The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

24.956 Topics in the relation between syntax and prosody

Instructor: Norvin Richards
Room: 32-D461
Time: Tuesday 10-1

In Minimalist approaches to syntax, movement operations are sometimes said to occur in order to satisfy requirements imposed by the interfaces. In this class we will try to develop explicit theories of some of these requirements, on the PF side. We will take as our starting point the theory developed in Richards (2006, in press), which attempts to predict the distribution of overt and covert wh-movement by allowing syntax to make direct reference to prosodic structure.

We will spend the semester applying this general way of thinking to a variety of traditionally posited parametric differences between languages, eventually attempting to develop explanations of cross-linguistic differences in A-movement, the EPP, and head-movement that are rooted in observable differences between languages. Time permitting, we will then go on to consider phenomena such as scrambling and head direction (attempting to derive the effects of the Final-over-Final Constraint). Along the way, we will develop new answers to a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional questions (why is PRO always null? why is French participle agreement only possible with objects that undergo movement? why do some languages, but not others, allow nominative subjects in infinitives (Szabolcsi 2007)? why can languages like Chichewa optionally leave wh in situ in all positions except for preverbal subjects, which must overtly move via clefting? why do some languages (e.g., Niuean, Chol) perform phrasal fronting of their predicates? why is extraposition to the right of the verb in German possible just when the VP has been topicalized (Haider’s puzzle)?)

The class will thus have two major goals: we will try to deepen our explanations for a variety of syntactic phenomena, and to improve our general understanding of the relationship between syntax and phonology. We will also do some general reading of current work on the prosody-syntax interface.

Registered students will be asked to do in-class presentations (either of relevant readings or of the student’s own research), and to hand in a (possibly very rough draft of a) final paper.