Long distance dependencies and the structure of embedded clauses in African languages
(Syntax and Semantics of African Languages – SASAL 1, DGfS 2022)

Workshop Description:

Over the past three decades, formal linguistics has been increasingly devoted to carrying out research into hitherto understudied and undocumented languages. The wealth of phenomena uncovered has not only tremendously enriched linguistic discussions; the empirical findings have also been used as testing grounds for theoretical assumptions that were almost exclusively based on mostly European languages standardly investigated in the last century – often with surprising consequences for linguistic hypothesis building.

This hybrid workshop (in presence and online) is aimed at continuing this line of research. We specifically invite contributions investigating the structure and interpretation of embedded sentences and long-distance dependencies in African languages. Such structures are of high theoretical interest as they exhibit properties that may shed light on outstanding theoretical questions and problems. Concerning the structure of embedded clauses first, well-known concepts such as wh-selection, the nature of the embedding complementizer, and even the strategy of complementation itself may be fundamentally different from what is found in Indoeuropean languages. For instance, many African languages do not embed wh-complements under wh-selecting verbs but use a relative clause strategy instead (Zimmermann, 2018); see (1) from Eton (Bantu) for illustration (Haniel Enoka, p.c.).

Concerning long distance dependencies, African languages often exhibit morphological or phonological surface reflexes of syntactic dependencies beyond simple reordering, see, for instance, Amaechi (2020). These can serve to prove the presence or absence of syntactic movement in cases of doubt (e.g., topic movement, short subject movement, movement out of islands, etc.). In addition, resumption in main and embedded clauses is widespread across different African languages, giving rise to a number of interesting and not well-understood asymmetries between different types of extractions.

With this workshop, we will continue our commitment to the diversification of African linguistics. We especially invite researchers from the African continent to participate in this workshop with the determined aim to make African languages and linguists more visible on the international stage. We are convinced that an increased engagement for African language research will not only broaden our own theoretical horizons, but that it will also contribute to the development and stabilization of linguistic departments and research institutes in Africa.

Amaechi, Mary. (2020). A′-movement dependencies and their reflexes in Igbo. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Potsdam.
Zimmermann, Malte. (2018). Embedded questions and concealed relative questions in Hausa and Akan. In E. Bogal-Allbritten & E. Coppock,
Proceedings of TripleA 4: Fieldwork Perspectives on the Semantics of African, Asian and Austronesian Languages, pp. 1–16. Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen.

Invited Speakers:

Abigail Anne Bimpeh (ZAS, Berlin)

Vicki Carstens (University of Connecticut)

Alassane Kiemtoré (Universität Stuttgart)


Prof. Dr. Katharina Hartmann (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)

Prof. Dr. Malte Zimmermann (Universität Potsdam)

Important Deadlines:

Deadline for abstract submission: September 08, 2021

Notification: September 20, 2021

Workshop: February 23-25, 2022 in Tübingen as part of the DGfS 2022