The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 3/4 - Laura Grestenberger

Speaker: Laura Grestenberger (Harvard)
Title: Two voice mismatch puzzles in Sanskrit and Greek
Date/Time: Tuesday, Mar 4, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

Sanskrit and Greek both have binary voice systems in which active morphology alternatives with non-active (middle) morphology. In this talk I will present two problems in the morphosyntax of these languages, both of which concern exponence of voice morphology in unexpected syntactic environments (“voice mismatches”).

The first one comes from deponent verbs, which take non-active morphology, but syntactically and semantically behave exactly like active agentive verbs. The second problem arises in contexts in which a distinct passive morpheme is available. Contrary to what is expected in standard approaches to Voice, this passive morpheme obligatorily co-occurs with middle morphology (Sanskrit) or active morphology (Greek). I propose that both puzzles can be solved by adopting an approach in which only active and middle are values of vP, while passive is a distinct functional head. In this approach, only passive is valency-changing, while active/middle are sensitive to their syntactic environment but do not operate on it. I will show that this predicts the distribution of active and middle morphology in languages like Sanskrit and Greek, as well as where potential mismatches can occur.