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Matthew Tucker, “Variable Agreement: The Morphosyntax of Syntactic Binding”
May 4, 2012 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm |
This talk discusses the interplay between syntax (the order of words and structure in sentences) and morphology (the structure of words) in natural language and the role it can play in linguistic theorizing. While traditional approaches often look at purely syntactic or purely morphological explanations, data from three unrelated syntactic phenomena can be understood in a unified light if theories of language take the syntax- morphology interface as an object of study. The first of these, called the Anaphor Agreement Effect, involves the inability of reflexive elements (such as English himself, or Italian se stesso) to control verbal agreement. The second and third are the inability of question words in some languages to control regular verbal agreement, known variably as the Anti-Agreement Effect and wh-Agreement. Drawing on data from Berber, Italian, Abaza, and other genetically unrelated languages, I show that a unified understanding of these processes can be given if morphology is allowed to interpret the same syntactic structures in one of several different ways, corresponding to the range of empirical phenomena seen in reflexive and question agreement. This in turn supports a methodological conclusion that deep descriptive, partially abstract linguistic analysis is a prerequisite to understanding the possible space of cross-linguistic variation.
Matthew Tucker is a fifth year graduate student in the Department of Linguistics. Mr. Tucker’s research focuses on the interaction between syntax (word order) and other parts of language. He is involved in the IHR research cluster Crosslinguistic Investigations in Syntax-Prosody, where his work focuses on Arabic and the connections between syntax and word-level metrical structure.