Slavic Linguistics Colloquium

(Bi-)weekly linguistic talks on zoom. Please send a mail to berit.gehrke AT hu-berlin.de if you want to be on the mailing list (which is how the zoom-link is distributed) and/or if you have suggestions for speakers to invite (or want to present something).


Upcoming talks

[Times: CET]

TBD

Past talk

July 6, 2022: Irina Burukina (ELTE/ELKH, Budapest): On the syntax of the control verbs ‘help’ and ‘hinder’ in Russian: Ditransitives with a silent Theme

I discuss sentences with the verbs pomoč' ‘help’ and pomešat’ ‘hinder’ in Russian and demonstrate that, although they are usually listed among object control predicates, these verbs appear in a wide range of constructions that cannot be accounted for by a straightforward control analysis. I argue that pomoč' and pomešat’ are, in essence, ditransitive, similarly to ‘give’ or ‘send’: they require a Patient (a person or a situation that will be helped/hindered) and a Theme headed by a silent noun HELP/HINDRANCE. The Patient and the Theme are projected by the low applicative head that denotes the relation “to-the-possession”, as per Pylkkänen (2008). A saturated clausal dependent, when present, should be analysed as a Patient. A property-type clausal dependent is merged as a modifier within the Theme NP. The approach is extended to control collocations such as ‘give a chance’ and further offers an opportunity to develop a uniform structural representation for various control verbs with a dative dependent that will reduce the differences between them to particular properties of the Theme.

June 24 2022: Jiří Milička (Prague): Measuring lexical diversity: The influence of lemmatization

There is no clear choice how lexical diversity should be measured – there are dozens of metrics and several methods of text-length normalization. While these options are vastly discussed in literature, little is known about the influence of lemmatization. As recent studies suggest that the lexical diversity indices of lemmatized texts better represent some intuitive subjective notion of lexical diversity (Jarvis – Hazhangmoto, 2021), we aim to explore the topic in both English (representing typologically analytical languages) and Czech (representing morphologically rich Slavic languages).

June 15, 2022: Nerea Madariaga Pisano (UPV/EHU, Vitoria-Gasteiz): Parameters and diachrony: Why pro-drop in Brazilian Portuguese and Russian became similar but not identical

In this work, I argue in favor of a parametric view on pro-drop, by showing that the differences between languages that correspond to a single parametric setting can be accounted for independently. More specifically, I explore a way to account for the differences between Partial Null Subject (PNS) languages, which do not display identical properties. I show that the contingent nature of diachronic change is one of the reasons for the slight differences between PNS languages. Modern Russian (MR) and Brazilian Portuguese (BP) are two PNS languages that developed from Consistent Null Subject antecessors (Old Russian and Early Brazilian = European Portuguese) independently from each other. I account for the change in pro-drop experienced by these two languages, analyzing the properties usually related to the null subject parameter (verbal inflection, clitics, null objects, embedded null subjects, and arbitrary null subjects), and show that the final parametric setting in both MR and BP was almost identical, with small differences that can be attributed to the different initial conditions for the change.

June 3, 2022: Marija Brašić (Nova Gorica): Distributed Agreement Account for Gender Resolution in Sandwiched Coordination: Evidence from Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian

Abstract

May 25, 2022: Maria Martynova, Yulia Zuban, Luka Szucsich & Natalia Gagarina (HU Berlin / Stuttgart / ZAS): OV/VO placement in heritage Russian in Germany and the U.S.: Internal Change vs. Transfer

Abstract

May 13, 2022: Nina Adam (Potsdam): How to optimally place your clitics — Czech clitic syntax in a constraint-based model

This talk deals with a subtype of second-position phenoma: the placement of auxiliary and pronominal clitics in Czech. I propose that clitics behave unlike other auxiliaries and pronouns because they belong to a distinct class. Their surface position is conditioned by a clitic-specific requirement to appear as close to TP’s left edge as possible. I will also argue that a second constraint on clitic positioning results from a general ban on information-structurally weak elements from the left CP edge. Combined with an OT version of phase impenetrability, this captures the clitic climbing patterns found in Czech.The fact that conflicting constraints guide clitic placement makes it unnecessary to posit a specific syntactic position for clitics, and thereby accommodates deviations from the second-position pattern without any additional assumptions.

April 22, 2022: Justyna Kosecka (Warsaw): Exceptionality in Kashubian Velar Palatalization

The distribution of Kashubian velar stops is almost completely exceptionalness. They are disallowed before the front vowels /i/ and /ɛ/. Instead, in a vast majority of cases soft palato-alveolar affricates [ʧj ʤj] appear in these contexts, as in words ksążk-a (nom.sg.) – ksążcz-i (nom.pl., gen.sg., acc.pl) ‘book’ or dôk-a – dôcz-i ‘fog’. The alternations are examples of the phonological process of Velar Palatalization, spreading the feature [−back] from the front vowel onto the preceding velar segment. However, the adjectival paradigms reveal an intriguing puzzle. The assumed trigger of Velar Palatalization, front vowel /i/ is only front when preceded by underlyingly soft palato-alveolars, as in snôż-i ‘beautiful’ or palato-alveolars derived via Velar Palatalization, as in drodż-i ‘expensive’. Elsewhere, i.e. after hard coronals, labials, and the velar fricative, the suffix-initial vowel appears as the central vowel /ɨ/, as in words bògat-i ‘rich’, głëp-y ‘stupid’ or głëch-y ‘deaf’. It thus follows that the front suffix vowel /i/ stands only after a soft-palato alveolar segment that is either underlying or will have been derived due to the vowel’s quality. The aim of this presentation is to present possible solutions to the puzzle of self-destructive feeding of Velar Palatalization by analysing the underlying representations of the adjectival suffixes, postulating exceptions to the rule of Velar Palatalization, and shortly discussing alternative approaches.

April 13, 2022: Vesela Simeonova (Graz): A variable modal in questions

The force of epistemic futures in Slavic, Balkan, and Romance languages has been debated: some propose it is variable (Condoravdi, 2003; Rivero, 2014; Rivero and Simeonova, 2014; Rivero and Sheppard, 2016), others that it is fixed and strong (Fălăuş, 2014; Fălăuş & Laca, 2014; Giannakidou and Mari, 2018; Mihoc et al., 2019). This talk shows how interrogative environments can inform the epistemic future's force, capitalizing on the special properties of standard epistemic modals in questions giving rise to so-called 'reflective' questions (Giannakidou & Mari 2019). The empirical focus is on Bulgarian. The results reject a strong force hypothesis and provide novel support for the variable force hypothesis. The formal account is based on Yanovich (2016) on Old English *motan, from which an intriguing explanation of the relationship between futurity and epistemicity can be gleaned.

March 11, 2022: Daria Seres (HU Berlin/UAB): Speakers' choice of nominal forms in Russian as compared to Catalan - An experimental investigation

Abstract

February 18, 2022: Anna Bondaruk & Anna Prażmowska (Lublin): Dative possessor with unaccusative verbs in Polish

This paper examines the syntax of dative possessors found with existential unaccusative verbs in Polish expressing addition, lack, loss, sufficiency, etc., called lack-type verbs here. Lack-type verbs in Polish do not represent dyadic unaccusatives, because the dative possessor they contain behaves like an external argument in that it can bind subject-oriented anaphors. The dative possessor is thus different from items introduced in the specifier of either a high or a low ApplP in Polish, which can never serve as anaphor binders. The unaccusativity of lack-type verbs and the external argument status of the dative possessor are reconciled by claiming that the dative possessor is merged in the specifier of VoiceP, the position typical of external arguments, which is nonetheless non-thematic (viz. expletive). Adopting Myler’s (2016, 2018) approach to predicative possession, we argue that the possessor role of the dative DP does not come from the lack-type verb itself, but is mediated by the possessed DP, denoting the relation between the possessor and the possessee. The dative, nonetheless, does not merge within the DP, but it saturates the possessor theta role via Delayed Gratification, once the DP is merged in the specifier of expletive VoiceP. Consequently, lack-type verbs in Polish have a structure similar to reflexive anticausatives, which also host expletive Voice. The dative possessor, in turn, resembles dative experiencers which likewise function as external arguments in Polish.

February 9, 2022: Jelena Stojković (Leipzig): CV-alternations in Polish locatives reveal complex representations

The locative/vocative marker for masculine and neuter nouns has two realisations in Standard Polish. The morpheme consists of a single vowel, which surfaces as [e] if the final consonant is coronal, causing it to turn to prepalatal, but surfaces as [u] after a velar or an underlying palatal. This allomorphy is specific to locative marking (Czaplicki 2013) and was therefore earlier referred to as an argument for co-occurence constraints such as *[+back][-back] / PAL, joined with cyclic analyses (Rubach 1984, 2003) and morpheme-specific phonological grammars, with different kinds of lexical indexation (Łubowicz 2003, 2016; Gussmann 2007). This talk offers an alternative analysis in Autosegmental Coloured Containment (van Oostendorp 2006, Trommer and Zimmermann 2014, Zimmermann 2017, Zaleska 2018, Paschen 2018), a version of OT which lifts up the restrictions on underlying representations. By adopting these views and assuming that there is a single morph for LOC.M/N.SG, specified as front and back simultaneously, palatalisation becomes a realisation of frontness, velarisation and dissimilation -- realisations of backness. The approach straightforwardly extends to the allomorphy of infinitive suffix -ić/-yć. This way the need for lexical indexation, special co-occurence constraints and operations like dissimilation and palatalisation is removed from the UG. From the empirical point of view, the crucial advantage is in predicting the CV-interaction based on the underlying representation: morphemes with a complex UR induce a change on the stem because they are over- or underspecified, while morphemes with a simple UR (fully specified, e.g. for INS.SG -em) do not because their well-formedness is underlying.

January 28, 2022: Florian Wandl (Zürich): Reconstructing and visualizing relative chronology in linguistics

Abstract

January 19, 2022: Dagmara Grabska & Klaus Abels (UCL): The direct object is always low: the structure of ditransitive VPs in Polish

In this talk we propose a structural analysis of Polish ditransitive VPs according to which the direct object (DO) is generated lower than the indirect object (IO) regardless of the linear order between the two arguments and stays low. Using evidence from focus projection, predicate clefts and idioms, we support the view that IO-DO is the neutral order of Polish ditransitives and that it is associated with a rightward descending verbal shell structure (contra Bailyn’s 2010 account of Russian ditransitives and in accordance with Wiland’s 2009 and Łęska’s 2019 account of Polish ditransitives). Unlike Wiland and Łęska, who analyse the DO-IO order as being derived from IO-DO by leftward movement of the DO, we entertain a simple rightward ascending structure for this order. Preliminary evidence for this structure comes from quantifier scope interactions, as well as the order and scope of adverbs.

December 15, 2021: Tomasz Łuszczek (Warsaw): Opacity and Podhale Goralian

Abstract

November 24, 2021: Marcin Wągiel (Brno): Part-whole structures across domains: Slavic derived spatial and social collective nouns

In this paper, I examine two types of Slavic derived collective nouns, namely spatial collectives such as Polish kwiecie `clump of flowers, blossom' and social collectives like duchowieństwo `collective of priests, clergy'. While the former refer to collections of objects perceived as coherent spatial configurations, the latter denote groups of human individuals performing a salient social role. Building on Grimm (2012) and Zobel (2017), I propose an analysis that treats the Slavic derived collective nouns in question as predicates true of spatial and social clusters, respectively. The proposal extends mereotopology to the abstract domain of social roles.
A long version can be downloaded from here:
https://bit.ly/slavlingcoll2021-mw

November 12, 2021: Björn Wiemer, Joanna Wrzesień-Kwiatkowska & Alexander Rostovtsev-Popiel (Mainz): Grammatical integration of n/t-participles of secondary imperfectives in Polish and Russian

Abstract (initially planned for the FDSL-14 Workshop 'Secondary Imperfectives in Slavic')

November 3, 2021: Ora Matushansky (CNRS/Paris 8): On the theme of Russian deverbal nouns

Any hypothesis linking Russian verbal theme vowels to v, be it the functional head introducing the event argument of the verb or that contributing the external argument, predicts some correlation between its presence in deverbal nominalizations (ing- and er-nouns) and their semantics. My goal in this talk is to provide some discussion of this prediction.

October 22, 2021: Marco Biasio (Padua): Control, Discourse Participants, and Tempo-Aspectual Fluctuations in Slavic Performatives
Abstract

June 30, 2021: Edyta Jurkiewicz-Rohrbacher (Regensburg): When does Polish like infinitives? Accusative controllers in Polish

The starting point is the article of Dziwirek (2000) who claims that accusative object control with infinitive complements is not possible in Polish beyond the verb nauczyć ‘to teach’ (and presumably other verbs with the root ucz*). Słodowicz (2008) who examines a sample of Polish control verbs distinguishes a group of inherent object control verbs including 2 more verbal roots allowing for accusative controllers with infinitive complements. The inspection of modern Polish dictionaries and corpus data shows that the group of accusative controllers allowing for infinitive complements is in fact slightly bigger. However, some of its members are “hidden” because infinitive complementation occurs mostly in the passive. In the talk, I discuss the syntactic and semantic properties of such verbs. I motivate their particular behavior referring to modality and causativity.References: Dziwirek, Katarzyna. 2000. Why Polish doesn’t like infinitives. Journal of Slavic Linguistics 8: 57-82. Słodowicz, Szymon. 2008. Control in Polish complement clauses. Munich: Sagner.

June 18, 2021: Masha Esipova (Oslo): Semantics of situations and pragmatics of prevention

In my talk, I will inspect two types of readings that emerge in a range of environments (e.g., in negated imperatives, under 'not want', under 'fear', etc.): (i) ABSTAIN readings, implying willingness to prevent someone from intentionally engaging in an activity, and (ii) AVOID readings, implying willingness to prevent a potentially unintended outcome. The ABSTAIN vs. AVOID distinction has a variety of grammatical reflexes cross-linguistically, e.g., (anti-)licensing of some-indefinites in English (Don't call anyone! vs. Don't call someone!). I will focus on perfective vs. imperfective aspect and (anti-)licensing of certain types of indefinites in Russian. I will argue that the relevant complements in ABSTAIN vs. AVOID cases have distinct compositional structures: there is a situation layer in AVOID, but not in ABSTAIN cases. This explains the relevant Russian facts about aspect and indefinites. The choice between the two compositional structures in the environments at hand is, in turn, driven by global pragmatic considerations about preventing unwanted scenarios. This explains the inferences arising in the two cases.

June 9, 2021: Pavel Caha (Brno), Karen De Clercq (CNRS, LLF - UMR 7110) & Guido Vanden Wyngaerd (KU Leuven): Causative-inchoative alternations of deadjectival verbs in Czech

We analyze various patterns of the inchoative/causative alternation of de-adjectival verbs in Czech. Following Ramchand (2008), we assume that de-adjectival causatives contain three parts: the adjective denoting a state, a change-of-state component proc, and a causative component init. Adopting a Nanosyntax approach, we propose that various roots spell out a different number of these abstract heads, which then leads to different patterns of formation.

May 28, 2021: Hagen Pitsch (Göttingen): The analytical conditional in Slavic and the particle/auxiliary distinction

The talk explores the cross-Slavic variation in analytic conditional forms (COND). There seem to be two major patterns: (i) COND with auxiliary verbs showing person/number agreement; and (ii) COND with auxiliary particles lacking agreement. However, Polish and East Slavic languages – belonging to group (i) and (ii), respectively – stand out in that their COND allow for infinitives and further impersonal forms excluded in the remaining Slavic languages. The talk offers a tentative formal syntactic account with a focus on the distinction between auxiliary verbs and particles.

May 19, 2021: Vesela Simeonova (Tübingen): Locative and non-locative 'where' in Bulgarian

This talk explores the many uses of 'where' in Bulgarian. While there are some targeted studies (Rudin 2007 on multiple relatives, Krapova 2010 and Simeonova 2015 on 'where' as a complementizer in emotive factive and relative clauses, Rudin and Franks 2014 on concessives), a large part of the spectrum of readings that 'where' has (and doesn't have, cf. Wojciech Guz & Łukasz Jędrzejowski's talk from May 5!) and their theoretical implications remains undocumented. This talk begins to fill that gap.

May 5, 2021: Wojciech Guz (Lublin) & Łukasz Jędrzejowski (Cologne): Subordinate clauses as ActP modifiers. Evidence from concessive clauses in Polish

In this talk, we examine the syntax of concessive clauses in Polish introduced by the wh-word gdzie ‘where’, and compare their properties with those of adverbial clauses headed by the inherent concessive complementizer chociaż ‘although’. We argue that i) gdzie is base-generated as a concessive head in ActP in Krifka’s (to appear) terms, and that no movement from a lower position is involved, ii) concessive gdzie-clauses should be analyzed as disintegrated adverbial clauses adjoining outside the matrix clause structure, and iii) although concessive gdzie-clauses exhibit properties of subordinate clauses, they are syntactically not embedded and possess their own illocutionary force.

April 28, 2021: Dorota Klimek-Jankowska (Wrocław) Variation in aspect choices in general factual contexts in Polish, Czech and Russian (and other Slavic languages)

I will present the results of my quantitative research testing the variation in aspect choices in the so called general factual contexts in Polish, Czech and Russian. My goal in this research is to verify the micro-typology of Slavic aspect proposed by Dickey (2000 and subsequent works) on the basis of replicable procedures and a rich set of data elicited from native speakers. To this goal, I conducted a series of scenario-based online questionnaires in almost all Slavic languages (here I will focus mainly on Polish, Czech and Russian). I manipulated the type of context, rhetorical relations and information structure. I will propose a formal account of the observed patterns based on Ramchand (2008) formal theory of aspect and temporality but I will also point to some problems that still await explanation. Time-permitting, I will also mention the preliminary results of my questionnaires for other Slavic languages.

April 7, 2021: Ewelina Mokrosz & Sławomir Zdziebko (Lublin): The structural size of Reduced Relative Clauses: Insights from Polish

There is an almost unanimous agreement among researchers that participial Reduced Relative Clauses project at most as high as IP/TP. The evidence for such a state of affairs comes from the illocutionary dependence of RRCs, absence of overt or covert relativizing elements, unavailability of Topicalization/Focalization and the absence of tense marking within RRCs.At the same time the literature usually points out to certain differences in the size of participial RRCs both within a single language and across languages (see e.g. Siloni 1995, Marvin 2002, Belikova 2008, Cinque 2020). Such works usually focus on the differences in the availability of aspectual and argument-structure related projections in participial RRCs of different kind and provenance.It is our general aim to show that cross-linguistic differences in the size of participial RRCs may also include the presence versus the absence of the layers of structure associated with the broadly understood syntactic left periphery. In this talk we will focus on the evidence pointing to the availability of certain left-peripheral layers of structure in Polish.In particular we will address:
  • the availability of sentential negation in RRCs containing both passive and active participles in Polish as opposed to Hebrew, Arabic and French (see Siloni 1995, Hazout 2001)
  • the availability of amount reading/maximalization in RRCs (in Polish and English)
  • the (putative) availability of Focalization and Topicalization in RRCs in Polish
  • the availability of WH-movement within RRCs (in Polish)

March 26, 2021: Arkadiusz Kwapiszewski (Oxford): The morphosyntax of secondary imperfectives: A fusion-based account

Abstract

March 17, 2021: Izabela Jordanoska (Villejuif (LLACAN)): The five 'buts' of Macedonian and the typology of adversative coordinators

In this talk I compare the amount of variation in lexical items for adversative coordinators cross-linguistically. On the one hand of the spectrum, there are languages like English, which express every type of adversative coordination with the same lexical item, but. On the other hand, there are languages like Macedonian, which has separate lexical items for the four main uses that have been identified for adversative coordinators: tuku (corrective but), a (Semantic Opposition but), ama/no (Denial of Expecation / concessive but) and ama/ami (discourse marking but) (Lakoff 1971, Anscombre and Ducrot 1977, Jasinskaja 2012, Schiffrin 1987, Fielder 2008). Furthermore, the distribution of a in Macedonian (and other Slavic languages) partially overlaps with the distribution of and in English. Following the QUD-based approach in Jasinskaja and Zeevat (2008), I show that the choice of adversative conjunction cross-linguistically can depend on two factors: i) whether the polarity of the second conjunct is the same or different from the polarity of the QUD that conjunct answers to and ii) whether both QUDs have the same topic.

March 5, 2021: Anna Bondaruk (Lublin) & Ewa Willim (Kraków): Active transitive impersonals and the typology of Voice

Abstract

February 24, 2021: Berit Gehrke (HU Berlin) & Marcin Wągiel (Brno): Non-conservative construals with percentages in Slavic

Recently, it has been observed that certain percentage quantifier (%Q) constructions give rise to conservative (C) as well as apparently non-conservative (NC) readings (Ahn & Sauerland 2015, 2017; A&S).(1) MIT hired 30% of the women last year. (conservative construal)(2) MIT hired 30% womenF last year. (non-conservative construal)
~ 30% of the people that MIT hired last year were women.
Across the languages A&S discuss, the NC reading can correlate with the use of bare nominals (as opposed to definites), and A&S observe that in some languages (e.g. English) %Qs cannot appear in subject position ("subject-object asymmetry"; SOA). Their analysis crucially builds on the claim that NC %Qs are focus-sensitive (indicated by the subtyped F in (2)); however, they do not have an account fot the SOA.Based on a broad cross-Slavic study, we show that both C and NC readings also exist in Slavic languages, even when the corresponding %Q constructions are morphosyntactically indistinct (as in the Slavic languages without definiteness marking). In addition, based on the collected evidence we argue against A&S's claim that NC %Qs are focus-sensitive. Instead, we propose that C and NC readings more generally involve different predicational structures, which also directly accounts for the SOA.

February 17, 2021: Ljudmila Geist & Sophie Repp (Cologne): Yes- and No-responses to biased questions in Russian in comparison to German

Abstract

February 5, 2021: Teodora Radeva-Bork (Potsdam): Variable word order(s) in Slavic: Monolingual vs. heritage Bulgarian data

Abstract

January 27, 2021: Moreno Mitrović (ZAS Berlin): A grammar of li & question bias

This talk concerns a cross-modular investigation into the grammar of rhetorical questions (RQs) with a negative bias in Ser-Bo-Croatian (BCS). (Ex) Gdje (li) si? where (Q/κ) are “Where (the hell/the fuck) are you?”Several results are reported: (I) while the BCS particle -li has been traditionally and uniformly treated an instantiation of a Q(uestion)-operator (aka κ-superparticle) featuring in polar questions, which also builds the disjunctive marker I-li (Mitrović 2021, int. al.), empirically novel facts are reported that cannot be accounted using standard entries, (II) a syntactic analysis is argued for and mapped onto a compositional semantic/pragmatic analysis that derives the the relevant meanings. A prosodic study is reported which shows that focus associating wh-pronouns in RQs show significantly different contours.

January 20, 2021: Karolina Zuchewicz (HU Berlin): Aspect-dependent interpretation of clause-embedding predicates in Polish

It has been widely discussed in the literature that (im)perfectivity can have an impact on the interpretation of both verbal events and nominal complements. Whether aspectual properties of predicates access the meaning of other elements within the verbal phrase depends on the semantic class a verb can be ascribed to. An incremental relation between the verb and its object was shown to play a special role in the above-mentioned transfer of reference. In my talk I will concentrate on the impact of (im)perfectivity on the meaning of clausal complements. I will assume incrementality for certain clause-embedding predicates and show their similarities to incremental theme verbs that combine with nouns.

January 15, 2021: Petra Mišmaš & Marko Simonović (Nova Gorica & Graz): Why kl~kolj, br~ber, v~ved, but never kl~br or kolj~ber? Restrictions on the phonological shape of root allomorphs in Slovenian

Abstract (practice talk for OCP)

January 8, 2021: Olga Kagan (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev): The singulative suffix -in in Russian

In this talk, I investigate the properties of morphological mass-to-count and count-to-mass operators, by considering three uses of the Russian suffix -in, illustrated below: (i) countizer: gorox - gorošina ‘pea (mass) - a pea’ (ii) singularizer: armjane - armjanin ‘Armenians - an Armenian’(iii) massifier: kon’ - konina ‘horse - horsemeat’ The first two uses are sometimes referred to in the literature as singulative (Corbett 2000, Acquaviva 2008, Musatov 2015, Nurmio 2019). The countizer creates count stems/nouns out of mass ones. The singularizer marks the noun in which it appears as (count) singular. The third use is not generally discussed in their context and is informally described as contributing a ‘meat’ meaning component (Shvedova et al. 1980:190); however, I propose that it functions as a count-to-mass operator and as such reverses the contribution of countizer -in (i).The talk puts forward a formal semantic analysis for each use of -in, raising the question of which instantiations of this suffix should be unified and which, on the opposite, have to be explicitly distinguished.

December 18, 2020: Joanna Zaleska (HU Berlin): “Soft” and “hard” sequences in Polish: Insights from a language game experiment

The surface inventory of Polish contains two classes of segments that have each been claimed to have contextually determined variants standing in fully complementary distribution: (i) the so called “hard” and “soft” consonants (for example [p] and [pʲ]), and (ii) high unrounded vowels ([ɨ] and [i]). When segments from these two classes are put together into a consonant-vowel (CI) sequence, the quality of the consonant and the quality of the vowel have to match: sequences of “hard” consonants followed by [i] and of “soft” consonants followed by [ɨ] are disallowed. Thus, for example, [pʲi] and [pɨ] are well-formed, but [pʲɨ] or [pi] are not. In such sequences, the features representing the hardness/softness of the consonant and those differentiating between the two vowels are mutually dependent. This raises the question of which of the segments in the sequence is responsible for its quality. In this talk, I present a language game experiment aimed at identifying the locus of the hard–soft contrast in CI sequences and thus contributing to the long-standing debate concerning the phonemic status of the segments involved. The results of the study suggest that the quality of CI sequences is governed by the input quality of the vowel rather than that of the consonant: When “hard” sequences were separated, all segments were found to retain their quality; when “soft” sequences were separated, however, the consonants lost their softness. I conclude by discussing the utility of this methodology as a means of establishing phoneme inventories in light of theories of phonology that assume multiple levels of abstract representation.

December 9, 2020: Mojmír Dočekal & Lucia Vlášková (Brno): Grammatical ingredients of telicity: Czech degree achievements and their prefixes

The telicity behavior of degree achievements has been a puzzling problem for many linguists. The most successful and currently standard theory (Kennedy & Levin 2008) treats them as degree expressions based on different types of scales, which in turn influence the resulting telic or atelic interpretation. While it may account for English, this theory does not hold up cross-linguistically. We challenge the scalar theory with new Slavic data and show that verbal prefixes influence the (a)telic interpretation of degree achievements more than their underlying scales do. We hypothesize that the atelic/telic interpretation of the prefixed degree achievements is related to the unbounded/bounded algebraic denotation of the prefixes (following Zwarts 2005 and his theory of prepositional aspect).

November 27, 2020: Boban Arsenijević (Graz): How arbitrary / deterministic is the thematic vowel assignment? Quantitative insights from Serbo-Croatian (joint work with Marko Simonović, Petra Mišmaš, Stefan Milosavljević, Jelena Simić, Lanko Marušič, Rok Žaucer)

I will present preliminary results of joint research at the project Hyperspacing the verb, which investigates the interactions between syntactic, semantic, morphological and phonological properties of Serbo-Croatian (SC) and Slovenian verbs. The focus of the talk is on the assignment, i.e. realization, of thematic vowels in SC.SC verbs are specified for two thematic vowels. Based on a database developed within the project, which encompasses the most frequent 6000+ SC verbs annotated for over 30 properties, we tackle the question whether, in combination or apart, these thematic vowels correlate with any other property of the verb. A preliminary quantitative assessment is reported and discussed. The conclusion is that no strict correlation can be established, but once the non-productive combinations are excluded – the picture gets close to a clean match.

November 11, 2020: Radek Šimík & Jakub Sláma (Prague): On evidential relative clauses: The case of Czech jak-relatives

Czech has a range of strategies of forming headed relative clauses – relying either on the use of relative pronouns (který, jaký, jenž) or on the use of a complementizer (co, jak) and an (optional) resumptive. In this talk, we focus on the least studied and understood species – the jak-relatives, e.g. Honil toho medvěda, jak furt utíkal na ten sever ‘He chased the bear that kept running away to the north’. Building on and revising the somewhat isolated observation of Poldauf (1955), namely that a nominal referent modified by jak-relatives needs to be sensorily or mnemonically “accesssible” to both the speaker and the hearer, we argue that a jak-relative does not semantically intersect with its nominal head, but rather denotes an “identifying property” which helps identify a referent whose existence is presupposed. The property has a hearer-oriented evidential component – the speaker assumes that the hearer has evidence (direct or indirect) that the property (jak-relative denotation) holds of the nominal referent (head of the relative clause). We discuss the empirical consequences of the analysis and present relevant corpus evidence.