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Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics

Fall 2005

Seminar in Semantics: Polarity, Phenomena in Language
This seminar addresses core questions in the area of phenomena that is known as polarity. We discuss the occurrence of various polarity items (PIs) -- any, negative polarity items (NPIs), minimizers, free choice items, and positive polarity items-- in a variety of languages, and in a variety of contexts ranging from downward entailing to upward entailing or non-monotone, as well as questions, modal and other nonveridical contexts. We emphasize the diversity of the phenomenon, and address semantic/pragmatic as well as syntactic questions regarding the well-formedness of PIs. Specifically, we will concentrate on the following questions: (a) The licensing question, i.e. what is the semantic or pragmatic property that restricts the distribution of PIs? (b) The sensitivity question: how is the restricting property linked (if at all) to the lexical semantics of polarity items? (c) Is focus central in restricting the distribution of PIs? Are all PIs end-point scalar, or are there also PIs that exhibit no scalar properties at all? (d) What is the role of the focus particle even in PI-licensing? How does even affect the interpretation of PIs in questions? (e) The licensing of NPIs under only and in the scope of factive verbs. (f) The relationship between negative polarity and the phenomenon of negative concord, i.e. the occurrence of seemingly more than one negations in the clause with the interpretation of just one semantic negation. (g) The relationship between PIs and wh-phrases as it is manifested, especially but not exclusively, in languages with so-called wh-indeterminates (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Korean). (h) What is the relationship between positive polarity items and NPIs? Anastasia Giannakidou

Seminar in Syntax: Case and Voice
This seminar provides a look at a variety of case systems from a typological perspective (including various split ergative systems, Kasusaufnahme, and differential object marking) and aims to develop a theoretical understanding of them, in particular the role of case in voice alternations (passive, antipassive, and other valence-changing morphology). Special attention is paid to Austronesian, Australian, Native American, Indo-Aryan, European, Turkic, Eskimo, Basque, and Caucasian languages Jason Merchant

Topics in Creole Syntax
In this course we will examine several morphosyntatic structures that distinguish creoles from their ``lexifiers.'' Topics include, but are not limited to, predication, serial predicate constructions, predicate clefting, focus constructions, object and relative clauses, number marking, and time reference. Students familiar with creoles are encouraged to propose other topics that interest them. Salikoko Mufwene

Seminar on Languages of the Americas
Amy Dahlstrom

The Zulu Language
We will study the grammar of Zulu, a major Bantu language of southern Africa, through the study of published grammars, Zulu songs, work with a Zulu speaker, and basic instruction in the Zulu language. John Goldsmith

Seminar on Morphology
Jerrold Sadock

Winter 2006

Discourse Analysis
Amy Dahlstrom

Spring 2006

Seminar in Semantics: Vagueness
Chris Kennedy

Comparative Germanic Syntax
This course examines the comparative syntax of the Germanic languages, including German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Frisian, Yiddish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese, and English. We explore questions of synchronic micro-and macrovariation, as well as the historical development of Germanic, through readings in the primary theoretical literature. Topics and languages may vary depending on participant interests and language expertise. Jason Merchant

Comparative East South Slavic Linguistics
By means of the examination of bilingual texts in Modern Standard Bulgarian and Modern Standard Macedonian, this course familiarizes students with the differentiation of the two languages at all levels of grammar. Victor Friedman