FG 742: Grammar and Processing of Verbal Arguments

Call for Papers
March 29-30, 2008
The goal of this workshop is to address empirical and theoretical aspects of scales (or hierarchies), as they are relevant for grammatical phenomena like argument encoding and diatheses (see, e.g., Silverstein 1976, Comrie 1981, Aissen 2003), by bringing together research from typology, grammatical theory, and psycholinguistics.

Abstract submission
Email to:

Abstracts should be anonymous, no more than one page, in pdf format; 12pt, at least 2cm margins on all sides, for 30 minute talks (40 minute slots). Name, affiliation, and title of the abstract should be included in the body of the email.

Reimbursement: Speakers will be partially reimbursed.

Deadline for abstract submission:
January 31, 2008
Notification of acceptance: February 5, 2007

The workshop will combine 10 presentations selected from the submitted abstracts with contributions by members of Forschergruppe 742 (including Balthasar Bickel, Petr Biskup, Ina Bornkessel, Michael Cysouw, Uwe Junghanns, Martin Haspelmath, Andrej Malchukov, Gereon Mueller, Jochen Trommer).

Workshop description:
Since the discovery of scales (or hierarchies) for grammatical categories in the 70s, many cross-linguistic generalizations have been noted in the functional-typological literature, especially in domains such as person/number marking, argument encoding by case or agreement (Silverstein 1976, Dixon 1979), and diatheses and direction marking (Comrie 1981, DeLancey 1981). The formulation of scales as "implicational hierarchies" has enabled researchers in this area to formulate some of the most robust generalizations on language. More recently, the concept of scales has received considerable attention in grammatical theory as well. In particular, the work of Aissen (1999, 2003) has triggered a surge of research occupied with the question of how the effects of scales are related to general principles of morpho-syntactic theory. Also, recent work in psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic theorizing has argued for cross-linguistic principles of language processing which employ the notion of a scale. The idea is that scales may help to guide incremental argument interpretation by serving to shape the the interpretive relations than are established between different arguments online (Bornkessel & Schlesewsky 2006).

In this workshop we would like to discuss empirical and theoretical aspects of scales including (but not restricted to) the following.

(i) How well-established is the cross-linguistic evidence for implicational scales? Recently, different potential counter-examples have been discussed (see Filimonova 2005, Haude 2007). The question is especially pressing as the availability of large databases (WALS, TDS) and recent comprehensive field work studies promise a better understanding of the relevant empirical generalizations. Also, is there evidence for new scales that have so far gone unnoticed? And could it be that scales are organized in a meta-hierarchy with respect to each other?

(ii) What is the status of scales in grammatical theory? Are they part of grammar itself (Noyer 1992, Aissen 1999, 2003) or rather epiphenomena? If the latter, are they epiphenomena of (a) functionality or frequency distributions in language use (Bresnan, Dingare & Manning 2001, Newmeyer 2002, Hawkins 2004, Haspelmath 2008), or (b) derivable from other grammatical mechanisms such as feature geometry or/and syntactic movement (Harley & Ritter 2002, Bejar 2003)? What is the relation between feature hierarchies and the order of functional projections in syntax (Cinque 1999, Starke 2001)?

(iii) Which role do scales play in the language processing architecture? Should they be afforded an independent status or can they be viewed as epiphenomena of other information types (e.g., frequency of occurrence)? Is there evidence for the interaction of different scales during language processing and, if so, how does this interaction take place?

Aissen, Judith (1999): Markedness and Subject Choice in Optimality Theory, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 17, 673-711.
Aissen, Judith (2003): Differential Object Marking: Iconicity vs. Economy, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 21, 435-483.
Bejar, S. (2003): Phi-Syntax: A Theory of Agreement. PhD thesis, University of Toronto.
Bornkessel, I. & Schlesewsky, M. (2006): The extended argument dependency model: A neurocognitive approach to sentence comprehension across languages. Psychological Review 113, 787-821.
Bresnan, Joan, Shipra Dingare & Christopher Manning (2001): Soft Constraints Mirror Hard Constraints: Voice and Person in English and Lummi. In: Proceedings of the LFG 01 Conference, University of Hong Kong.
Cinque, Guglielmo (1999): Adverbs and Functional Heads, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Comrie, Bernard (1981): Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Blackwell, Oxford.
DeLancey, Scott (1981): An interpretation of split ergativity and related patterns. Language 51, 626-657.
Dixon, R.M.W. (1979): Ergativity, Language 55:59-138.
Filimonova, Elena (2005): 'The noun phrase hierarchy and relational marking: problems and counterevidence', Linguistic Typology 9, 77-113.
Harley, H. and Ritter, E. (2002): A feature-geometric analysis of person and number. Language 78, 482-526.
Haspelmath, Martin (2008): Frequency vs. Iconicity in Explaining Grammatical Asymmetries. To appear in: Cognitive Linguistics 19.1
Haude, Katharina (2007): A grammar of Movima, PhD thesis, Radboud University, Nijmegen.
Hawkins, John A. (2004): Efficiency and Complexity in Grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
de Hoop, Helen & Lamers, Monique (2006): Incremental distinguishability of subject and object. In: L. Kulikov, A. Malchukov & P. de Swart (eds). Case, Valency and Transitivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Newmeyer, Frederick (2002): Optimality and Functionality: A Critique of Functionally-Based Optimality Theoretic Syntax, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory pp. 43-80.
Noyer, Rolf (1992): Features, Positions and Affixes in Autonomous Morphological Structure. PhD thesis, MIT.
Silverstein, Michael (1976): Hierarchy of Features and Ergativity. In: R. Dixon, ed., Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, pp. 112-171.
Starke, Michal (2001): Move Dissolves into Merge: a Theory of Locality; PhD thesis, University of Geneva.