Saturday, October 12, 2019

Training Program: Linguistic Fieldwork on the Khoisan Languages of Botswana

Training Program: Linguistic Fieldwork on the Khoisan Languages of Botswana
(Supported in part by NSF Award BCS-1760980)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Some notes on the EPP (by Jeffrey Punske)

The EPP can be a vexing principle for early practitioners of Chomskyan syntactic theories. This is, in part, because the theoretic apparatus that underlie the EPP have been shifted away from. Yet, the EPP in some form generally remains. Thus, the goal of this blog post is to sketch a brief history of the EPP and outline its current status. I will also discuss some remaining potential issues with the EPP.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Two Kinds of Data in Syntactic Fieldwork

This blog post is a prelude to future blog post: Why Video? In that blog post I will tackle the question of why a generative syntactician, like me, should care about video? But before I get to that point, I need to tackle some background issues concerning the source of data in syntactic fieldwork.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Syntactic Puzzle

(partially taken from Facebook post on August 16, 2018)
I came up with this puzzle while visiting Erich Groat at his cabin in upstate NY.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ten things I learned in the Peace Corps that helped me with linguistic fieldwork.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo from 1985 to 1987. Here is a short list of things I learned then that have been helpful to me in doing linguistic fieldwork ever since (especially in Togo, Namibia and Botswana).

Friday, October 4, 2019

Solar Power for Linguistic Fieldwork

Here is my solar power set up for 2019-2020. Some of this post is modified from a Facebook post on December 19, 2015, when I had a similar set-up. The whole system cost roughly 740 US dollars (panel, inverter, controller and battery). There are photos of the set-up at the end of the post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tips for Recording Sound when Shooting Video in Linguistic Fieldwork

I am a linguist doing linguistic fieldwork on highly endangered Khoisan languages. Part of my project is to produce video documentation of people speaking those languages.

As a beginning film maker, I have found the following tips to be useful in obtaining high quality sound recordings to accompany video. I have learned most of these the hard way, by actually making mistakes.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Golden Oldies in Syntax

Why read the Golden Oldies?

I define a golden oldie as a paper in the framework of generative syntax written in the 60s and 70s (roughly between and including Chomsky (1957) “Syntactic Structures” and Chomsky (1981) “Lectures on Government and Binding”).

Saturday, September 14, 2019

2019_09_16 (Sasi Fieldwork)

After three weeks with Kua, I am now moving on to my first fieldwork trip to Mokgenene for the year. I have already been there twice, once to deliver blankets to my consultants on July 3rd and another time for the delivery of the clothing to the children on August 8th. This time, I plan to stay in Mokgenene for two weeks to kick off my video documentation project. This project is part of an ELDP and ACLS funded project that will begin in earnest on January 1st (the official grant start date). I this short trip, I plan to do preliminary recordings and make sure my consultants are comfortable with the arrangements.

I have a house from the VDC council allocated to me, where I plan to stay for two weeks. Since there is no electricity in the village, I will bring my solar panel.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2019_08_26 (Kua Fieldwork)

I have brought our Kua consultant to Gaborone for two weeks. The most general goal of work on Kua now is to finish the grammar (co-authored with Andy Chebanne) so we can get it published. The only section that needs to be added is a short introductory section on the phonological inventory of the language (consonants including clicks, vowels and tones).

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Backup Workflow for Linguistic Fieldwork

Backup workflow for Linguistic Fieldwork (based on a Facebook post of July 4, 2019) (workflow created by me and Zach).

Summer 2019 Fieldwork by the Numbers

During July and August 2019 (up to August 9th), we (Andy, Zach and I) did fieldwork on Cua, an endangered central Khoisan language spoken in southeastern Botswana.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Fund Raising Update (August 8 2019)

The following blog is an update on our fund raising efforts for the project "Poverty Relief in Rural Botswana". The information can also be found on the GoFundMe site:

Run-and-Gun Video for Linguistic Fieldwork

In working with the Cua this summer, Zach and I have developed an easy high-quality video set up which we call "run-and-gun" (following terminology used in the video world).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Outer negation of universal quantifier phrases

Abstract: This paper discusses two ways of negating DP quantifier phrases. In one way, NEG modifies the quantifier D directly with the structure [[NEG D] NP] (inner negation). In the other way, NEG modifies the whole DP with the structure [NEG DP] (outer negation). I give evidence based on negative polarity items that negated universal quantifier phrases like not every student involve outer negation (contra Hoeksema in Linguist Anal 16:25–40, ; in: ESCOL ’87, pp 100–113, ).

Outer negation of universal quantifier phrases

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Best All-in-One Negation Package

The following papers all explore the issue of negating quantifier phrases. The topic is extremely rich, and has barely been scratched in the existing literature on negation and quantification (with the exception of "split scope" for which there exists a small literature). They all start from the assumption that it is possible to combine negation directly with a quantifier phrase: [NEG QP]. All of the papers were all written in the framework of Collins and Postal 2014. I do not include papers here on NEG Raising, which raises related but different issues.

Description of Ewe Repository

Ewe is a Gbe language, spoken in Ghana, Togo and Benin in west Africa.

The Ewe Repository is a collection of articles and books on and in Ewe for serious Ewe scholars. As of today (June 13, 2019) it contains 289 files. It is not accessible publicly on the internet, although we are looking into creating an internet accessible version. If you are an Ewe scholar, and are interested in joining, the price of admission is to send me paper or book on or in Ewe that we do not already have. Then I will sign you up. Even if you do not want to be a member, if you have books or papers on or in Ewe, please send them to me.

Best All-in-One Ellipsis Package

The following papers all defend the claim that ellipsis is vastly more pervasive in English syntax than any current theory countenances. In fact, I view current theories to be excessively conservative. I also include my paper co-authored with Andrew Radford to illustrate the idea of ghosting (from Collins and Postal 2012).

Best All-in-One Morphology Package

This package is more of a promissory note, than a real package. I am not a morphologist, and have not done extensive work on morphology. That being said, I have very specific views on what a theory of morphology should be like. My basic point of view is derived from works such as Baker (1988) and Pollock (1989), and diverges radically from current theories of morphology in the DM and nano-syntax traditions.

The most extreme position one can take is: There is no morphological component in UG. In particular, there are no operations or processes or properties (e.g., suffixal vs. affixal) or representational primitives that play a role in word formation that are different from those found in the syntactic component. So that is the research agenda.

All of the papers here try to get at this way of looking at things in one way or the other. My views on morphology are most closely aligned to those of Richard Kayne (especially his recent papers), but also to those of people like Hilda Koopman and Judy Bernstein.

Except for the "Logic of Contextual Allomorphy" and "A Note on Derivational Morphology", none of the papers is really directly about morphological issues. But they contain ideas that I feel will play a role in a successful theory of morphology. For example, "Home Sweet Home" talks a lot about the distribution of empty elements in the syntax. Such empty elements are also needed in morphology (e.g., zero allomorphs of various kinds). 

Best All-in-One Passive Package

I post here some links to recent papers that I have written on the passive. All these papers are written in the framework of Collins (2005). The main claim of that paper is adopted from Chomsky 1957 into modern terms: "...the external argument is merged into the structure in the passive in the same way as in the active." My recent papers explore and defend this claim. Collins (2005) and my recent papers run directly contra to most mainstream approaches to the passive (including those of Bruening, Legate and Alexiadou). Not all of the following papers are available on Lingbuzz.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Power of Editors

This note was originally posted on Facebook on January 25, 2019. There have been some minor changes. I got some great feedback from Pauline J. on that post, in case readers are interested in pursuing what other people think. These notes are based on my experiences with journals, editors and reviewers over the last ten years or so. I want to emphasize here that I greatly appreciate the time that editors and reviewers put into their jobs.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Foreword to Postal 2010

This is the foreword to Paul Postal's 2010 MIT Press book "Edge-Based Clausal Syntax". Once again this will not be posted to Lingbuzz.

Two Conceptions of VoiceP

I wrote this paper during my seminar on argument structure in Fall 2018. The paper is fairly rough, and I could spend a lot of time getting the logic to be perfect. But I am leaving for Botswana on June 26 (2019), so I thought it was better to get it out there before I left.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Spelling-Out NEG

In Collins and Postal 2014, a set of mapping rules were given for spelling out the abstract morphemes NEG and SOME. In this paper, I eliminate these mapping rules without loss of empirical coverage.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


There is an effect when students start to learn syntax that I will call imprinting: Whatever proposal is presented first to a student becomes the standard. Subsequent proposals face a burden of proof not faced by the original, in the sense that subsequent proposals need to show how they are superior to the original proposal (and why the original proposal is wrong). All things being equal, the original wins.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Khoisan Languages

This is a website built by students in my Spring 2018 seminar: The Khoisan Languages.
We are still interested in getting volunteers to add languages and data, and to make
the site more accessible. This summer (2019), we have a volunteer Mirella B.,
who will be working on the project.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Instructions for Grammar Elicitation Session Bundles.

These are the instructions from our ELAR deposit for N|uu. The way that I store my data is very useful to me as a syntactician, so I thought I would share it. For elicitation, I record every sentence that I elicit individually, at the time I elicit it. One immediate benefit of this procedure is that I can use the recording to verify my transcription right away. As a consequence, my transcriptions are usually pretty accurate. Another benefit is that I can play the recording over and over, without having to bother the consultant with several repetitions of the same sentence (which can be tiring for them). 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) Fellows for 2019-2020

I have applied for this in the past, but did not get it. This time I was successful. Judy B. helped a lot, reading over my proposal and giving me feedback. So that is an important tip: Try to get advice from a successful past awardee.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Summary of Fieldwork Discussion Group 2018-2019

Here is a summary of our series of fieldwork talks for the academic year 2019-2019.
If you are interested in presenting next semester, please contact me.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Internal Structure of Reflexive Pronouns

It does not look like I will be able to finish this squib to the degree I would want before I leave for Botswana. So I am posting it on my blog.

The Internal Structure of Reflexive Pronouns

Friday, April 19, 2019

Timeline of Wh-in-situ

I prepared this for my course. I thought others might find it useful. If anybody thinks I have left out something important, or made a mistake, let me know.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Opening Remarks: Antisymmetry and Comparative Syntax

Here are my opening remarks for the workshop in honor of Richard Kayne held at NYU on March 29 and 30, 2019.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


I have been catching up on a show called Counterpart on cable TV (as of March 2019) with my daughter. Here is the premise, as summarized on Wikipedia: “Howard Silk has been working for a United Nations agency based in Berlin for thirty years; however, his rank is too low for him to be told what his work really involves. In fact, the agency oversees a crossing point to a parallel Earth (the "Prime world"), a copy of Silk's world. This crossing point was opened or created by East German scientists in 1987 and these two versions of Earth have been diverging ever since.”

Friday, March 22, 2019

Students Supervised by Richard Kayne (1969-2019)

I tried to find a list of Richard Kayne's students, but couldn't find one. So I prepared this as a gift to him on his 75th birthday. The CUNY and NYU theses can be found on Proquest.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fieldwork Discussion Group (Spring 2019)

We have an exciting lineup for Spring 2019. I hope you can attend.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Giving a Talk -- Some Practical Advice

I just attended the 2019 LSA meeting in NYC at the Sheraton Hotel. I attended every day, from Thursday January 3rd to Sunday January 6th, and saw many talks. Based on that experience, I have written up some notes on how to give a talk at the LSA.