Kolloquium: Syntax und Semantik

Mo 15:59-17:30, Raum 1.401 (DOR 24)
BA und Master Linguistik


In dieser Veranstaltung können Studierende im BA oder MA Themen, an denen sie arbeiten, vorstellen. Außerdem gibt es Gastvorträge von Wissenschaftlern und Vorträge von Mitarbeitern, die ihre Projekte, Dissertationen oder Habilitationen vorstellen bzw. über den aktuellen Stand berichten.


05.11.2018: Marvin Schmitt, HU Berlin: CRISP – A semantics for focus-sensitive particles in questions

I will present a novel formal semantics, called ``CRISP’’ which stands for ``Compositional Roothian Inquisitive Semantics with Presuppositions’’ which I developed in my Master's thesis. It integrates the focus semantics of Rooth (1985, 1992) with the compositional inquisitive semantics with presuppositions of Champollion, Ciardelli, and Roelofsen (2017). Such a semantics is motivated both empirically and theoretically (the latter topic I will ignore in this talk). Empirically, examples like the ones below necessitate such a semantics:
  1. Does Mary only dance_F?
  2. Does only Mary_F dance?
  3. Antecedent: Peter dances. Does Mary_F dance too?
  4. Does Mary (only) dance_F, or sing_F too?
  5. Does Mary dance_F too, or only sing_F?
  6. Antecedent: Everybody smokes. Who drinks_F too?
  7. Antecedent: Mary smokes. # Who_F smokes too?
  8. # Does Mary dance_F or sing_F too?
Evidently, these are questions containing focus-sensitive presupposition triggers. As such a semantics which can model focus, questions and presuppositions is called for.

I will first present the semantics, and then concentrate on (8) (the wh-question data is discussed in my thesis, but is very technical and necessitates a dynamic extension of CRISP which is still under construction). If time permits, I will also discuss the data point below which posits a challenge for the account developed in my Master's thesis, but also for Beck and Kim's (2006) theory of focus intervention effects in alternative questions:

  1. Mary plays guitar. Does she dance_F or sing_F too?
On the account developed in my thesis the felicity of (9) is surprising. The same holds for Beck and Kim's (2006) account, for both predict the question to be deviant tout court. On my account, though, there is possibly a hot fix, but not on their's. This has interesting consequences for a theory of focus intervention effects in alternative questions.

12.11.2018: Prof. Dr. Louise McNally, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona: Multi-level syntax and semantics

Ladusaw (1985) distinguished between multi-stratal syntactic frameworks — those with multiple representations using a single theoretical vocabulary — and multi-level syntactic frameworks — those with representations using different theoretical vocabularies. Frameworks using only syntactic trees coupled with movement are an example of the former; Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG), with its use of both F-Structure and Constituent-Structure, is an example of the latter. In this talk, which reports on incipient work, I explore the possibility of hooking up a multi-level semantics to a multi-level syntax with characteristics that are, in very general terms, similar to those of LFG. The multi-level semantics described here is distinct in nature from two-dimensional semantics in philosophy of language and multi-dimensional meaning representations in circulation since Potts (2005); it is closer in spirit to the intuition behind the Relevance Theoretic distinction between conceptual and procedural meaning. Its central tenet is that distinct representational languages should be used to model and compose interpretations for non-referential descriptive expressions, on the one hand, and for referential expressions (as I will define them in the talk), on the other. I will close by offering various reasons why I think such a semantics is worth exploring.

26.11.2018: Annika Tjuka, HU Berlin: The belly of the cabbage – Body-part metaphors as a window into the mind

In this talk, I present a cross-linguistic study of body-part metaphors in object and landscape terms such as the leg of the chair and the foot of the mountain. Thus far, the cognitive processes underlying the mapping of body-part terms to object and landscape features have not been fully explored. Ullmann (1963) states [s]ince metaphor is based on the perception of similarities, […] when an analogy is obvious, it should give rise to the same metaphor in various languages; hence the wide currency of expressions like the ‘foot of a hill’ or the ‘leg of a table’. In addressing this claim, studies such as Levinson (1994) and Tilbe (2017) have found that the dimensions of shape, function and spacial configuration play a major role in the process. Their results show that Mesoamerican languages can differ in terms of which dimension is used most productively. For my MA thesis, I conducted the first systematic typological study that investigates the following questions:
  1. How productively do languages use body-part terms to express parts of objects and landscapes?
  2. Of the three dimensions is one used more productively than the others?
  3. How much variation do we find between languages with respect to 1) and 2)?
For elicitations, I used a seed list of 92 body-part metaphors and corresponding pictures. Speakers of 13 different languages participated in my study. Their native languages were: Czech, Marathi, Persian, Greek, Vietnamese, Wolof, Mandarin Chinese, Khoekhoe, Hungarian, Japanese, Hebrew, Turkish, and Malay. My presentation focuses on the development and the results of the study. The cross-linguistic comparison shows that terms like “leg/foot of the chair/table” are present throughout the entire set of languages, while others show a lot more variation across languages. In addition, I talk about the learnings and biases which were uncovered while conducting the study.


10.12.2018: Paola Fritz Huechante, HU Berlin: On the event structure of the psych-alternation. The case of Spanish and Korean

Psychological verbs have been traditionally classified in two main groups according to their argument and event structures: (a) experiencer-subject (ES) verbs, such as fear; and (b) experiencer-object (EO) verbs, such as frighten (Belletti & Rizzi, 1989; Pesetsky, 1995; Landau, 2010; a. o.). There is general consensus that verbs in the ES class are stative (Grimshaw 1990). However, this is not the case for the EO class, with verbs being categorized as accomplishments, causative state/events, and lately as inchoative states (Bar-el, 2005). This talk presents an ongoing examination of the psych-alternation (i.e. ES and EO) of two typologically different languages, where in terms of their psych-verbs inventory: Spanish intransitivizes basic EO verbs by means of reflexivization (e.g. enfadar ‘anger’ enfadarse ‘get angry’); whereas Korean transitivizes basic ES verbs by means of periphrastic causativization (e.g. hwanata ‘get angry' hwanakey hata (‘make get angry’). The examination will explore the semanto-syntactic properties of the alternating pairs and their directionality.

Following the recent sub-classification of stative eventualities proposed by Marín & McNally (2011) for the intransitive reflexive variant of Spanish psych-verbs, categorized as inchoative states (e.g. angustiarse ‘get/be distressed’) and punctual psych-verbs (e.g. enfadarse ‘get angry’), I propose a similar classification for the transitive accusative EO alternation. The presence of a left-boundary (cf. Piñon 1997) in the denotation of the lexical items specifies the onset of the state, but it says nothing about its ending (i.e. no right-boundary). The presence of the boundary is perceived when the experiencer is assigned accusative case (being an eventive structure), whereas the boundary is absent when the experiencer alternates in dative case (i.e. a stative construction). Likewise, Korean presents two types of basic ES psych-verbs, one denoting pure states, which include only stative items (e.g. koylopta ‘distressed’), and the other consisting of inchoative states (e.g. hwanata ‘get angry’) (cf. Choi & Demirdache 2014). The transitive causative structure (aspectually different from the intransitive construction) involves the light verb hata ‘to do’ which adds an unspecified causing event of making the experiencer be in the state encoded by the lower verb. During the talk, I will examine the interaction of the target languages’ properties with respect to (a) the semantics of aspect (i.e. eventive vs. stative) (b) ‘boundary’ (i.e. left-boundary or onset of the state), and (c) the type of stimulus such as agent, causer, subject matter (Pesetsky, 1995) of both ES and EO alternants.

17.12.2018: Julian Rott, HU Berlin

07.01.2018: Dick Hudson, London: Word order and phrases in a network

The talk will introduce a cognitive theory (Word Grammar) whose immediate goal is to model language as a symbolic network; the ultimate goal is to model language using general-purpose mental apparatus, without any special provision for language. This apparatus includes:
  • classified network links (e.g. ‘friend’)
    • ‘isa’, which carries inheritance
    • dependencies (e.g. ‘subject’) between words
    • positional links: ‘location’, ‘landmark’, ‘before’, ‘start’
  • default inheritance (e.g. if it’s a bird, it can fly; but if it’s a penguin, it can’t)
  • node creation (e.g. for new experiences or new word tokens)
The talk will apply this apparatus to:
  • basic word order (e.g. SVO)
  • exceptional word order (e.g. extraction)
  • phrasal boundaries (e.g. Welsh mutation)
  • phrasal semantics (e.g. typical French house)
The conclusion will be that a promising model is halfway between phrase structure and dependency structure:
  • as in phrase structure, the head word has a distinct node for each of its dependents (e.g. for ‘French house’)
  • but as in dependency structure, this node represents a single word (a distinct token of the head word), related to other tokens of the word by a taxonomy, not a partonomy.

14.01.2018: Lena Weißmann (FU): Collocations with 'ini' ('heart') in colonial Dzaha Dzaui (Mixtec). A contribution to the linguistic analysis of the "Vocabulario en lengua misteca" (1593)

In this talk I will present an analysis of the collocations with ini ('heart') in Dzaha Dzaui (colonial Mixtec). Documented since the 16th century, this Mesoamerican language from Southern Mexico is still spoken today – in its different variants - by around 350.000 speakers. The data I analyze is taken from the Vocabulario en lengua misteca, a Spanish-Dzaha Dzaui dictionary edited by the Dominican missionary Friar Francisco de Alvarado in 1593 (and published together with a grammar book, the Arte en lengua misteca, by Friar de los Reyes). I focus on collocations with the body part term ini ('heart') in my master's thesis. These collocations constitute the language's most important strategy to refer to the ``inner'' life, expressing a wide range of emotional, cognitive and other situations belonging to the semantic domain of experience. Ini functions as a modifier which conveys ``psycho-meaning'' to the terms it collocates with by means of metaphorical or metonymical processes. For example, ('hard + heart') means 'skilful, with a sharp mind', and (‘to go + put upright + heart’) is a common way to express, i.a., 'to suspect', but also 'to remember'. Such collocations can be described as ``psycho-collocations'' (Matisoff (1986)), or ``experiental collocations'' (Verhoeven 2007). So far, they haven't been systematically analyzed neither for the colonial nor for modern data. In my talk, I will give a general overview of my master's thesis project and present some preliminary results of my work. I will provide a list of frequent collocations, analyze their syntactic construction and the metaphoric and metonymical processes on which their semantics are based. This analysis also allows some observations about the diachronic change of the collocations.

21.01.2018: Nico Lehmann, HU Berlin: A new preverbal position for subjects in Yukatek Maya signaling a shift from VOS to SVO?

While the basic order of the verb and its arguments is widely assumed to be VOS in Yukatek Maya (England 1991; Skopeteas & Verhoeven 2005, 2009b), certain contexts trigger deviating constituent orders. A common strategy is to front one argument to a preverbal position for information structural purposes, i. e. topicalization when marked by an enclitic and focus when unmarked. An open question is whether some varieties have developed a preverbal position that is occupied by subjects and does not trigger information structural meanings, therefore constituting a canonical position for subjects and signaling a shift from VOS to SVO. To explore this possibility, a rating study will be conducted to test unmarked preverbal subjects in all-new contexts to exclude information structural influences. This will shed light on reports of the existence of preverbal subjects that are neither morphologically marked for topicalization nor entail information structural meanings in (some) Yukatek Mayan dialects (Gutiérrez-Bravo & Monforte y Madera 2008, 2010).

28.01.2018: Ana Krajinovic, HU Berlin: Being perfect in Oceanic languages

In this talk I present my ongoing study of the semantics of the perfect aspect in Oceanic languages, based on my fieldwork on Nafsan (Vanuatu) and study of published sources on several Oceanic languages. I focus on two topics: a) methodology of eliciting different perfect meanings, and b) arguing against the typological validity of the category of iamitives which unites the meaning of already with the resultative perfect (Olsson, 2013).

Regarding methodology, I argue that corpus work, storyboards (Burton & Matthewson, 2015) and translation-based questionnaires such as Dahl (1985), accompanied by meta-linguistic discussions, offer different kinds of linguistic evidence that are all necessary for a successful analysis of a given category.

The iamitives are defined by having the meaning of change of state, which is absent in the English-style perfect, and lacking the experiential, universal, and anteriority functions, which are present in the English-style perfect (Olsson, 2013). Based on the data from 5 Oceanic languages (Nafsan, Toqabaqita, Koro, Niuean, Unua), I show that the perfect can in fact have change-of-state meanings together with the experiential, universal, and anteriority readings, and sometimes also the temporal adverb restrictions characteristic of the perfect. Lastly, I argue that the semantic space of the perfect/iamitive aspect can be successfully analyzed with two existing aspectual categories: the perfect and already. This leads to the conclusion that the proposed iamitive category does not capture any typological generalizations that cannot be attributed either to the perfect or already.

04.02.2018: Jens Hopperdietzel (HU Berlin): A look into verb serialization: Semantic and syntactic diagnostics

In a serial verb construction, two (or more) verbs function together as the single (complex) predicate in a mono-clausal environment without any form of coordination or subordination (Aikhenvald 2018, Aikhenvald & 2006 for an overview).
  1. Mary i katem¬v brekemv wud ia. (Bislama)
    ‘Mary broke the wood by cutting it.’
Although the phenomenon is well-established in cross-linguistic research (e.g. Aikhenvald 2018, Veenstra & Musyken 2017, Haspelmath 2016), the syntactic and semantic composition of two verbally encoded events in such constructions is merely understood as only few studies offer language specific in-depth analyses (e.g. Zimmermann & Amaechi 2018 on Igbo, Lin 2004 on Mandarin, Stewart 2001 on Édò, Dechaine 1993 on Yoruba). Additionally, most of these studies focus on African and East-Asian languages only.

In this talk, I present (novel) data from resultative SVCs (RSVCs) in three Oceanic languages (Bislama (Creole), Daakaka and Samoan) based on own fieldwork, corpus data (Amabati & Hunkin 2018, von Prince 2013) as well as available grammatical descriptions (von Prince 2015, Mosel 2004, Crowley 2004 and others). Crucially, the data presented not only differs structurally from RSVCs in other languages (like African or East-Asian languages), but also shows instances of micro-variation within the Oceanic family (cf. Verkerk & Frostad 2013). To investigate the syntactic and semantic nature of RSVCs in Oceanic and to account for the observed cross-linguistic variation, I adopt a Distributed Morphology approach on event decomposition in syntax (Alexiadou et al. 2015, Marantz 2013, Embick 2009). Based on this approach, I sketch the predictions of different types of composition proposed for SVC in syntax (complex head, complementation, adjunction; see Muysken & Veenstra for an overview) and semantics (event modification, event relation, covert coordination; Zimmermann & Amaechi 2018). In preparation for my upcoming fieldtrip, I then discuss certain syntactic and (event) semantic diagnostics to determine the compositional type of RSVCs in Oceanic.

11.02.2018: Karolina Zuchewicz (Leibniz-ZAS)

Use the perfective and your sentence will be factive: On the cross-linguistic evidence for the factivity of the perfective aspect In this talk I will provide a cross-linguistic evidence for the systematic relationship between perfectivity and factivity. Among others I will present data from Hungarian (Kiefer 1986), French (Hacquard 2006) and Polish (Zuchewicz 2018, Zuchewicz & Šimík 2018).

I will mainly focus on Polish, where the perfectivity-factivity dependency can be seen on the influence of the aspect of the matrix verb on the factive interpretation of embedded object sentences. If we embed the same proposition under perfective and imperfective matrix verbs (building an aspectual minimal pair) it will most likely be interpreted as factive (or veridical) in the former, but not in the latter case. Compare (1) and (2):

  1. #Śledczy udowodnił, że to Jan ukradł samochód, ale okazało się, że to Krzysztofa sprawka.
    ‘The investigating officer proved.pfv that it was Jan who stole the car, but it turned out that it was Krzysztof’s doing.’
  2. Śledczy udowadniał, że to Jan ukradł samochód, ale okazało się, że to Krzysztofa sprawka.
    ‘The investigating officer proved.ipfv that it was Jan who stole the car, but it turned out that it was Krzysztof’s doing.’
We cannot continue (1) with but it turned out that it was Krzysztof’s doing, because the perfective prove entails the truth of the proposition expressed by the subordinate clause. In contrast, (2) only says that the officer was collecting proofs against Jan, but it does not say anything about the state of affairs in the actual world. This is why (2) can be followed by but it turned out that it was Krzysztof’s doing.

In my talk I will show that certain event-structural properties of perfective clause-embedding verbs determine the strength / possible cancellability of the entailment pattern.