Forthcoming Articles


The articles below are expected to appear in upcoming issues of Language


 Research Articles

Deriving verb-initial word order in Mayan

By Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon

While languages in the Mayan family are predominantly verb-initial (V1), individual languages display either rigid VSO or alternating VOS=VSO word orders (England 1991). Existing proposals derive V1 order in Mayan by base-generating the subject in a vP-internal right-side specifier (Aissen 1992) or by XP-fronting a predicate to a high left-side specifier position (Coon 2010). We review problems with previous accounts and argue that V1 is consistently derived by head movement of the verb to a position above the subject and below Infl0. This proposal accounts for uniformity in verb-stem formation across the family and provides a natural account of VSO orders. Next, we turn to VOS/VSO alternating languages, where a variety of factors have been reported to determine postverbal argument order, including specificity, definiteness, phonological weight, discourse prominence, and argument animacy (see e.g. England 1991). After an in-depth examination of these factors, we suggest that there are three distinct and independently motivated paths to VOS order in the Mayan family. First, based on prosodic evidence from Ch’ol, we argue that VOS may be derived by postsyntactic reordering of NP objects (Clemens 2014). In addition, VOS may arise through right-side subject topicalization (Can Pixabaj 2004; Curiel 2007) or the shifting of heavy subjects towards the periphery of the clause (Larsen 1988). This account both provides better empirical coverage internal to Ch’ol, and makes testable predictions in the domains of word order and prosodic constituency for other Mayan languages.


Extraction and licensing in Toba Batak

By Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine

I investigate patterns of preverbal fronting in Toba Batak, a predicate-initial Austronesian language of northern Sumatra. Contrary to the claims of previous work on the language, I show that multiple constituents can be simultaneously fronted, though only in limited con gurations. I argue that the heads C and T are present in Toba Batak, with their traditional division of labor, but extraction patterns are restricted by the limited means of nominal licensing (abstract Case) in the language. In addition, the features of C and T have the option of being bundled together on a single head, inheriting properties of both C and T and probing together for the joint satisfaction of their probes. This study sheds light on the relationship between western Austronesian voice system languages and the clause periphery in other language families.


Evaluating S(c)illy Voices: Real-time reactions to regional speech

By Chris Montgomery & Emma Moore

This article presents data gathered via a new tool for capturing, visualising, and querying listeners’ real-time reactions to voice samples. Using two guises constructed from the same speaker’s interview, we show that listeners are adept at reacting to certain linguistic features in real time, and in many cases are able to account for their reactions. We show that different language features function to mark different kinds of social meanings and that some language features carry more weight when it comes to identifying a locale. In particular, we will demonstrate that the same linguistic features are perceived differently dependent upon the wider guise in which they appear.


Structure Dependence and Linear Order: Clarifications and Foundations

By Jordi Fortuny

According to Chomsky (2010, 2013) and Berwick et al. (2011), the Structure Dependence Principle suggests that linear order is a reflex of the sensory-motor system and plays no role in syntax and seman- tics. However, when these authors use the expression linear order they seem to refer exclusively to the literal precedence relation among terminals in linguistic objects. We observe that this narrow use, which is very common within linguistics, differs from the technical use in a non-innocuous way and does not allow us to exploit the unificational force that the concept of order can have for minimalist investigations. Here we follow Fortuny & Corominas' (2009) formal definition of the syntactic procedure that capitalizes on the foundational set-theoretical concept of nest. We show how the Structure Dependence Principle can be derived from a local definition of syntactic domain while retaining the idea that central concepts of configurational and transformational syntactic theories are orders.

Towards A Theory of Modal-Temporal Interaction
By Hotze Rullmann & Lisa Matthewson

A compositional analysis is provided of temporal perspective and orientation (Condoravdi 2002) of modals in Dutch, English, Gitksan (Tsimshianic) and St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish). Modals interact freely with the tense-aspect architecture in each language. Temporal perspective is determined by an operator scoping over the modal, usually tense, while temporal orientation is determined by aspectual operators below it (and further restricted by the diversity condition). In contrast to much of the literature, it is argued that epistemic modals can scope under past tense. Modal-temporal interactions behave in predictable ways in Dutch, Gitksan and St’át’imcets, whereas the English system is more idiosyncratic and partly lexicalized.


The Acquisition of Recursive Modification in NPs

By Ana Pérez-Leroux, Tyler Peterson, Anny P. Castilla-Earls & Susana Bejar

Despite sensitivity to the contextual demands of modification, children struggle with the production of complex NPs. What syntactic or semantic properties NP embedding specifically introduces complexity? We compared production of definite descriptions with two modifier contrasting in the attachment of a second modifier: sequential vs. recursive modification. Children (n=71) produced overall fewer targets than adults (n=13), but both groups found double non-recursive modification (the plate with oranges under the table) much easier than recursive modification(the bird on the alligator in the water). We conclude each embedding step introduces complexity beyond the elements and operations employed in the  semantic composition of the structure, or the cyclic syntax that generates it.


Hearing /r/-sandhi: The role of past experience
By Jennifer Hay, Katie Drager, Andy Gibson

This paper reports on patterns in the production and perception of New Zealand English /r/-sandhi. We report on a series of experiments that examine whether listeners from three regions are sensitive to the distribution of /r/ presence in linking and intrusive /r/. The results provide evidence that sound perception is affected by a listener’s experience-driven expectations: greater prior experience with a sound in a given context increases the likelihood of perceiving the sound in that context, regardless of whether the sound is present in the stimulus. For listeners with extremely limited prior exposure to a variant, the variant is especially salient and we also observe an experiment-internal effect of experience. Finally, we demonstrate word-specific response patterns for participants who have prior exposure to the variable, and we argue in favor of models of speech perception that incorporate both word-specific and probabilistic-but-abstract representations.

Deponency in finite and non-finite contexts

By Laura Grestenberger

This paper investigates the syntactic properties of deponents in finite and non-finite contexts in several Indo-European languages and proposes a novel definition of deponency: deponents are verbs with non-canonical agent arguments whose interaction with VoiceP, the functional projection that is spelled out with synthetic voice morphology in these languages (cp. Alexiadou et al. 2015) causes a surface mismatch between morphological form and syntactic function. While the syntactic behavior of finite verbal forms of deponents is well-known, participial and other non-finite forms of deponents have not been explicitly studied so far. My proposal predicts that only certain non-finite forms of deponents will surface with the syntax/morphologymismatch, namely those that include VoiceP. Nominalizations without VoiceP will appear to suspend the voice mismatch. I show that these predictions are correct with respect to the behavior of deponent participles in several older Indo-European languages (Vedic Sanskrit, Classical Greek, Latin, and Hittite) and in Modern Greek. The insight that deponency depends on the availability of certain projections along the “verbal spine” can be used as a diagnostic for the internal structure of participial and other deverbal formations in languages with a “Greek-type” voice system and provides an explanation of the morphosyntax of deponents that goes beyond characterizing them as lexical idiosyncrasies.


Subject prominence and processing dependencies in prenominal relative clauses: The comprehension of possessive relative clauses and adjunct relative clauses in Mandarin Chinese

By Chien-Jer Charles Lin

This article reports the results of three experiments, including a naturalness rating experiment and two self-paced reading experiments, on the processing of possessive and adjunct relative clauses in Mandarin Chinese. The head of a possessive relative clause in Mandarin enforces the search for a dependent NP in the prenominal clause while the head of an adjunct relative clause takes the whole prenominal clause as its complement. The results showed different reading patterns in the head noun regions of the possessive and adjunct relative clauses suggesting different dependency effects involved in adjunct and possessive relatives. For the possessive relatives, when the embedded clauses adopted the passive construction where the dependent NP is located at the uppermost subject position, retrieval of the dependent NP is less costly than when the embedded clauses contained the canonical SVO structure or the ba construction where the dependent NP is located at VP-internal non-subject positions. These results are compatible with memory-based sentence comprehension theories that focus on structural locality (O’Grady 1997, Hawkins 2004) and theories that rely on subject prominence for lexical retrieval (Keenan & Comrie 1977). The current study also suggests that the linear/temporal distances between the dependent elements do not account for the comprehension of long-distance dependencies in prenominal relative clauses in Mandarin Chinese.


On the Order of Demonstrative, Numeral, Adjective and Noun

By Matthew Dryer

This paper reports on a typological study of the order of demonstrative, numeral, adjective, and noun, based on a sample of 442 languages. I propose a set of five surface principles which interact to predict the relative frequency of the different orders of these four elements. I compare my approach to a generative account of the same phenomenon by Cinque (2005). I argue that my approach accounts for the relative frequency of the different orders better than Cinque’s and that his account suffers in three respects: (1) my sample contains instances of four orders that Cinque’s account predicts should not exist; (2) two orders are considerably more common than his account predicts; and (3) two orders are considerably less common than his account predicts. I also argue that the principles underlying the different orders of these four elements must be interpreted in terms of semantic categories and that any attempt to account for them syntactically cannot work.

Cleft Sentences and Reconstruction in Child Language

By Rosalind J Thornton, Hirohisa Kiguchi & Elena D'Onofrio

The present study investigated two kinds of cleft sentences. An example of one kind is It was Spot that he brushed. In this kind of cleft sentence the pronoun he and the name Spot cannot be anaphorically linked. An example of the second kind of cleft sentence is It was her cat that every girl played with. In this case, the pronoun her precedes every girl yet the pronoun can be anaphorically linked (bound) by this quantificational expression. The interpretations associated with these cleft sentences are the same as in the corresponding declarative sentences where the pronoun and noun phrase appear in the reverse order: He brushed Spot and Every girl played with her cat. To explain this correspondence, it is proposed that noun phrases that appear in the focus position in the surface syntax of cleft sentences undergo reconstruction at the level of semantic interpretation. Because reconstruction effects are not evident in the surface syntax, cleft sentences pose a potential problem for language learnability. The present study investigated the comprehension of both kinds of cleft sentences by 4-year-old English-speaking children and an adult control group. The main finding was that both the child and adult participants consistently rejected anaphoric relations in sentences like It was Spot that he brushed, and both groups licensed the bound variable interpretation of sentences like It was her cat that every girl played with. The pattern of responses is consistent with the reconstruction analysis of cleft sentences, and defies an explanation based on linear order.


Grammatical Number and the Scale of Individuation

By Scott Grimm

This paper investigates the semantic basis of grammatical number systems and the countability of nouns. Opinion so far has been divided as to whether the countable/non-countable contrast is a substantial, ontologically-based contrast or if it is simply an arbitrary fact about grammars of different languages. While most work on countability assumes a binary countable/non-countable contrast, this paper discusses data from a range of languages which possess three or more categories of grammatical number, often distinguishing entity types such as COLLECTIVE AGGREGATES (swarming insects, vegetation) and/or GRANULAR AGGREGATES (grass, sand). Connecting this broader cross-linguistic perspective to psycholinguistic research on INDIVIDUATION, I propose that the morphosyntactic organization of grammatical number systems reflects the semantic organization of noun types according to the degree of individuation of their referents. Nouns of different types are individuated to different degrees and can accordingly be ordered along a scale of individuation: substances < granular aggregates < collective aggregates < individuals. Noun types which are less individuated are on the lower end of the scale and are cross-linguistically less likely to signal grammatical number, while the converse holds for highly individuated noun types. Understanding morphosyntactic number categories in light of a scale of individuation accounts for a range of grammatical number systems and avoids the difficulties binary accounts face, e.g. cross-linguistic variation in countability, since languages may divide up the scale of individuation into any number of classes and at different points.


Inversion and Finiteness in Spanish and English: Developmental Evidence From the Optional Infinitive and Optional Inversion Stages

By John Grinstead, Grant Goodall & Mariana Vega-Mendoza

There is evidence to suggest that finiteness marking on verbs and subject-auxiliary inversion are related phenomena in adult English. In contrast, there is evidence that finiteness marking on verbs in Spanish and the apparently similar phenomenon of subject-verb inversion are unrelated. In both cases, most of the evidence adduced comes from adult grammaticality judgments and some other adult psycholinguistic work. In the present article we present evidence from child English and child Spanish that supports the interrelatedness of finiteness and inversion in English, but not Spanish. Specifically we show that child English speakers who are in the Optional Infinitive Stage have variable judgments of finiteness that are predictive of their independently measured, and also variable, inversion judgments. In contrast, no such relationship appears to hold between the variance in finiteness judgments and the variance in inversion judgments of child Spanish speakers of the same preschool age. We take this to be novel confirmation of the hypothesis that subject-auxiliary inversion in English has finite tense as a necessary condition. In Spanish, in contrast, it appears that it is not necessary for a finite verb to move to the left periphery for subject-verb inversion.


Negation as nominal privation: The Tuparí case

By Adam Roth Singerman

Tuparí, an understudied Tupían language of the Brazilian Amazon, does not conform to the established cross-linguistic typology of negation systems (Dahl 1979, 2010, Payne 1985, Miestamo 2005). While those typological classifications define ‘standard negation’ as a property of verbal clauses, in Tuparí negation is an exclusively nominal category: verbs must be put into a non-finite, nominal form to accept the negative suffix -’om, and they must undergo a subsequent process of reverbalization in order to inflect for tense, aspect, and evidentiality. The position of -’om is strikingly low both in the morphology (inside of multiple layers of derivational suffixation) and in the syntax (far beneath the inflectional layer of the clause). Furthermore, -’om also serves as a derivational privative, akin to English -less; various pieces of evidence indicate that this is in fact the suffix’s primary function. As a result, Tuparí does not appear to instantiate a negative phrase as this is commonly understood in formal syntax. The Tuparí facts undermine the typological assumption that standard negation can or should be analyzed as prototypically a property of verbal clauses. Like ‘nominal tense’ in certain varieties of Tupi-Guaraní (Tonhauser 2007, Thomas 2014), in Tuparí a grammatical category normally associated with the verbal domain instead surfaces within the nominal one.


Research Reports (Online only)

On Constructions as a Pragmatic Category

By Betty J. Birner

When a language provides multiple syntactic options for conveying the same semantic content, these options generally serve distinct discourse functions.  In some cases, however, they serve the same discourse function while being in complementary distribution syntactically. This paper argues that in these instances, the syntactic variants constitute ‘alloforms’ of a single, more abstract construction.  Pairs of such alloforms include inversion and long passives in English and two forms of postposing in Italian. Moreover, English inversion is argued to be an alloform of both preposing and postposing. This account explains the distributional difference between alloforms of a single construction and complex structures built up of multiple distinct constructions.  Finally, the paper considers the ramifications of this account for linguistic theory in general and the notion of a ‘construction’ in particular.

Teaching Linguistics (Online only)

Kreyòl, Pedagogy and Technology for Opening Up Quality Education in Haiti

By Michel DeGraff & Glenda Stump

Given world-wide efforts to democratize education via high-quality online platforms, we argue that local languages such as Kreyòl, coupled with modern pedagogy and technology, are necessary, though not sufficient, ingredients for increasing access to quality education in any context. In this article, we use Haiti as an example of a country where language has played a key role in a long history of exclusion and mis-education: French is the primary language of school instruction (and of government, courts, print media, etc.), though it is spoken by only a very small elite group. Haitian Creole (aka “Kreyòl”), the language fluently spoken by all Haitians in Haiti, is virtually excluded from the written documents that create and transmit knowledge (and power) in formal spheres such as the schools, the courts, the State offices, etc. We first describe the historical, political, linguistic and socio-cultural impediments to quality education for all in Haiti, and then describe some of the ongoing work in Haiti that addresses those challenges.  We present data that begin to answer these questions:

  • What does change look like in these complex contexts, especially change in educators’ attitudes toward the use of stigmatized languages (such as Kreyòl) in formal education?
  • How can local languages such as Kreyòl serve to enhance the promotion and dissemination of modern pedagogy and technology for STEM education, and vice-versa—namely, how can STEM education, in turn, serve to enhance the promotion of stigmatized languages such as Kreyòl?

The article thus describes changes in faculty’s attitudes toward using Kreyòl as part of the teaching of STEM subjects in Haiti through active-learning pedagogy along and with new technologies.  We argue that attention to “local” languages such as Kreyòl is a necessary ingredient to universal access to quality education.



Time and Thyme are NOT homophones – a closer look at Gahl’s work on the lemma frequency effect including a re-analysis

By Arne Lohmann

The article 'Time and Thyme are not homophones' by Gahl (2008), published in Language, reports an effect of lemma frequency on the durations of homophones, e.g. time vs. thyme. This possible finding has major theoretical implications for research on homophones and models of language production. However, as I show in the present paper, although claiming otherwise, the main analysis in Gahl (2008) does not provide quantitative evidence for the lemma frequency effect. This is due to methodological issues that result in the crucial hypothesis not being directly tested. The same is true of a follow-up study (Gahl 2009). The present paper therefore provides a refined re-analysis based on the original dataset and furthermore tests the effect on a separate dataset of homographic noun-verb homophones. The results of these analyses is that the frequency effect reported in the original article is real. The current paper thus provides the research community with quantitative evidence of the lemma frequency effect claimed to be found but not actually provided in Gahl’s studies.

Historical Syntax (Online only)

The diachronic development of the Chinese long passive: From the WEI...SUO passive to the long passive

By Yin Li

This paper aims to trace the historical source of the biclausal construction of Chinese long passive construction, proposed by the complementation approach (Huang 2009 et al. among others). In this paper, I argue that the modern Chinese long passive construction developed from the WEI…SUO passives in late Archaic Chinese (5th - 3rd centuries BCE) and Early Middle Chinese (2nd century BCE - 4th century CE). I show that both constructions embed a limited non-finite construction (a bare vP) under the matrix predicate. The matrix subject is associated with a gap in the object position of the embedded vP via A’-movement of an operator, which is similar to the derivation of Archaic Chinese object relative clauses (Aldridge 2013). Therefore, modern Chinese long passive construction inherits its biclausal construction independently from a requirement in Archaic Chinese that object movement has to be licensed. I suggest that the historical change from WEI…SUO passives to long passives happened in two steps in 5th century CE: 1. the loss of SUO due to the loss of genitive case marking in Middle Chinese; 2. the lexical replacement of WEI by BEI due to the grammaticalization of BEI.

Language and Public Policy (Online only)

If you use ASL, should you study ESL? Limitations of a modality-b(i)ased policy

By Elena 'Helen' Koulidobrova, Hannah Dostal, Marlon Kuntze

In this paper we demonstrate that American Sign Language (ASL)-English bilinguals should be eligible for classification as English Language Learners (ELL). While this identification should remain optional in order to be responsive to individual differences and preferences, we argue that identification can result in increased educational services and access to appropriately targeted instructional support.