss & Lasnik 1986, Larson 1990), resumption (Stewart 2001) and extraction (Bresnan & Moshi 1990, Holmberg, Sheehan & van der Wal 2016). Since the loss of the ECP, however, there is arguably no longer a unified account of subject/object or argument/adjunct asymmetries in current minimalist theory. This workshop aims to bridge this gap by exploring new approaches to both old and new asymmetries in syntax.

There are essentially two types of constraints on syntactic operations: Those that pertain to the inherent properties of the affected element (referential) and those that are sensitive to the structural configuration in which it occurs (relational). This workshop aims to explore to what extent each kind of explanation for syntactic asymmetries is possible. For example, the ECP account of classic asymmetries such as the that-trace effect is referential in nature. The same is true of constraints that refer to inherent properties of moved items such as argument vs. adjunct, D-linking (Pesetsky 1987), referentiality (Cinque 1990). In other theories, this asymmetry is also captured by referential restrictions, e.g. SUBJ- vs. COMP-lists in HPSG (Ginzburg & Sag 2000) or pivothood in LFG (Falk 2006). However, many approaches to extraction asymmetries do not rely on inherent properties of the moved item itself, but instead exploit its relation to a competing argument such as the direct object. This can be seen in recent approaches to restrictions on movement of ergative or dative-marked DPs (e.g. Aldridge 2004, Coon, Mateo Pedro & Preminger 2014, Assmann et al. 2015, Heck & Müller 2016). Furthermore, there is a growing tendency towards relational explanation in theories of Case, i.e. Dependent Case Theory (Marantz 1991, Bobaljik 2008, Baker 2015) or Lexical Decomposition Grammar (Wunderlich 1997, Kiparsky 1997, 2001, Stiebels 2000), where the case properties of a given noun are dependent on the presence of some other argument.

The goal of this workshop is to expand the theoretical and empirical base of syntactic asymmetries and revive the pursuit of a unified approach to this phenomenon in contemporary theories. On the empirical side, this workshop aims to bring together research on asymmetries from a wide range of languages to gain a better understanding of the status of asymmetries cross-linguistically. On the theoretical side, we are particularly interested in whether the analyses of such asymmetries are referential or relational in nature, i.e. whether it is necessary to refer to inherent properties of a designated item (e.g. subject or adjunct) or its relational properties. We therefore welcome submissions on any theoretical approach to new or established asymmetries, as well new empirical contributions to this domain.


Call for papers

We invite submissions on any theoretical approach to (old and new) asymmetries between syntactic objects. Some possible topics for presentation include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • New empirical perspectives on asymmetries between grammatical items (e.g. subject/object, argument/adjunct, and beyond)
  • What is responsible for syntactic asymmetries, i.e. inherent properties of an element or its relation to another element?
  • Is a phase-based approach to subject/object asymmetries possible?
  • Which other building blocks of grammar are relevant for the explanation of syntactic asymmetries?
  • Referential/relational theories of (inherent) Case and their interaction with other grammatical processes, e.g. restrictions on dative/ergative movement
  • To what extent is a unified account of syntactic asymmetries possible? Do declarative (e.g. OT, HPSG, LFG) and derivational frameworks (Minimalism, Harmonic Serialism) differ in this regard?

Submission guidelines

Submissions should conform to the following :

  • The abstract should not exceed two pages of A4 with 11pt font and 2.5cm margins
  • Maximum two submissions per author of which at most one can be single-authored

Abstracts should be submitted anonymously to EasyChair:

Deadline for submission: 15th August 2017 EXTENDED DEADLINE: 25th August 2017

Notification of acceptance: 1st September 2017

Workshop dates: 7th-9th March 2018