Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Interclausal NEG Raising and the Scope of Negation (Collins and Postal 2017)

In this paper, we show that the syntactic analysis of one major type of NEG raising in Collins & Postal (2014) is inconsistent with the facts of negation scope revealed by Klima (1964) type tests for sentential negation. Two of the four original Klima tests plus three additional ones are discussed. We propose a novel alternative syntactic analysis, one also involving NEG raising, that is consistent with the relevant tests, as well as with all the principles of NEG raising and NEG deletion proposed in Collins & Postal (2014). We suggest, further, that the newer analysis permits a more uniform overall conception of the various cases of NEG Raising.

Interclausal NEG Raising and the Scope of Negation

Collins, Chris and Paul Postal. 2017. Interclausal NEG Raising and the Scope of Negation. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 2(1), 29.

Disentangling Two Distinct Notions of NEG Raising (Collins and Postal 2018)

In this paper we consider two analyses of NEG raising phenomena: a syntactic approach based on raising NEG, as recently advocated in Collins & Postal 2014, and a semantic/pragmatic approach based on the Excluded Middle Assumption; see Bartsch 1973. We show that neither approach alone is sufficient to account for all the relevant phenomena. Although the syntactic approach is needed to explain the distribution of strict NPIs and Horn clauses, the semantic/pragmatic approach is needed to explain certain inferences where syntactic NEG raising is blocked.

Disentangling Two Distinct Notions of NEG Raising

Collins, Chris and Paul Postal. 2018. Disentangling Two Distinct Notions of NEG Raising. Semantics and Pragmatics 11, 1-21.

Dispelling the Cloud of Unknowing (Collins and Postal 2018)

The argument in CP(2014) hinged on a claimed restriction on Horn clauses due originally to Horn (1975: 283; 1978: 169). The claim was that Horn clauses are limited to the complements of verbs independently permitting Classical NR, that is, complements of CNRPs. However, since the appearance of CP(2014), Horn (2014) has attested a new data class illustrating Horn clauses, but ones occurring in the complements of non-CNRP predicates. These include in particular a nonfactive use of the verb know, which Horn calls know-NF, a terminology we adopt. An example of the type at issue is given in (4):

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Home Sweet Home (Collins 2007)

The word “home” can be used as a directional or a (non-directional) locative, as shown in the following examples: (1) a. They went home. (directional) b. They stayed home. (locative) This paper will attempt to explain the following asymmetry between the overt realization of “to” and the overt realization of “at” with the word “home”: (4) a. I went (*to) home. b. I did my homework *(at) home. c. I stayed (at) home. The main theoretical conclusions of the paper are as follows. First, the condition governing the pronunciation of prepositions is a generalization of the Doubly-Filled Comp Filter, reformulated as an economy condition on Spell-Out. Second, I show that the notion of “light noun” as put forth in Kishimoto (2000) to account for the properties of expressions like “somebody” and “nothing”, also plays a role in the syntax of “home” and other locative expressions in English. Third, my paper makes a contribution to the growing literature on the internal structure of PPs (see Koopman 2000). In particular, I show that “from” should be analyzed as “from AT”, and that particles such as “in” should be analyzed as “AT/TO in”.

Home Sweet Home

Collins, Chris. 2007. Home Sweet Home. In Lisa Levinson and Oana Savescu-Ciucivara (eds.), NYU Working Papers in Linguistics 1. (

A Formalization of Minimalist Syntax (Collins and Stabler 2016)

The  goal  of  this paper is to give a precise, formal account of certain fundamental notions in minimalist  syntax. Particular attention is given to the comparison of token-based (multidominance) and chain-based  perspectives on Merge. After considering a version of Transfer that violates the No-Tampering Condition  (NTC), we sketch an alternative, NTC-compliant version.

A Formalization of Minimalist Syntax 

Collins, Chris and Edward Stabler. 2016. A Formalization of Minimalist Syntax. Syntax 19, 43-78.

Greek and English Passives, and the Role of by-Phrases (Angelopoulos, Collins and Terzi 2020)

This paper proposes an analysis in which passive by-phrases are merged as the arguments of the active with the corresponding theta roles (Hasegawa 1988; D’Hulst 1992; Mahajan 1994; Goodall 1997; 1999; Caha 2009; Collins 2018a; Roberts 2019; Karlík 2020 and Hallman 2020). The analysis finds support in new data from Greek and English showing that, just like the DP arguments of the active, by-phrases bear the same range of theta roles and can bind a non-logophoric reflexive. On the other hand, it is shown that PPs with non-argument theta-roles, that is, adjunct PPs, cannot. In light of these findings, the paper reaches a number of independent conclusions such as that VoiceP, the projection responsible for the distinct morphological realization of the different Voice phenomena, does not introduce the external argument (Collins 2005; Merchant 2013; Manzini et al. 2016; Ramchand 2017; Roberts 2019; Zyman & Kalivoda 2020; Newman 2020). Furthermore, in light of the new data presented here, the paper discusses reasons for which the following proposals cannot be maintained: that the Greek and English passive are formed in a different manner, or with different Voice heads (Alexiadou & Doron 2012 i.a.), that by-phrases are merged as adjuncts (Bruening 2013; Legate 2014; Alexiadou et al. 2015 i.a.) or that Greek by-phrases systematically exhibit distinct behavior from the corresponding DP arguments of the active (Alexiadou et al. 2015). Lastly, it is argued that the rules of semantic composition, if applied as in Heim & Kratzer (1998) and Bruening (2013), make available more ways in which arguments can be merged than those which are actually attested. The paper suggests that the rules in question must be constrained by independent principles, such as Chomsky’s (1981, 1986) Theta Criterion.

Green and English Passives, and the Role of by-Phrases

Angelopoulos, Nikos, Chris Collins and Arnonto Terzi. 2020. Greek and English Passives and the Role of by-Phrases. Glossa 5(1): 90, 1-29.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Gaps, Ghosts and Gapless Relatives (Collins and Radford 2015)

This paper looks at the syntax of so-called gapless relative clauses in spoken English. §1 contrasts gap relatives (like that italicized in ‘something which I said’, in which there is a gap internally within the relative clause associated with the relativized constituent) with gapless relatives (like that italicized in ‘They were clowning around, which I didn’t really care until I found out they had lost my file’, in which there is no apparent gap within the relative clause). In §2, we note that a number of recent analyses take which to function as a subordinating conjunction in gapless relatives, but we argue against this view and provide evidence that the wh-word in such clauses is indeed a relative pronoun. In §3, we argue that the relative pronoun in gapless relatives serves as the object of a ‘silent’ preposition. In  §4, we present an  analysis under which a preposition can be silent when it undergoes a type of  deletion operation called  Ghosting. §5  discusses  gapless relatives which have a Topic-Comment interpretation, and argues for an extended Ghosting analysis under which a TP containing a predicate of SAYING associated with the  ghosted  preposition is also ghosted. Our overall conclusion is that supposedly ‘gapless’ relatives are  more properly analyze as containing a gap created by relativization of the object of a ghosted preposition.

Gaps, Ghosts and Gapless Relatives

Collins, Chris and Andrew Radford. 2015. Gaps, Ghosts and Gapless Relatives in Spoken English. Studia Linguistica 69.2, 191-235.

Linkers and the Internal Structure of vP (Baker and Collins 2006)

In a variety of languages a particle, which we call the linker, appears between the direct object and a secondary object or nominal adpositional phrase. We compare the syntax of this linker particle in Kinande (Niger-Congo) to its syntax in two Khoisan  languages, Juǀ’hoansi and ǂHoan. We propose an account of the properties that linkers in these languages share, including the linkers’ word order properties and Case-theoretic contributions. We then go on to explore the range of variation that the linker construction  tolerates, with respect to what phrases can move into the linker’s specifier, and whether or not the linker manifests agreement with its specifier. In so doing, we uncover both the principles and the parameters relevant to these linker constructions. Finally, we  point to some evidence that the linker category even exists in Chichewa (and other Bantu languages) in which it is not spelled out overtly. Our analysis provides striking support for the existence of vP-internal functional projections. The data in this paper also lead us to the surprising conclusion that the Minimal Link Condition can be parameterized.

Linkers and the Internal Structure of vP

Baker, Mark and Chris Collins. 2006. Linkers and the Internal Structure of vP. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 24.2, 307-354.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Internal Structure of the vP in Juǀ'hoan and ǂHoan (Collins 2003)

In this article, I analyze ki (ǂHoan) and ko (Juǀ'hoansi) as heading vP internal functional projections dominating VP and dominated by vP. I show how this analysis provides a natural account for the various possible and impossible word orders in constructions involving locative and instrumental phrases. Lastly, I discuss the general implications of my analysis for the theory of Case checking in Chomsky (2000, 2001a,b).

The Internal Structure of the vP in Juǀ'hoan and ǂHoan

Collins, Chris. 2003. The Internal Structure of vP in Ju|’hoan and ǂHoan. Studia Linguistica 57.1, 1-25. 

The Absence of the Linker in Double Object Constructions in Nǀuu (Collins 2004)

The linker in Nǀuu appears before various types of nominal expressions, but not before the second object  in a double object construction. Linkers in Khoisan languages such as ǂHoan and Juǀ'hoansi do appear  in this position. I will show that this property of the linker in Nluu is related to the fact that Nluu has a dative Case  marker -a which appears after the first object of a DOC, whereas ǂHoan and Juǀ'hoansi do not.

The Absence of the Linker in Double Object Constructions in Nǀuu

Collins, Chris. 2004. The Absence of the Linker in Double Object Constructions in N|uu. Studies in African Linguistics, 33.2.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Note on Extraction from Conditionals (Collins 1998)

 This paper examines a number of standard extraction tests which are applied to conditionals to determine their syntactic structure. The conclusion is that in conditionals where the protasis and the apodasis are 'linked' by the word then there exists an extra barrier to movement. I will speculate on the source of the extra barrier at the end of the paper, using data on the order of constituents in conditionals and the selection of conditional clauses.

A Note on Extraction from Conditionals

Collins, Chris. 1998. A Note on Extraction from Conditionals. Cornell Working Papers in Linguistics 16, 57-66.

Why and How Come (Collins 1991)

 In this paper I will give an analysis of structures involving "why" and "how come". In section two, I will present an analysis of "why" and "how come". In section three, I will show how a wide range of syntactic facts follows from this analysis. In section four, I will show how a number of facts about quantifier interpretation follow from this analysis. In section five, I briefly discuss the analysis of "how come" of Zwicky (1971). Lastly, I will conclude with a discussion of some of the wider implications of my analysis of "how come".

Why and How Come

Collins, Chris. 1991. Why and How Come. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 15, 31-45.

Converting .MOV Video Files to .MP4 Video Files

ELAR (Endangered Languages Archive accepts .MP4 video files, but not .MOV video files for archiving. The purpose of this blog post is to describe how .MOV files can be converted to .MP4 file using Adobe Premiere Pro.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Linker in the Khoisan Languages (Collins 2017)

In this chapter, I will present the basic facts about the linker in a number of non-central Khoisan languages: ǂHoã, Juǀ'hoan, Nǀuu, ǃXoõ and ǁXam. I start with ǂHoã not only because historically I worked on ǂHoã first, but also because it is the simplest linker system in some ways. Juǀ'hoan, Nǀuu, and ǃXoo all involve vari­ous complications that perturb the basic ǂHoã system. For example, Juǀ'hoan has a transitivity suffix and inversion, Nǀuu has a dative case marker, and !Xoõ has the transitivity linker.

The Linker in the Khoisan Languages

Collins, Chris. 2017. The Linker in the Khoisan Languages. In Jason Kandybowicz and Harold Torrence (eds.), Africa’s Endangered Languages: Documentary and Theoretical Approaches, 237-266. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

This paper also appears as chapter 2 of:

Collins, Chris. 2019. The Linker in the Khoisan Languages. Oxford University Press.

The Agreement Parameter (Collins 2004)

In this  paper, I will investigate the  relationship between agreement and movement by taking a close look  at agreement in the Bantu languages, focussing on Kiswahili. I propose that agreement in Kiswahili is always accompanied by internal Merge, but that there can be agreement without internal Merge in English. This analysis accounts for deep and systematic differences between these languages. In terms of the notion of trigger, the results of my paper suggest that although agreement does not trigger movement in English, agreement does trigger movement in Bantu.

The Agreement Parameter

Collins, Chris. 2004. The Agreement Parameter. In Anne Breitbarth and Henk van Riemsdijk (eds.), Triggers, 115-136. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. 

A Fresh Look at Habitual Be in AAVE (Collins 2006)

In this paper, I describe the use of agentive be (‘If you don’t be careful, you will be caught’) in informal American English. I will show that agentive be has largely the same syntactic behavior as habitual be in AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Based on these similarities, I will conclude the paper by raising a number of questions about the origin of habitual be in AAVE.

A Fresh Look at Habitual Be in AAVE

Collins, Chris. 2006. A Fresh Look at Habitual Be in AAVE. In Ana Deumert and Stephanie Durrleman (eds.), Structure and Variation in Contact Languages, Creole Language Library Series. John Benjamins. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Relative Clause Deletion (Collins 2015)

 The goal of this paper is to investigate the ambiguity of sentences like (1):

(1) At the party, I saw three boys who I know and one girl.

On one interpretation, I propose (1) has the following structure:

(2) At the party, I saw three boys who I know and one girl <who I know>

The  angled  brackets  <…>  indicate  that  the  enclosed  string  is  present  syntactically  but  not pronounced. I will call the process by which the relative clause in (2) is not pronounced relative clause deletion.

Relative Clause Deletion

Collins, Chris. 2015. Relative Clause Deletion. In Ángel J. Gallego and Dennis Ott (eds.). 50 Years Later: Reflections on Chomsky’s Aspects. Vol. 77 of MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 57-69. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL. 

Eliminating Labels (Collins 2002)

This somewhat speculative and exploratory paper will argue that the labels of phrasal categories (e.g., VP versus NP) are not needed in syntactic theory. In other words, no operation or condition may be defined that makes reference to VP versus NP. An immediate consequence of this proposal is that bar-levels, such as X' versus XP, are impossible to define. This paper can be seen as an extension of the program, begun in Chomsky's 1994 paper "Bare Phrase Struc­ture," to derive X'-Theory from more basic principles.

Eliminating Labels

Collins, Chris. 2002. Eliminating Labels. In Samuel Epstein and Daniel Seely (eds.), Derivation and 

Explanation in the Minimalist Program, 43-64. Blackwell.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Topics in Ewe Syntax (Collins 1993)

This thesis analyzes a number of problems in Ewe syntax. Its goal is to show how several difficult problems in Ewe syntax have natural treatments in the generative grammar framework, and how these problems bear on current theoretical issues.

Quotative Inversion (Collins and Branigan 1997)

Sentences in which a direct speech complement to a verb of saying is preposed or postposed can trigger  inversion of the  subject and the finite verb. This structure is analyzed in a minimalist framework, leading to a revision of the minimalist theory of locality constraints on movement.

A Smuggling Approach to Raising in English (Collins 2005)

 In this squib, I analyze raising constructions involving an overt experiencer,  as in the following example  (I indicate lower occurrences or ‘traces’’ with the ( . . . ) notation):

A Smuggling Approach to the Passive in English (Collins 2005)

I propose a theory of the passive that combines aspects of the principles and parameters analysis (no specific rules, no downward movement) and Chomsky’s (1957) Syntactic Structures analysis (the arguments in the passive are generated in the same positions as they are in the active).

A Smuggling Approach to the Passive in English

Collins, Chris. 2005. A Smuggling Approach to the Passive in English. Syntax  8.2.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Argument Sharing in Serial Verb Constructions (Collins 1997)

It is shown that internal argument sharing is a necessary property of serial verb constructions in Ewe.  Data  involving the marking of oblique/default Case in Ewe show that argument sharing is mediated by the presence of empty categories, contra proposals by Baker (1989, 1991). Serial verb constructions are  analyzed as control structures where the second verb incorporates into the first verb at LF.

Argument Sharing in Serial Verb Constructions

Collins, Chris. 1997. Argument Sharing in Serial Verb Constructions. Linguistic Inquiry 28.3, 461-497.

VP Internal Structure and Object Shift in Icelandic (Collins and Thrainsson 1996)

We show that if Chomsky's (1993) locality theory is adopted, then it is necessary to postulate VP-internal  functional projections in order to account for object shift in double object constructions in Icelandic. We account for these functional projections by analyzing ditransitive verbs as causative constructions, where a causative ''light verb'' takes a TP complement.  Finally, we show that the VP-internal  functional structure is independently needed to account for word order phenom­ena in particle constructions in Icelandic.

VP Internal Structure and Object Shift in Icelandic

Collins, Chris and Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1996. VP Internal Structure and Object Shift in Icelandic.  Linguistic Inquiry 27.3, 391-444.

Economy of Derivation and the Generalized Proper Binding Condition (Collins 1994)

Chomsky  (1991, 1993) and  Chomsky and  Lasnik (1992) have proposed that syntactic derivations are constrained by the principle of Economy of Derivation. In this article I will show that two direct consequences follow rom this proposal. First, it eliminates a class of derivations involving 'chain interleaving'  (section 2). Second, it prohibits cer­tain cases of downward and sideways movement  (section  3). To the extent that these consequences are easily verifiable, they provide strong support for such a principle.

Economy of Derivation and the Generalized Proper Binding Condition

Collins, Chris. 1994. Economy of Derivation and the Generalized Proper Binding Condition. Linguistic Inquiry 25.1, 45-61.

An AAE Camouflage Constructions (Collins, Moody, Postal 2008)

Spears 1998 discusses a use of the word ass in African American English (AAE) in sentences like They done arrested her stupid ass and I’m gonna sue her ass. We refer to DPs like her stupid ass generically as the ACC (ass CAMOUFLAGE CONSTRUCTION), and we view the ACC as an instance of a universal grammatical phenomenon we call CAMOUFLAGE. The ACC is also attested in non-AAE dialects of American English (Beavers & Koontz-Garboden 2006a).

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Spanish usted as an Imposter (Collins and Ordóñez 2020)

Abstract: Across dialects, Spanish uses the third person forms usted and ustedes to refer to the addressee. In this squib, we propose an imposter analysis of these forms in the framework of Collins and Postal 2012.

Keywords: imposters, camouflage, usted, ustedes, ghosting, impoverishment

Spanish usted as an Imposter

Friday, December 4, 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Aspects of Plurality in =Hoan (Collins 2001)

Abstract: In =Hoan, nouns and verbs can be pluralized. This article investigates various syntactic and semantic aspects of plurality in =Hoan: first, the formation of plurals of inalienable nouns, then, how the plurals of verbs (termed PLURACTIONAL VERBS) are formed in much the same way as the plurals of inalienable nouns. The phenomenon of pluractional verbs strongly supports the event argument analysis of verbal semantics.

A Syntactic Approach to Case Contiguity

Abstract: Building on the empirical results and theoretical insights of Caha 2013, I show how to derive the Case Contiguity Constraint in a syntactic theory of morphology.  In particular, I show how to derive *ABA in the domain of case syncretism without appeal to late insertion.

A Syntactic Approach to Case Contiguity

Monday, October 12, 2020

Forms of the Copula in English

Here is a new paper on morphology. I do not intend to post this to Lingbuzz. 

Abstract: In this paper, I give a syntactic analysis of the suppletive forms of the copula (i.e., is, are, am) that eschews reference to late insertion, competition and blocking. Rather, the paradigm is explained in terms of a rich set of functional projections dominating the copular VP, and principles by which the heads of those projections are spelled-out.

Forms of the Copula in English

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Labeling without Labels (Collins and Seely)

Abstract: Despite the use of the expressions ‘labels, ‘labeling algorithm’ and ‘projection’ (of labels), it is argued that the labeling algorithm in Chomsky 2013 in fact assumes and is constructed within a label-free syntax of just the sort developed by Collins 2002 and Seely 2006.

Labeling without Labels

Monday, October 5, 2020

Purchasing an E-Reader for Academic Work

I purchased the Onyx Boox Max3 (OBM3) just over two weeks ago. The purpose of this post is to describe why I purchased it, and my experiences with it so far. Hopefully, the post will be of use to other academics who want to purchase an e-reader. As I get more and more accustomed to using it, I will continue to revise this post.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

10 things I miss about Botswana

I was in Botswana during the academic year 2019-2020. I have been home for about a month. So, it is a good moment for me to reflect on the things I miss there. Here is a small list (order not important):

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Basic Tonal Analysis in Fieldwork

The purpose of this document is to outline a simple method for figuring out how to transcribe the tones of a tonal language. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Field Methods 2020: A Case Study in Remote Learning

In this post, I will discuss our Field Methods 2020 class, focusing on the issue of teaching remotely. I will give weekly updates.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Conjunction Adverbs (1988)

This is my very first graduate student paper written over 30 years ago. It is very rough in many ways, which is probably why I never tried to publish it, and I never presented it at a conference. I do not intend to post it on Lingbuzz.

Collins, Chris. 1988. Conjunction Adverbs. Ms., MIT.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Gender Balance in a Syntax I Syllabus

This blog post addresses the issue of gender (im)balance in creating a syllabus for Syntax I, the first semester of the graduate introduction to syntax at NYU.

The History of Semantics at MIT

This blog post was inspired by a recent Facebook thread on my Facebook page discussing one of Barbara Partee’s talks on the history of formal semantics:

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Labeling Reading List

This is a compilation I made of (mostly published) papers and books concerning labeling in syntax. Most of the titles were sent to me after I posted a call on Facebook (on July 29th, 2020).

Sunday, July 26, 2020

ELAN Training Videos

ELAN is a program that allows you to transcribe audio and video recordings for linguistic research. In this post, I list some of the video resources on the internet for learning ELAN.

10 things I miss about NYC

I have been in Botswana for over a year now. Even though I love Botswana, there are a certain number of things that I can do in NYC that I cannot do in Botswana, and I miss them.

How to Review a Syntax Paper


The objective of a review for a linguistics journal is to evaluate whether a submission advances the scientific study of human language. If the submission makes such an advance, it should be accepted. If it does not, it should be rejected.

Embracing Failure in Linguistics

Working in linguistics can be mentally and emotionally challenging. The field is set up in a way to measure performance at almost every turn, and often there is a negative outcome. I will give a list of some types of failure and rejection, and then give general advice on how to handle them. I suggest that failure should be seen in a positive light, as an opportunity for growth. It should not be feared, but rather embraced, and it should definitely not lower your self-esteem.

Remembering Rahul Balusu

I have just learned that Rahul Balusu has passed away. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Workshop Announcement: Syntactic Approaches to Morphology

Venue: online (synchronous talks via Zoom)
Registration: There is no registration fee, but attendees need to register. 
For schedule and registration, click here.
Date: December 4-5, 2020
Organizers: Chris Collins (NYU) and Richard Kayne (NYU)

The purpose of this conference is to investigate the relationship between morphology and syntax, and in particular to investigate the extent to which morphological generalizations can be accounted for in terms of purely syntactic operations and conditions. Specific questions that could be addressed include the following:

Why a Working Grammarian need not be ordinary (by Henk van Riemsdijk)

(The following is a guest post by Henk van Riemsdijk responding to the following post:

Three Monographs to Write

Here are the next three monographs that I want to write, presented in the order in which they will be written. Most of the material has already been written up (and posted on Lingbuzz and on my blog OrdinaryWorkingGrammarian in various forms).

Capturing Oral Texts

The purpose of this blog post is to lay out the steps required to capture an oral text. I keep the commentary on each step brief, but in some cases provide a link to further discussion.

Sound Recording Set-Ups for Video in Linguistics Fieldwork

I outline some sound recording set-ups that I have used. I am definitely not an expert, but I have not found anywhere on the internet laying out these options, and their pros and cons especially in the context of linguistic fieldwork. I believe that there is no best method. The one you use depends on the requirements and goals for the particular video.

Transcription Mode in ELAN

ELAN has several modes: Annotation Mode, Media Synchronization Mode, Transcription Mode, Segmentation Mode, Interlinearization Mode

Transcription Tips

Transcription of oral texts is difficult and time consuming. It is made more difficult when the words are spoken quickly and softly, and when the audio is not optimal (e.g., too much wind, background noise). Adding to the difficulty, one may have several hours of oral texts to transcribe.

Monday, May 25, 2020

About Me (from website)

I started out in 1981 as an undergraduate math major at the University of Minnesota, and then transferred to MIT as a math major halfway through my sophomore year.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Remark on Identity Conditions in Nominal Ellipsis

This short squib was triggered by the following joke that I saw on Facebook (in the group “I Love Mathematics”):

Wife: Please could you go to the shop and get a carton of milk, if they have avocados get six.
Husband: [Returning from the shop with six cartons of milk]: They had avocados.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Beginning of Syntax (Version 3)

In this post, I argue that we, as a field, are at the beginning of the scientific study of natural language syntax. There are two aspects to this claim. First, work in generative syntax, even on a well-studied language like English, has just uncovered the tip of the iceberg in terms of documenting the relevant facts and generalizations. Second, we are also at the very beginning of understanding the mechanisms of UG that account for these generalizations.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Passive By-Phrases in Greek and English: Adjuncts or Arguments?

A heavily revised version of a paper on the Greek and English passive by Nikos Angelopoulos, Chris Collins and Arhonto Terzi. Lots of very interesting theoretical conclusions about by-phrases, VoiceP and the Theta-Criterion.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Grammaticality Judgments versus Acceptability Judgments

In this post, I discuss the use of the phrases “grammaticality judgment” and “acceptability judgment”. I end the post by suggesting that the phrase “grammaticality judgment” should be used for the kind of data that syntacticians gather in a judgment task.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Typical Middle Class House in Gaborone Botswana

In this post, I walk you through what a typical middle class house in Gaborone, Botswana looks like (the neighborhood is Block 6). This house is in no way unusual for Gaborone. In fact, there are many neighborhoods where the houses look more or less like this (e.g., Block 7 and Block 8). Of course, there is much more expensive housing in Gaborone too, especially in Phakalane. And there is less expensive housing too, in places like Mogoditshane (just outside of Gaborone, on the road to Molepolole).

Thursday, April 30, 2020

An Interview with Paul Postal

An Interview with Paul Postal
Chris Collins
April 2020

The following is an interview with Paul Postal on his career in linguistics. The interview took place via e-mail during the coronavirus pandemic, from Tuesday March 24, 2020 to the end of April, 2020. For readability, some of the questions and answers have been edited and the order of a few of the questions has been altered.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Abstract for Contribution on Workspaces to CHM

Cambridge Handbook of Minimalism
Edited by Kleanthes K. Grohmann and Evelina Leivada

Chris Collins

In minimalist syntax, the syntactic objects formed at any particular step in the derivation occupy a workspace. This chapter will be about the role workspaces play in the minimalist syntax. The emphasis will be on the following questions:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When Grammaticality Judgments Differ (version 2)

What do we do, as syntacticians, when there are differing grammaticality judgments between two speakers for a particular sentence? How do we interpret those differences theoretically? In this blog post, I outline various alternatives.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Advice for Surviving Linguistics Graduate School

Sometimes graduate students ask me for general advice on doing well in graduate school. I have compiled a list of tips that I give them. The points are not presented in order of importance. If you have other tips that I should add, let me know!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Getting Oral Texts: Problems and Solutions

In this blog post, I will outline some problems that the field linguist working on highly endangered languages may encounter in trying to collect oral texts, and some possible ways around those problems.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sasi Fieldwork 2020-02-19: Goals and Report

In the following post, I describe my research goals and results for the period from Feb. 18, 2020 to March 5, 2018. During this period I worked with two separate groups in Gaborone, Botswana.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ten Cultural Differences between Togo and Botswana

These are things I noticed while living on and off in these countries (in the Peace Corps in Togo, and doing linguistic research in both Togo and Botswana) over the last 35 years. Many of these differences extend to other countries so that the difference might be really West African versus southern Africa. They are all rather superficial, since I am essentially a stranger looking from the outside in.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Proposal for a Fieldwork Lab

This is a proposal for a Fieldwork Lab that we are working on at NYU. If anybody has feedback, let me know.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pronominal Agreement and Bound Variable Anaphora

Abstract: In this squib, I explore the relation between pronominal agreement and bound variable anaphora in the framework of Collins and Postal 2012.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Life is Short

On February 1, 2020, at around 4:00pm, while driving home from the cattle post, my wife and I were involved in a horrible car accident. We had just gotten on to the gravel road, from the cattle post road, and I lost control of the car. The car spun 180 degrees to the right, and then flipped over 270 degrees onto the driver’s side. The top of the car is crumpled in, and the front windshield is completely shattered. The car is basically destroyed, and will be written off by the insurance company. Some pictures are at the end of the post.

Cattle Post Roads

In a previous post, I talked about cattle post roads. One reader asked for pictures, so here they are.

UCONN Talk (February 7, 2020)

Here is a rough draft of my UCONN talk to be given Friday February 7, 2020.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sasi Fieldwork 2020-01-25: Goals and Report

A report on fieldwork on Sasi conducted in Gaborone from Sunday January 26 to Friday January 31. Some pictures are included at the end of the file.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Statement of Purpose Examples

People from other countries often find writing a Statement of Purpose (SOP) for linguistics graduate school in North America to be frustrating and mystifying. To help address this issue, I am posting a set of example SOPs from current and past graduate students as examples.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

ELDP Work Package for Documenting Sasi (huc)

In case you are wondering what an ELDP project plan looks like, I am posting mine here. This award is under the category Small Grant.

ELAN Transcription and Translation Workflow

Below is a description of the workflow I follow for transcribing and translating oral texts into ELAN. 

Meta-Linguistic Awareness and Syntactic Fieldwork

Meta-linguistic awareness is an important concept in linguistic fieldwork, but as far as I know it has never before been discussed in that connection. In this blog post, I will define the concept, give several examples and explain why it is important for fieldwork.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Biking in Gaborone

I have been coming to Botswana on a regular basis since 2011 to do research on the Khoisan languages. Usually, I live somewhere in Gaborone, and then make expeditions into the field. When in Gaborone, I try to bike every morning to wake myself up.

Grading E-Mail

Everybody knows somebody who is terrible at e-mail. Here is a system of e-mail grades for your colleagues, students and friends. At the end of each year (December 31), just send them their grade, and the description of what the grades mean. I guarantee that you will see a notable improvement in their e-mail performance the following year.