Friday, December 17, 2021

Principles of Argument Structure: A Merge-Based Approach

Principles of Argument Structure: A Merge-Based Approach

Abstract: In this monograph, I argue for a Merge-based theory of argument structure based on the Argument Criterion/Theta-Criterion, a principle of UG. Using Principles A and B of the Binding Theory, the distribution of Helke expressions and secondary predicates, I show that the implicit argument of the short passive in English is syntactically projected. I situate these empirical results in a general theory of implicit arguments. Similarly, I argue that the by-phrase in the passive is externally merged in the same position as the external argument in the active. I show that my analysis is superior empirically to analyses which do not adopt the Argument Criterion/Theta-Criterion. Lastly, I discuss the consequences of the Merge-based theory for the conception of voice in syntactic theory, and for the role of formal semantics in a theory of argument structure.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

MaS2 (Morphology as Syntax 2)



The second Morphology as Syntax workshop (MaS2), organized by UCLA, will take place online on June 10-11 2022, from 9 am-12.30pm PDT (Please adjust to your local time zone). 

The purpose of the workshop 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.  See here for MaS1.

The workshop will involve talks by invited speakers followed by question periods, and comments by panel members followed by general discussion. Here is the line-up of speakers and panel members:

Invited speakers (in alphabetical order): 

Pavel Caha,  

Norbert Corver, 

Karen De Clercq

Marit Julien

Heather Newell

Dimitrios Ntelitheos and 

Edwin Williams

Panel members: 

Antonio Fábregas

Michelle Sheehan

The workshop will be free. Please spread the word. Hope to see many of you on zoom in June.

--Hilda Koopman

(on behalf of my fellow UCLA organizers, Stefan Keine and Harold Torrence)

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Noam Chomsky Lecture at NYU (November 4, 2021)

Professor Noam Chomsky gave a lecture by Zoom at NYU on November 4, 2021. The lecture was part of my seminar "Argument Structure in Minimalist Syntax". He talked about the historical context leading up to his famous 1970 paper "Remarks on Nominalization". At the end of the lecture, there was a question and answer period of around 15 minutes long.

Chomsky Lecture

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Audio Recording a Fieldwork Session

When you go into the field, and record a fieldwork session, you can either record the whole session, or you can record each utterance. For example, suppose that you are interested in subject pronouns, and you want to transcribe the full paradigm. One way to do this is to press the start button on your recording device at the beginning of the session, and the stop button at the end. That way, you will have recorded the whole session. The other way is to record each individual sentence and word that you elicit. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Stroik on Middles

Thomas Stroik has published six articles on middles. I have found these articles useful in thinking about the middle, and I have also found them to resonate in certain ways with the analysis of the passive in Collins 2005 (in particular, the conclusion that the implicit argument in the middle is syntactically projected). So I have listed them all in one place. Stroik 2000 is particularly difficult to find. If you need it, please let me know.

Stroik, Thomas. 1992. Middles and Movement. Linguistic Inquiry 23, 127-137.

Stroik, Thomas. 1995. On Middle Formation: A Reply to Zribi-Hertz. Linguistic Inquiry 26, 165-171.

Stroik, Thomas. 1999. Middles and Reflexivity. Linguistic Inquiry 30, 119-131.

Stroik, Thomas. 2000. Syntactic Controversies. LINCOM. [Chapter 6: On Argument Demotion]

Stroik, Thomas. 2005. Book Review: Markus Steinbach. Middle Voice: A comparative study in the syntax-semantics interface of German. (Linguistik Aktuell; 50). Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 8, 225-241. 

Stroik, Thomas. 2006. Arguments in Middles. In Benjamin Lyngfelt and Torgrim Solstad (eds.), Demoting the Agent: Passive, Middle and other Voice Phenomena, 301-326. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Friday, August 20, 2021

Nominal Possession in Tongugbe (Collins and Gotah)

 Abstract: Kpoglu 2019 notes that the choice of possessive markers in the Tongugbe dialect of Ewe depends on the plurality of the possessor. Building on his observations, we investigate possessive makers in Tongugbe in the case of plural mismatches, defined as cases where the DP is plural, but does not have a final plural marker. We show that both subject clitic doubling and possessor clitic doubling are obligatory in the case of plural mismatches.

Nominal Possession in Tongugbe

Sasi Videos (with translations into Setswana and English)

As part of my ELDP grant on documenting Sasi, I made the following subtitled videos and posted them to YouTube. The subtitles give the Sasi transcription, and also the English and Setswana translations. 


Friday, July 23, 2021

Archiving with ELAR

In this blog post, I will discuss my trials and tribulations with ELDP and ELAR, both the positives and the negatives. My goal is to make it easier for other fieldworkers to archive there, if they decide to do so.

The main take away message is that planning ahead and familiarizing yourself with the nature of the required tasks can save you time in the long run. In my case, planning ahead could have saved me hundreds of hours.

In this post, I will mostly discuss metadata and archiving. See my blog for other posts concerning language documentation. Just use the keyword "fieldwork".

Ordinary Working Grammarian

Friday, June 25, 2021

A Conversation with Noam Chomsky about Formal Semantics

This interview took place by e-mail starting from February 13, 2021 lasting until June 25, 2021. In some minor cases, the text has been edited, and the order of the questions has been changed. I thank Richard Larson for discussions of some of the material from this interview.

Cite as: Collins, Chris. 2021. A Conversation with Noam Chomsky about Formal Semantics. Ordinary Working Grammarian [Blog].

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Ewe Cultural Universe on Video

Compiled by Chris Collins, Spring 2021

During my Spring 2021 seminar "Structure of Ewe", I started every class with a five minute cultural video. I thought this would help the students get a flavor for Ewe culture, and that might make them more interested in the linguistic structures we were investigating. I repeated the exercise during my Fall 2021 Field Methods course (on Pekigbe, a dialect of Ewe). 

Here are the results of my efforts.

The Factive Construction in Kwa (Collins 1994)

This paper gives a preliminary analysis of factive constructions in Kwa languages, including Ewe (Collins 1992), Fon, Yoruba (Bamgbose 1975) and Igbo (Nwachukwu 1976). Differences between the factive constructions of these languages will be analyzed in terms of independent differences. 

The Factive Construction in Kwa

N|uu Stories

Here are four N|uu stories recorded and transcribed by me and Levi Namaseb. Each story is written in N|uu, English and Afrikaans. The N|uu orthography is based on an NSF grant with Amanda Miller and Bonny Sands, and is further described in Collins and Namaseb 2011 (available on demand).

The Blue Wildebeest

(by Katrina Esau)

The Dungbeetles and the Springboks

(by Anna Kassie)

The Jackal

(by Griet Seekoei)

Hyena and Jackal

(by Anna Kassie)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Burning Subtitles into Video Using Adobe Premier Pro

A subtitled video can be a great way to share you work with the community you work with and also with linguists. This blog post assumes that you have filmed a video, and that you have transcribed it in ELAN. The goal is to create burned in subtitles for your video using Adobe Premier Pro.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Implicit Arguments in Nominalizations (Class Exercise)

This exercise is appropriate for an advanced undergraduate syntax course (in my case Grammatical Analysis II), or a beginning grad syntax course. The various parts of this exercise serve to bring up various discussion topics.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Grabbing a Frame from a Video with Adobe Premiere Pro

Sometimes you need a picture of one of your consultants, but you only have video. It is possible to grab a frame from your video to use as a picture. For me, this situation arose because ELAR requests that you provide a picture of each of your consultants, but I did not always take pictures of them.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Peace Corps Togo 1985

 Here are two pictures of my Peace Corps training group in Togo (1985). I believe we are in Atakpame (maybe one of them is in Lome). During the stage (a French word), we learned French, Ewe and also did a lot of practice teaching. In the Peace Corps, I taught math at the high school level, things like algebra, functions and calculus. We trained the students to take their Bac, which is a super difficult end-of-the-year test covering all the subjects they studied during the year. We were also introduced to Togolese food by the kitchen staff. I still remember eating akple (corn porridge) for the first time and not really liking it. Actually, I never ended up liking it (as opposed to fufu, which I love).

A Note on Quantifying into Questions and Functional Readings (Collins 1992)

 In this paper I will show that quantification into questions (Higginbotham) cannot be replaced by quantification over functions (Engdahl).

A Note on Quantifying into Questions and Functional Readings

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Proposal Peer Review (Class Activity)

In this blog post, I outline what is perhaps my most successful classroom activity. The basic idea is to have the students help each other to develop their paper proposals.

By doing this activity, students gain concrete skills in writing academic paper proposals, thinking critically about their own proposals, and giving constructive criticisms of other’s work.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A- versus A'-Movement (Class Exercise)

Grammatical Analysis II Spring 2021

Week 8: A versus A’-Movement

My First Covid-19 Shot (March 21, 2021)

I got my first Covid-19 shot yesterday, Sunday March 21, 2021. In this blog post, I give the background leading up to the shot, and details about how I arranged it. I seriously doubt anybody will find this interesting, but in 10-20 years perhaps my future self and grandchildren might want to read it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

On the Form and Function of MERGE (video by Daniel Seely)

Abstract: This talk explores the form and function of the most fundamental operation of the Narrow Syntax, namely Merge. First, we'll give a history of structure building devices, from PS rules through successive stages in the development of Merge--from its introduction in Bare Phrase Structure (Chomsky 1994/95) to its formulation in Problems of Projection (Chomsky 2013, 2015, see also Epstein, Kitahara, Seely 2015) and finally to its most recent characterization, as MERGE—note upper case (Chomsky 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), Epstein, Kitahara, Seely (2018, 2020). Next, we trace the "Maximize Minimal Merge" program (Epstein, Kitahara, and Seely, among others): The idea is to maximize the effects of Merge, while minimizing its form, positing internal to the Narrow Syntax as little as possible beyond simplest Merge (Merge(X, Y) = {X, Y}). Finally, we consider the current ‘state of the art’, in the form of MERGE (i.e. Chomsky’s most recent characterization). MERGE applies to the Workspace WS (which is formally recognized and incorporated into the theory) and not directly to syntactic objects themselves. We provide a detailed examination of this re-conception of Merge, tracing its form and function, and certain challenges that it may give rise to, and  also revealing important consequences in a number of empirical domains, and its implications for the theory of Narrow Syntax

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Three Facebook Threads on Morphology

Here are three Facebook threads on morphology. They contain many posts by various linguists on the topic of morphology, and in particular the relation between syntax and morphology. I have learned a lot from my colleagues by participating in these dialogues. Since I often have a difficult time locating these posts, I thought I would post them on my blog for ease of reference:

Monday, February 1, 2021

Job Interview Questions

When you apply for a job and are invited for an interview, it can be a source of great anxiety. How do you prepare for such an interview? Here is a list of job interview questions put together by Sam Alxatib and Jason Kandybowicz (CUNY Graduate Center) that you might find helpful.

Syllabus: Structure of Ewe (Spring 2021)

 Here is the syllabus for my Structure of Ewe course. It is meant for grads and advanced undergraduates. 

Syllabus: Structure of Ewe (Spring 2021)

Syllabus: Grammatical Analysis II (Spring 2021)

 Here is my syllabus for the second semester undergraduate syntax course. 

Syllabus: Grammatical Analysis II (Spring 2021)

I post it for the following reasons: (a) People who are interested could do the readings on their own. (b) Other professors might get some ideas from the syllabus that they find useful. (c) Other professors who have taught similar courses can give me feedback that I find useful.

A new feature of this year's syllabus:

Syntax Diary

Part of learning to do syntax is learning to be puzzled by the most obvious facts of language.  For this assignment, you should pay attention to language as it is used around you: on the internet (e-mail, Facebook, websites, etc.), when you are talking with your friends and family, in books and magazines, when you are out buying food, etc. Try to find a sentence or construction that you find interesting or perplexing, and discuss it (less than one page, double spaced). This assignment will ungraded. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Required Documents during a Career in Linguistics

Here is a list of documents that we are required to write in our careers as linguists, but for which we do not really receive any training or guidelines. Basically, we learn how to write these documents on our own. It is a sink or swim situation. I leave out documents like course papers, QPs and dissertations for which we are supposed to receive feedback. In a few cases, I indicate where I have discussed the relevant documents in my blog.