Present talks

Michaelmas Term 2022

Tuesday, 11 October 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge) & Dalina Kallulli (University of Vienna) – On Voice

Abstract: In this talk, we focus on the morphosyntactic and semantic properties of a range of constructions involving non-active voice and/or reflexive morphology across Romance and beyond. We show that if we treat reflexives as involving Voice, they fit into a consistent, independently attested pattern of cross-linguistic variation in properties of functional heads, allowing us to derive the syntactically different constructions (reflexive, anticausative, middle, passive) exhibiting such morphology in a unified manner. Specifically, we will argue for the general cross-linguistic schema in (1), whereby (i) Voice licenses the Internal Argument in all cases but in differing ways; (ii) in the case of reflexives, there is a Voice-feature (refl) which marks the predicate as reflexive (along the general lines of Reinhart & Reuland 1993), with the dimensions of variation involving (a) the exponence of Voice (clitic, affix, auxiliary, zero …); and (b) the nature of the IA (pro, weak pronoun e.g. sich, special/body-part pronoun e.g. X-self, …), which in turn are part of a more general pattern of variation.

            (1)          [VoiceP Voice  … [VP   V   IA ]]

We will conclude with some general reflections on the nature of the external argument of passives.

Tuesday, 18 October 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Prudence de Pontbriand (University of Göttingen) – Null Objects in Old French: Scoping out syntactic and semantic restrictions

Abstract: The aim of the talk is to provide a preliminary profile of null objects in Old French (with a particular emphasis on prose texts from the 13th century). The talk will focus on potential restrictions, either semantic or syntactic, that can be found with regards to null objects. In this research, null objects are taken to be phonologically null elements base-generated in the complement position of the verb (Roberge and Cummins, 2005). They correspond most frequently to a salient pronominal element with an antecedent mentioned in the preceding context.

(1) Et quant il voit venir Galaad si (-) vet a l’ encontre

and when he sees come.INF Galahad thus goes to the=meeting

‘And when he sees Galahad coming, he goes to meet (-)’ (Queste del Saint Graal, II, 43)

The present talk will show that, while Old French does not display absolute restrictions with regards to null objects, we can observe strong tendencies in their semantic and syntactic properties. This observation is especially true concerning their semantic properties, where animacy and specificity appear to play a very important role. With regards to their syntactic properties, null objects allow more variation but they still show a preference for a specific bundle of properties (namely 3rd person singular direct objects).

Tuesday, 25 October 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Annamaria Chilà (University of Messina) – La classe flessiva dei plurali in -a in calabrese meridionale e siciliano

Abstract: Le varietà calabresi meridionali e quelle siciliane presentano, accanto ai plurali in -i e, più raramente, in -ora, numerose forme di plurale in -a. Il talk si propone di offrire un confronto tra i dialetti calabresi e quelli siciliani, considerando in particolare i due seguenti aspetti:

1) Sul versante morfologico, i diversi meccanismi di espansione dei plurali in -a nel lessico. Nel solo siciliano, questi plurali scavalcano la barriera dell’inanimatezza, catturando i derivati [+ animati] e [+ umani] suffissati in -turi (piscatura ‘i pescatori’), -uni (patruna ‘i padroni’) ed -aru (putiara ‘i bottegai’), e sembrerebbero dunque più produttivi e vitali che non in calabrese. La produttività, tuttavia, non si misura solo in termini di type frequency sulla base di un’espansione interna al lessico, ma anche dalla capacità di innescare processi morfologici. Da questo punto di vista, il mantenimento della flessione in -a nelle forme alterate del calabrese (brazzicedda ‘braccini’, jiritedda ‘ditini’) diagnostica la non trascurabile vitalità di tale classe anche in queste varietà.

2) Sul versante sintattico, la presenza vs. assenza di un accordo dedicato in -a. Il calabrese meridionale mostra(va), seppur con tratti di forte recessività, una desinenza dedicata -a anche nei target dell’accordo. Ce ne sono esempi, per il calabrese di età medievale, nel ricettario medico di Luca Geracitano da Stilo (un poco de linni arsa ‘un po’ di legni bruciati’; falli bevere la celebrella de lo gallo ‘fagli bere le cervella del gallo’); per quello moderno, nelle cc. AIS 919-920 (i ligna cotta ndumanu boni ‘la legna secca brucia bene’). Questo accordo non è documentato in siciliano, dove, come conferma il corpus Artesia già per la fase medievale, tanto i nomi in -a quanto quelli in -ora presentano accordo plurale in -i.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Sonia Cyrino (State University of Campinas ‘UNICAMP’) – More on negation in Brazilian Portuguese

Abstract: It has been shown in several works (Schwenter 2005, Cavalcante 2007, 2012, Biberauer & Cyrino 2009, Cyrino & Biberauer 2009, Teixeira de Sousa 2015) that Brazilian Portuguese (BP) has three positions for the negative marker não in sentential negation (não-V, não-VP-não, and V-não), and they are related to different pragmatic/discourse functions. However, a fourth and reportedly recent position for the negative marker has been noted in the literature about BP (Cyrino 2010, 2013, De Paula 2014): não is possible between an auxiliary and an uninflected verb, that is, in the slot in the structure AUX ___ V[-finite]. In this talk, I advance an analysis for this new position of não in BP. Although syncretic with sentential negation, I show that this negative marker is an instance of constituent negation. Following the nanosyntax approach in DeClercq (2013), I entertain the hypothesis that this fourth não is a Focneg item in contemporary BP, as the result of a diachronic reanalysis. I propose that Focnão has its origin in prefixal não-, with which it is syncretic. It has been detected (Campos 2002, 2009; Pereira 2012) that prefixal não- was rarely used in the 16th century, becoming more frequent in the 20th century. Since contemporary BP has been shown (Cyrino 2010, 2013) to allow certain elements such as clitics and emphatic subjects to occur in the AUX ___ V[-finite] structure, the diachronic reanalysis of the prefixal não- into Focneg might have been facilitated.

Tuesday, 8 November 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Eva-Maria Remberger (University of Vienna) & Natascha Pomino (University of Wuppertal) – Romance theme vowels: Not just ornamental morphemes, but not syntactic elements either

Abstract: Theme vowels (ThV) are considered by many linguists (e.g. Oltra-Massuet 1999) to be mere ornamental elements without any effect on syntax and semantics (see however Fábregas 2017). We agree with the idea that ThVs are not to be confused with the realizations of the verbalizer v°, but we would like to show that they are not as ornamental as one may think. Work on the systematicity of stem allomorphy has shown that irregularity of inflected elements is related to a reduced number of affixes of these forms (cf. Vanden Wyngaerd 2018). In Romance, many irregular verbs lack a ThV, i.e. they are athematic. Thus, it seems as if ThVs have an impact on the (ir)regularity of verbal forms (Calabrese 2015). One central question is, however, how athematicity is implemented in the theoretical framework, in this case Distributed Morphology (DM, see Halle & Marantz 1993): Is athematicity explainable by zero exponence, by fusion or by cumulative exponence? The aim of this talk is to investigate more in detail the connection between irregularity and athematicity and to argue for an approach based on cumulative exponence.

Most Romance languages have reduced the Latin conjugation classes (CCs) maintaining only three main classes which are marked as general rule by different theme vowels (ThVs). The development in French, however, is different and has led to less transparent verbal forms and to a CC system that is not describable, at first glance, in terms of ThVs. In our talk, we will show that the link between athematicity and irregularity is attested also in other verbal forms in Romance and, more important, it holds also for French, a language for which the assumption of ThV is contradictorily discussed in the literature. We will discuss the CC system of French and propose that it has two thematic and several athematic CCs. Certain types of root allomorphy, e.g. the (non)appearance of root final consonants, depend, in essence, on whether or not there is a ThV-position available (cf. also Schane 1966). As will be shown, the athematic CCs are exactly the ones with the (most) irregular verbs, in French as in other verbal forms in Romance.

Following the DM-based Vocabulary Insertion-Only model proposed by Haugen & Siddiqi (2016), we will propose, for selected Romance verbal forms, an analysis for the mentioned link between athematicity and irregularity based on Spanning. Since the exact conditions and rules for Spanning are still to be investigated, we contribute to the discussion of this issue by the analyses of verbal forms in Romance. The core idea of the analysis proposed is that the spanning size of the vocabulary items (VIs) realizing the roots depends on the respective CC-features and is motivated by the (a)thematicity of the roots. What is more, our analysis is predominantly based on the general process of Vocabulary Insertion to correctly derive the Romance forms. There is no need for Fusion, Pruning nor Impoverishment; root allomorphy is instead explained in essence via Vocabulary Insertion only.


Calabrese, Andrea. 2015. Irregular Morphology and Athematic verbs in Italo-Romance. Isogloss, Special Issue on Italo-Romance morphosyntax: 69–102.

Oltra Massuet, I. 1999. On the constituent structure of Catalan verbs. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 33. 279–322.

Fábregas, A. 2017. Theme vowels are verbs. In Caha / DeClercq & Vanden Wyngaerd (eds.), The unpublished manuscript. A collection of Lingbuzz papers to celebrate Michal Starke’s 50th birthday. 51–62.

Halle, Morris, and Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed Morphology and the pieces of inflection. En Kenneth Hale, and Samuel Keyser (eds.), The view of building 20: Essays in honor of Sylvain Bromberger, 111–176. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Haugen, Jason D. & Daniel Siddiqi. 2016. “Towards a Restricted Realization Theory. Multimorphemic monolistemicity, portmanteaux, and post-linearization spanning.” In Morphological Metatheory. Edited by Daniel Siddiqi and Heidi Harley. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 343–86.

Vanden Wyngaerd, Guido. 2018. Suppletion and affix reduction. Accessed October 29, 2021.

Schane, Sanford A. 1966. The morphophonemics of the French verb. Language 42/4: 746–758.

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen (University of Manchester) – Linear and non-linear pragmaticalization (and why it’s not just grammaticalization all the way down)

Abstract: In this paper I address the diachronic evolution of pragmatic markers, with a focus on what I call linear vs non-linear forms of pragmaticalization. The rise of pragmatic markers has been an increasingly popular research topic for more than three decades. The most frequently attested pathway involves linguistic items or constructions that originally have truth-conditional meaning and belong to « core » grammar, but which more or less gradually evolve non-truth-conditional, more (inter)subjective, uses that lie outside « core » grammar. This form of evolution is widely assumed to be regular, unidirectional, and thus fundamentally linear in nature. Saliently, the study of such cases been used to argue for a redefinition of the notion of grammaticalization.

The literature has, however, reported examples of markers that appear to have taken more complex, non-linear, paths at the semantic-pragmatic and/or the syntactic level. These types of cases have been/are the focus of two international research networks of which I was/am the PI : the British Academy-funded « Cyclicity in Semantic-Pragmatic Change : from Latin to Romance » (2017-18) and the AHRC-funded « The Role of Pragmatics in Cyclic Language Change » (2021-23). In my talk, I argue that because pragmatic markers may evolve along a variety of non-linear – including but not limited to cyclical – paths, it is not helpful to subsume the rise of pragmatic markers under the concept of grammaticalization. Instead, in order to arrive at a descriptively adequate account, it is more useful to draw on a distinction between grammaticalization, pragmaticalization and lexicalization. I identify four non-linear forms of pragmaticalization, based on attested patterns of evolution prominently involving interaction between, on the one hand, two levels of meaning (the Content Level and the Context Level), and on the other hand, two levels of grammar (Micro-Syntax and Macro-Syntax). My examples will be adduced from several Romance languages.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

María Arche (University of Greenwich) – Modal and temporal issues of evaluative adjectival copular clauses in Spanish

Abstract: In this talk I will present work carried out with Tim Stowell on temporal and modal issues of copular clauses headed by dispositional evaluative adjectives. As discussed in Stowell 1991, Arche 2006, Martin 2011, Fabregas et al 2013, Arche & Stowell 2019, Arche et al 2021, a.o., these adjectives present straddling properties between dispositions and events. Illustrative examples are John was smart to sell his shares last year, John is cruel to scold little children. Drawing from data from Spanish, where tense and aspect are overt in the inflection of the copula, I will discuss the following facts: the adjective expresses the evaluation of a judge at the time of the attitude holder while the tense and aspect overt in the copula seem interpreted in the infinitival clause; when actuality entailments are associated to the event expressed by the infinitive, these depend on the aspectual value (perfective, imperfective) expressed in the copula; the copula choice seems mostly restricted to ser in Spanish, which we argue can be accounted for by the predication as individual-level between the infinitive and the adjective.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 (***2 – 3.15pm***)

Judy Bernstein (William Paterson University) – On the morpho-syntax of Romance vocative expressions

Tuesday, 13 December 2022 (1 – 2.15pm)

Oana Uță Bărbulescu (University of Oxford) – Analytic marking of obliques in Romanian: the case of lu(i) and le