Thursday, October 31, 2019

Introduction (Belletti and Collins 2019)

This paper is the introduction to the volume on Smuggling to appear (OUP) edited by Adriana Belletti and Chris Collins.

Belletti and Collins 2019

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thought as Syntax

Abstract: In this paper, I outline an approach to the study of thought from a syntactic point of view. I propose that sentences (in the sense of generative syntax) are thoughts. Under that assumption, I use natural language syntax as a probe into the structure of our thoughts, and show how such a probe sheds light on how we make deductions and our capacity for imagination.

Keywords: thought, syntax, logic, semantics, imagination

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Smuggling Approach to the Adjunct/Argument Asymmetry

In this mini-squib, I sketch an approach to the adjunct/argument asymmetry that is based on smuggling. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Syntactic Tip of the Day

May 11, 2022
When you discover a paper relevant to your topic, study it. But then look at the references in that paper, and track down those references that are also relevant to your topic. In this way, you build a kind of web/net of references and ideas. If you are a grad, don't wait for your advisor to serve up each relevant reference for you, track them down on your own.

May 11, 2022
I want to know what the alternative positions are. To the extent I understand them, I can argue against them. Even if I think a position is completely wrong, I want to really absorb it, to master it, and to know what it would be like to believe such a position. Then, I can argue against it.

March 7, 2022
The best way to strengthen your analysis is to be able to discuss it at length with a critic. If you get this opportunity, be grateful for it.

November 12, 2021
If you are having problems with a construction, think it over just before going to sleep at night. In the morning, when you wake up, you might have a new perspective on the construction.

April 1, 2021
The specific technical proposals in Chomsky's thesis, LSLT and Syntactic Structures are far less important than the kinds of questions that Chomsky started to ask that led him to those proposals. Those questions where roughly: What is the generative system that we need to postulate to account for the data? How can we argue for one generative system over another? What is the relation of this generative system to the speakers's ability to use language? These were completely new questions (as I understand it). The analysis of the auxiliary system in Syntactic Structures was a kind of proof of concept showing the value of this shift in research questions, but the shift itself was the most important thing. And of course, the important discoveries of the subsequent years were a direct consequence of the shift in the questions asked.

March 31, 2021
If you cite a reference in the text, use page numbers (e.g., Clements 1975: 140). Doing so helps the reader look up the information that you cite. If the whole book or paper is relevant, the page number can be omitted (e.g., “Chomsky 1957 marks the beginning of generative syntax.”).

December 12, 2020
Get your hands dirty! When faced with a syntactic problem, turn it inside out. 
Generate a large number of sentences and test them for acceptability. 
Be adventurous, and you might discover something really interesting.

November 13, 2020
Don't be afraid to say "I don't know." These words will liberate you,
and pretending you know something when you don't will imprison you.

October 26, 2020
Be prepared to be perplexed by simple and obvious facts.
Be willing to admit that you do not have an explanation for those facts.

September 8, 2020
Writing syntax papers takes lots of practice. It may take you four or five attempts (in trying to write different papers) to catch on, and even then there will be lots of room for improvement.

April 23, 2020
The secret to getting grants in linguistics: If you apply for four grants (including reapplications), then on average three will be declined and one awarded.

April 7, 2020
Here is a skill syntax students should know: Suppose there is an analysis involving A'-movement of an empty operator. Show that the proposed A'-movement is subject to island constraints.

December 29, 2019
If you are looking for a syntax topic, go to the border wars. For example, there are many interesting problems at the syntax-semantics interface (implicit arguments, anaphora, negation), that have alternative syntactic and semantic analyses. And the other borders are just as volatile: syntax-morphology, syntax-phonology and syntax-pragmatics.

December 25, 2019
Grammaticality judgments should be given in context. A sentence judged as marginal or ungrammatical out of context (out of the blue) might seem better in context. A skill that syntacticians develop is to find contexts that render a sentence grammatical, if there are any.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Basic Consultant Skills for Linguistic Fieldwork

I have recently had the pleasure of working with a number of new consultants. I took the opportunity to jot down some of the basic skills that they needed to learn in my sessions with them.

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

Some 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.