Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Argument Structure in Minimalist Syntax (Fall 2021)

Seminar Announcement

Fall 2021 Announcement: Seminar in Syntax

Argument Structure in Minimalist Syntax (LING-GA 3320)

Instructor: Professor Chris Collins 

Time: T/R 11:00-12:15

Place: 10 WP 103

Level: grad and advanced undergrad

Course Description

This is a seminar on the syntax of argument structure in the framework of minimalist syntax, focusing on the passive, implicit arguments and nominalizations. We will start with a discussion of the following manuscript (to be submitted to MIT Press):

Collins, Chris. 2021. Principles of Argument Structure: The English Passive Construction as a Case Study.

The discussion of the implicit argument in the short passive will lead into a discussion of the properties of implicit arguments more generally (outside of the passive). We will then discuss how principles of argument structure apply in nominalizations starting with Chomsky 1970.

The course will alternate between lectures and student led discussions, so the content of the course will depend in part on student interest. There will also be two guest lectures:

Thursday, October 7: Tom Roeper

Thursday, November 4: Noam Chomsky (on “Remarks on Nominalization”)

All the readings for this course will be made available on Dropbox. If you are interested in attending, please let me know, and I will add your name to the Dropbox folder.

Questions of interest include the following:

a. What general principles of UG determine how arguments are projected?

b. What is the status of UTAH in Universal Grammar? 

c. How is the external argument projected in the active and the passive?

d. What is the syntactic status of the implicit argument in the short passive?

e. What is the semantic interpretation of the implicit argument in the short passive?

f. What are the properties of implicit arguments found in other constructions:

middles, nominalizations, evaluative adjectives and -able constructions?

g. What kind of empty category is the implicit argument (e.g, pro, PRO, etc.)?

h. How are implicit arguments licensed?

i. How are arguments projected in nominalizations?

j. Do derived nominals contain verbal projections?

k. What are the boundaries and tradeoffs between syntax and formal semantics in analyzing

argument structure?

Selected Readings:


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

Bruening, Benjamin. 2013. By Phrases in Passives and Nominals. Syntax 16, 1-41.

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

Legate, Julie. 2014. Voice and v: Lessons from Achenese. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Legate, Julie, Faruk Akkuş, Milena Šereikaitė, Don Ringe. 2020. On Passives of Passives. Language 96, 771-818. 

Roberts, Ian. 2019. Parameter Hierarchies and Universal Grammar. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Implicit Arguments:

Bhatt, Rajesh and Rouyana Pancheva. 2017. Implicit Arguments. In Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk (eds.), Blackwell Companion to Syntax. Blackwell.

Bruening, Benjamin. 2020. Implicit Arguments in English Double Object Constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

Elbourne, Paul. 2021. Literal vs enriched meaning: It's raining. In Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann (eds.), The Wiley Companion to Semantics. Wiley.

Epstein, Samuel David. 1984. Quantifier-pro and the LF Representation of PROarb. Linguistic Inquiry 15, 499-505.


Alexiadou, Artemis and Hagit Borer. 2021. Nominalization: 50 Years on from Chomsky’s Remarks. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Chomsky, Noam. 1970. Remarks on Nominizations. In Roderick Jacobs and Peter Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English Transformational Grammar, 184-22. Ginn and Company, Waltham, MA.

Fábregas, Antonio. 2012. Evidence for Multidominance in Spanish Agentive Nominalizations. In Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria and Vidal Valmala (eds.), Ways of Structure Building, 66-92. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Fu, Jingqi, Hagit Borer, and Tom Roeper. 2001. The VP within nominalizations: evidence from adverbs and the VP anaphor do so. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 19. 549–82.

Grishaw, Jane. 1990. Argument Structure. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Kayne, Richard. 2010. Antisymmetry and the Lexicon. In Comparisons and Contrasts, 165-189. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Lees, Robert. 1960. The Grammar of English Nominalizations. The Hague: Mouton.

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