The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 11/8 - Claire Halpert and Jeremy Hartman

This week’s Syntax Square features NELS 42 practice talks by Claire and Jeremy.

Time/Date: Tuesday, Nov 8, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Claire Halpert
Title: Structural case and the nature of vP in Zulu

The full abstract is available (PDF).

Bantu languages like Zulu have been claimed to lack Case Filter effects on the distribution of nominals (Harford Perez 1985, Diercks to appear). In this talk I argue against this view of Bantu as an exception to standard case theory. In particular, I propose that by adopting (1) Ndayiragije’s suggestion that there is a head that probes for DP in a manner familiar from case-checking in other languages, but which can check DPs not in need of case; and (2) Preminger’s (2009, 2010) proposal that agreement is obligatory where possible, but is permitted to fail without inducing a crash, I can account for two distinct puzzles in Zulu – the ‘conjoint/disjoint’ alternation (van der Spuy 1993; Buell 2005) and the distribution of augmentless nominals (Buell 2011) – if we assume that Zulu DPs are subject to the Case Filter just like their counterparts in other languages. Taken together, then, these two puzzles and their proposed solution suggest that Case Theory is perhaps fundamentally invariant across languages, despite a large amount of surface variation. They also provide evidence for Preminger’s theory of agreement.

Speaker: Jeremy Hartman
Title: (Non-)Intervention in A-movement: some cross-constructional and cross-linguistic considerations

It is well known that English is cross-linguistically exceptional in allowing constructions like (1), where subject-to-subject raising proceeds across an overt, full-DP experiencer:

(1) John seems to Mary to be happy.

Although this point has been the subject of much discussion (Kitahara 1997, McGinnis 1998, Boeckx 1999, Chomsky 2000, Collins 2005), the literature still lacks a satisfyingly predictive account of when and why English is able to avoid the standard ‘defective intervention’ effect. This paper makes both an empirical and a theoretical contribution to these questions. I begin by laying out an expanded set of intervention phenomena in English. Building on work in Hartman (2009), I present data showing that English does in fact display intervention in a variety of other NP-raising constructions. In other words, examples like (1) are the exception even within English: in several similar environments, the cross-linguistically typical effect is revealed. Next, I sketch an analysis of the newly expanded data set, inspired by Müller’s (2001) ‘Parallel Movement’ constraint. The analysis accounts both for the cross-linguistic variation between English and other languages, and for the cross-constructional variation within English.