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    Headedness and the Lexicon: The Case of Verb-to-Noun Ratios
    (MDPI, 2020-02-13) Polinsky, Maria; Magyar, Lilla
    This paper takes a well-known observation as its starting point, that is, languages vary with respect to headedness, with the standard head-initial and head-final types well attested. Is there a connection between headedness and the size of a lexical class? Although this question seems quite straightforward, there are formidable methodological and theoretical challenges in addressing it. Building on initial results by several researchers, we refine our methodology and consider the proportion of nouns to simplex verbs (as opposed to light verb constructions) in a varied sample of 33 languages to evaluate the connection between headedness and the size of a lexical class. We demonstrate a robust correlation between this proportion and headedness. While the proportion of nouns in a lexicon is relatively stable, head-final/object-verb (OV)-type languages (e.g., Japanese or Hungarian) have a relatively small number of simplex verbs, whereas head-initial/verb-initial languages (e.g., Irish or Zapotec) have a considerably larger percentage of such verbs. The difference between the head-final and head-initial type is statistically significant. We, then, consider a subset of languages characterized as subject-verb-object (SVO) and show that this group is not uniform. Those SVO languages that have strong head-initial characteristics (as shown by the order of constituents in a set of phrases and word order alternations) are characterized by a relatively large proportion of lexical verbs. SVO languages that have strong head-final traits (e.g., Mandarin Chinese) pattern with head-final languages, and a small subset of SVO languages are genuinely in the middle (e.g., English, Russian). We offer a tentative explanation for this headedness asymmetry, couched in terms of informativity and parsing principles, and discuss additional evidence in support of our account. All told, the fewer simplex verbs in head-final/OV-type languages is an adaptation in response to their particular pattern of headedness. The object-verb/verb-object (OV/VO) difference with respect to noun/verb ratios also reveals itself in SVO languages; some languages, Chinese and Latin among them, show a strongly OV ratio, whereas others, such as Romance or Bantu, are VO-like in their noun/verb ratios. The proportion of nouns to verbs thus emerges as a new linguistic characteristic that is correlated with headedness.
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    The Extended Merge Hypothesis and the Fundamental Principle of Grammar
    (MDPI, 2021-10-20) Hornstein, Norbert
    This paper discusses the main minimalist theory within the Minimalist Program, something I dub the (Weak) Merge Hypothesis (MH). (1) The (Weak) Merge Hypothesis (MH): Merge is a central G operation. I suggest that we extend (1) by adding to it a general principle that I dub the Fundamental Principle of Grammar (FPG). (2) The Fundamental Principle of Grammar (FPG): α and β can be grammatically related. (G-related) only if α and β have merged. Adding (1) and (2) gives us the Strong Merge Hypothesis. (3) The Strong Merge Hypothesis (SMH): All grammatical dependencies are mediated by Merge. SMH has some interesting consequences which the rest of the paper briefly reviews. Highlights include the Movement Theory of Construal, The Periscope Property on selection, as well as preserving the standard results from the Weak Merge Hypothesis.
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    Categories with Complements
    (MDPI, 2022-09-15) Uriagereka, Juan
    Verbs and nouns gear θ-dependencies, Case, agreement, or construal relations. Building on Chomsky’s 1974 decomposition of such categories into ±N, ±V features, by translating said features into ±1, ±i scalars that allow for the construction of a vector space, this paper studies the possibility of organizing said features into 2 × 2 square matrices. In the system proposed to explore “head-complement” relations, operating on nouns yields a measurable/observable (Hermitian matrix), which in turn limits other potential combinations with abstract lexical categories. Functional/grammatical categories in the system deploy the same features, albeit organized differently in the matrix diagonal and off-diagonal. The algebraic result is a group with well-defined mathematical properties, which properly includes the Pauli group of standard use in quantum computation. In the system, the presumed difference between categories and interactions—here, in a context of the head-complement sort—reduces to whether the magnitude of the matrix eigenvalue is 1 or not, in the latter instance inducing asymmetric interactions.
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    The competition–compensation account of developmental language disorder
    (Wiley, 2022-12-22) Harmon, Zara; Barak, Libby; Shafto, Patrick; Edwards, Jan; Feldman, Naomi H.
    Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) regularly use the bare form of verbs (e.g., dance) instead of inflected forms (e.g., danced). We propose an account of this behavior in which processing difficulties of children with DLD disproportionally affect processing novel inflected verbs in their input. Limited experience with inflection in novel contexts leads the inflection to face stronger competition from alternatives. Competition is resolved through a compensatory behavior that involves producing a more accessible alternative: in English, the bare form. We formalize this hypothesis within a probabilistic model that trades off context-dependent versus independent processing. Results show an over-reliance on preceding stem contexts when retrieving the inflection in a model that has difficulty with processing novel inflected forms. We further show that following the introduction of a bias to store and retrieve forms with preceding contexts, generalization in the typically developing (TD) models remains more or less stable, while the same bias in the DLD models exaggerates difficulties with generalization. Together, the results suggest that inconsistent use of inflectional morphemes by children with DLD could stem from inferences they make on the basis of data containing fewer novel inflected forms. Our account extends these findings to suggest that problems with detecting a form in novel contexts combined with a bias to rely on familiar contexts when retrieving a form could explain sequential planning difficulties in children with DLD.
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    The role of internal constraints and stylistic congruence on a variant's social impact
    (Cambridge University Press, 2023-02-02) Vaughn, Charlotte
    In natural conversation, multiple factors likely impact the social force of a sociolinguistic variant, yet researchers have tended to examine individual factors in isolation. This paper considers two underexamined factors together—the role of a variable's internal constraints and the role of stylistically congruent surrounding speech—to understand their combined influence on how a single variable's realization is socially interpreted. Focusing on English variable (ING), two accent rating experiments used stimuli varying the grammatical category of (ING) words and varying the stylistic congruence (natural sentences versus spliced stimuli) between (ING) realization and sentence frames. Results indicate that listeners showed sensitivity to (ING)'s internal constraints but only when the congruence between (ING)'s realization and other cues was not disrupted by using spliced stimuli. These findings suggest that internal constraints and stylistic congruence play a role in social signaling, and have methodological implications for the use of splicing.
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    Being pragmatic about syntactic bootstrapping
    (Cambridge University Press, 2022-12-06) Hacquard, Valentine
    Words have meanings vastly undetermined by the contexts in which they occur. Their acquisition therefore presents formidable problems of induction. Lila Gleitman and colleagues have advocated for one part of a solution: indirect evidence for a word’s meaning may come from its syntactic distribution, via SYNTACTIC BOOTSTRAPPING. But while formal theories argue for principled links between meaning and syntax, actual syntactic evidence about meaning is noisy and highly abstract. This paper examines the role that syntactic bootstrapping can play in learning modal and attitude verb meanings, for which the physical context is especially uninformative. I argue that abstract syntactic classifications are useful to the child, but that something further is both necessary and available. I examine how pragmatic and syntactic cues can combine in mutually constraining ways to help learners infer attitude meanings, but need to be supplemented by semantic information from the lexical context in the case of modals.
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    Why non-native speakers sometimes outperform native speakers in agreement processing
    (Cambridge University Press, 2022-06-24) Lee, Eun-Kyoung Rosa; Phillips, Colin
    It is well-known that native English speakers sometimes erroneously accept subject-verb agreement violations when there is a number-matching attractor (e.g., *The key to the cabinets were…). Whether bilinguals whose L1 lacks number agreement are prone to such interference is unclear, given previous studies that report conflicting findings using different structures, participant groups, and experimental designs. To resolve the conflict, we examined highly proficient Korean–English bilinguals’ susceptibility to agreement attraction, comparing prepositional phrase (PP) and relative clause (RC) modifiers in a speeded acceptability judgment task and a speeded forced-choice comprehension task. The bilinguals’ judgments revealed attraction with RCs but not with PPs, while reaction times indicated attraction with both structures. The results therefore showed L2 attraction in all measures, with the consistent exception of judgments for PPs. We argue that this supports an overall native-like agreement processing mechanism, augmented by an additional monitoring mechanism that filters explicit judgments in simple structures.
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    Functional structure in the noun phrase: revisiting Hebrew nominals
    (Ubiquity Press, 2020-07-02) Preminger, Omer
    This paper revisits Ritter’s (1991) findings concerning Hebrew nominals in light of recent arguments that nominal phrases are headed by the noun itself (rather than enclosed in functional structure), and shows that the force of Ritter’s argument is as strong as it ever was. It provides strong evidence in favor of functional structure above the projection of the noun itself.
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    Functional structure in the noun phrase: revisiting Hebrew nominals
    (Glossa: a journal of general linguistics (Ubiquity Press), 2020-05-12) Preminger, Omer
    This paper revisits Ritter’s (1991) findings concerning Hebrew nominals in light of recent arguments that nominal phrases are headed by the noun itself (rather than enclosed in functional structure), and shows that the force of Ritter’s argument is as strong as it ever was. It provides strong evidence in favor of functional structure above the projection of the noun itself.
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    The Agreement Theta Generalization
    (Ubiquity Press, 2019-08-29) Polinsky, Maria; Preminger, Omer
    In this paper, we propose a new generalization concerning the structural relationship between a head that agrees with a DP in φ-features and the predicate that assigns the (first) thematic role to that DP: the Agreement Theta Generalization (ATG). According to the ATG, configurations where the thematic-role assigner is located in a higher clause than the agreeing head are categorically excluded. We present empirical evidence for the ATG, discuss its analytical import, and show that this generalization bears directly on the proper modeling of syntactic agreement, as well as the prospects for reducing other syntactic (and syntacto-semantic) dependencies to the same underlying mechanism.
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    What the PCC tells us about “abstract” agreement, head movement, and locality
    (Ubiquity Press, 2019-01-24) Preminger, Omer
    Based on the cross- and intra-linguistic distribution of Person Case Constraint (PCC) effects, this paper shows that there can be no agreement in ϕ-features (person, number, gender/noun-class) which systematically lacks a morpho-phonological footprint. That is, there is no such thing as “abstract” ϕ-agreement, null across the entire paradigm. Applying the same diagnostic to instances of clitic doubling, we see that these do involve syntactic agreement. This cannot be because clitic doubling is agreement; it behaves like movement (and unlike agreement) in a variety of respects. Nor can this be because clitic doubling, qua movement, is contingent on prior agreement—since the claim that all movement depends on prior agreement is demonstrably false. Clitic doubling requires prior agreement because it is an instance of non-local head movement, and movement of X0 to Y0 always requires a prior syntactic relationship between Y0 and XP. In local head movement (the kind that is already permitted under the Head Movement Constraint), this requirement is trivially satisfied by (c-)selection. But in non-local cases, agreement must fill this role.
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    Prosodic Structure as a Parallel to Musical Structure
    (2015) Heffner, Christopher C.; Slevc, L. Robert
    What structural properties do language and music share? Although early speculation identified a wide variety of possibilities, the literature has largely focused on the parallels between musical structure and syntactic structure. Here, we argue that parallels between musical structure and prosodic structure deserve more attention. We review the evidence for a link between musical and prosodic structure and find it to be strong. In fact, certain elements of prosodic structure may provide a parsimonious comparison with musical structure without sacrificing empirical findings related to the parallels between language and music. We then develop several predictions related to such a hypothesis.
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    The Electrophysiology of Basic Phrase Building
    (PLoS (Public Library of Science), 2016-10-06) Neufeld, Chris; Kramer, Stephanie E.; Lapinskaya, Natalia; Heffner, Christopher C.; Malko, Anton; Lau, Ellen F.
    A defining trait of linguistic competence is the ability to combine elements into increasingly complex structures to denote, and to comprehend, a potentially infinite number of meanings. Recent magnetoencephalography (MEG) work has investigated these processes by comparing the response to nouns in combinatorial (blue car) and non-combinatorial (rnsh car) contexts. In the current study we extended this paradigm using electroencephalography (EEG) to dissociate the role of semantic content from phonological well-formedness (yerl car). We used event-related potential (ERP) recordings in order to better relate the observed neurophysiological correlates of basic combinatorial operations to prior ERP work on comprehension. We found that nouns in combinatorial contexts (blue car) elicited a greater centro-parietal negativity between 180-400ms, independent of the phonological well-formedness of the context word. We discuss the potential relationship between this ‘combinatorial’ effect and classic N400 effects. We also report preliminary evidence for an early anterior negative deflection immediately preceding the critical noun in combinatorial contexts, which we tentatively interpret as an electrophysiological reflex of syntactic structure initialization.
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    The Immune Syntax Revisited: Opening New Windows on Language Evolution
    (Frontiers, 2016-01-11) Benítez-Burraco, Antonio; Uriagereka, Juan
    Recent research has added new dimensions to our understanding of classical evolution, according to which evolutionary novelties result from gene mutations inherited from parents to offspring. Language is surely one such novelty. Together with specific changes in our genome and epigenome, we suggest that two other (related) mechanisms may have contributed to the brain rewiring underlying human cognitive evolution and, specifically, the changes in brain connectivity that prompted the emergence of our species-specific linguistic abilities: the horizontal transfer of genetic material by viral and non-viral vectors and the brain/immune system crosstalk (more generally, the dialogue between the microbiota, the immune system, and the brain).
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    Quantification and Second-Order Monadicity
    (Blackwell, 2003) Pietroski, Paul
    The first part of this paper reviews some developments regarding the apparent mismatch between the logical and grammatical forms of quantificational constructions like 'Pat kicked every bottle'. I suggest that (even given quantifier-raising) many current theories still posit an undesirable mismatch. But all is well if we can treat determiners (words like 'every', 'no', and 'most') as second-order monadic predicates without treating them as predicates satisfied by ordered pairs of sets. Drawing on George Boolos's construal of second-order quantification as plural quantification, I argue that we can and should view determiners as predicates satisfied (plurally) by ordered pairs each of which associates an entity with a truth-value (t or f). The idea is 'every' is satisfied by some pairs iff every one of them associates its entity with t. It turns out that this provides a kind of explanation for the "conservativity" of determiners. And it lets us say that concatenation signifies predicate-conjunction even in phrases like 'every bottle' and 'no brown dog'.