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Omer Preminger: “The Nature of Syntactic Computation: Evidence from Agreement”
February 10, 2011 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
In this talk, I argue for a particular logic by which agreement (in particular, agreement between a verb or tense/aspect/mood-marker and a noun-phrase) is related to grammaticality, and show how this conclusion illuminates certain longstanding questions in the theory of syntax. In particular, I argue that agreement is best captured in terms of an operation. Crucially, while invocation of this operation is obligatory, its successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar. Such a theory contrasts sharply with alternatives that enforce agreement through representational devices such as un/interpretable features (Chomsky 2000, 2001). The argument is based primarily on so-called “omnivorous agreement” effects in the Agent-Focus construction of Kaqchikel and K’ichee’, with supporting evidence from Basque, Icelandic, and Hebrew. I then show how this conclusion leads to: (i) a reexamination of the relations between movement, agreement, and grammaticality; (ii) a particular understanding of what it means for a language to allow, or not allow, quirky subjects; and ultimately, (iii) the conclusion that both agreement and morphological case must be part of the syntactic component proper (contra certain recent proposals in the literature).
Omer Preminger (MIT) will give this job talk as a candidate for the Linguistics department’s Syntax faculty position.