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Syntax

Syntax seeks to characterize grammars of particular languages and how they differ, to describe the universal properties that human grammars have as a matter of biological design, and to explain why the universal properties we discover have the particular character they do.

Birds fly, fish swim, humans speak. We have a capacity to combine expressions into unboundedly large linguistic structures (sentences and phrases) that carry a specific form and a specific meaning. As the number of such structures is in principle infinite, there must be recursive procedures that define these complex objects. Syntax studies these rule systems — grammars — and does so in three ways. It seeks to characterize grammars of particular languages and how they differ (e.g. how questions are formed in English versus Chinese); to describe the universal properties that human grammars have as a matter of biological design (e.g. why no human grammars have mirror image rules); and, most recently, to explain why the universal properties we discover have the particular character they do.
 
The syntax group engages in all three kinds of research, with special emphasis on the third, typically minimalist question. Empirically, the syntax group has done extensive work on case, agreement, ellipsis, movement and islands, control, anaphoric binding, applicative constructions, morphosyntax, linearization, binding and quantifier scope, among others. Furthermore, while we aim to be at the forefront of syntactic theory (particularly within the minimalist program), we constantly aim, in our classes and in our research, to find insight from earlier generative models developed over the past 60 years.
 
The Syntax/Semantics Lab meets once or twice a month, bringing together students, faculty, postdocs and visitors to discuss works in progress.

"Exceptional" Case-Marking and Resultative Constructions

The semantics of case-marking in Korean.

Linguistics

Dates:

In this thesis, I present evidence that structural Case in Korean is not absolutely semantically inert. It can have a focus flavor in some contexts, for example, stacked Case and Case attached to an adverb/adverbial and a verb. This sort of Case feature may not be an embarrassment for the good design of language. I discuss the Resultative Construction in a derivational approach. We compare the Resultative Construction between English and Korean in pursuit of finding out the underlying cause for differences between the two languages.

(Anti-)Connectivity

A unified analysis of connectivity or reconstruction effects in overt and covert movement.

Linguistics

Dates:
A unified analysis of connectivity or reconstruction effects in overt and covert movement.

(Dis)Agree: Movement and Agreement Reconsidered

On the Agree relation in Minimalism.

Linguistics

Dates:
This dissertation examines Agree, a narrow syntactic, long-distance operation underlying phi-agreement in the grammar. Taking the strong minimalist thesis (cf. Chomsky 2000) as my point of departure, I question Agree on both conceptual and empirical grounds. On the conceptual side, the operation is suspect first for its language-specific character. Second, it also fails to be justified on the grounds of general architectural constraints and legibility requirements. Further, evidences of various long-distance agreement from across languages examined here question the empirical basis for Agree built throughout the previous literature. As far as this is true, I contend that the faculty of language has nothing beyond Merge and Move/Internal Merge, the first being inevitable in any language-like system and the latter necessitated by interface exigencies. My purpose in this dissertation is to show that these two operations suffice to obtain phi-agreement in natural language.

Primary Faculty

Tonia Bleam

Senior Lecturer, Linguistics

1401 E Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4930

Norbert Hornstein

Professor Emeritus, Linguistics

3416 G Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4932

Howard Lasnik

Distinguished University Professor, Linguistics

1106 Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4929

Maria Polinsky

Professor, Linguistics

1417A Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

Omer Preminger

Associate Professor, Linguistics

1413 B Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

Juan Uriagereka

Professor, Linguistics, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Secondary Faculty

Valentine Hacquard

Professor, Linguistics

1401 F Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4935

Jeffrey Lidz

Professor, Linguistics

1413 Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-8220

Colin Phillips

Professor, Linguistics

1413F Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-3082

Alexander Williams

Associate Professor, Linguistics, Philosophy

1401 D Marie Mount Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1607