The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Miyagawa @ Harvard Linguistics Theory Group - Tues 12/2 6pm

This week Shigeru Miyagawa will speak at the Harvard Linguistics Theory Group

Title: Why Agree? Why Move? Unifying Agreement-based and Discourse-configurational Languages
Time: December 2nd, Tuesday
Location: Boylston Hall Room 303; 6 p.m.

Why do we find agreement in human language? And why is there movement? I will propose a unified answer to these questions based on a specific design for human language that we have assumed in generative grammar since the early 1980s — in GB, LFG, MP and others. What I will show is that agreement must be a universal phenomenon, occurring in every language, and with it, movement. This is obviously a more abstract notion of agreement than phi-feature agreement since many languages lack such agreement. I will show that informational structural features such as topic and focus play a role in “agreementless” languages that is computationally equivalent to phi-features. That is, topic/focus and phi-feature agreement are two sides of the same coin, both there to implement “agreement” and “movement” within exactly the same mechanism.