The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch: Sverre Johnson

Come join us for this week’s Ling-lunch talk, to be presented by:

Sverre Johnsen
“Binding in complements of perception verbs”

WHEN: March 6, 12:30-1:45
WHERE: 32-D461


Norwegian is one of the most discussed languages in the literature on reflexive binding, with its system of simple and complex reflexives seg vs. seg sjøl. This talk will present new Norwegian data showing not only a previously unknown pattern in Norwegian for long-distance binding of seg, but also a generalization for long-distance binding that has not been reported in any language before. The data will reveal that the reflexive seg is exceptionally allowed in complement clauses only if the clause is the complement of a perception verb.

Across languages, perception verbs exhibit a special behavior in a different domain, namely in terms of tense dependency. In languages without the phenomenon known as sequence of tense, a past tense in the complement clause of another past tense verb only allows a past-shifted reading. This is the case in Russian and Hebrew. In the complement clause of a perception verb, on the other hand, a past tense has a preferred simultaneous reading, meaning that its temporal interpretation fully depends on the tense of the matrix verb. In languages where ‘sequence of tense’ generally exists, such as English and Norwegian, the tense in complements of perception verbs still behaves differently from other complements in that it shows a greater dependency on the matrix clause tense.

I will adopt the common view of tense dependency as being caused by structural syntactic binding of tense (Enç 1987). With the analysis of reflexive binding within the minimalist framework developed in several papers by Reuland, I will show that interclausal reflexive binding can be a natural fall-out of interclausal tense dependency.