September 28, 2010

The End of Argument Structure? Workshop

This weekend the University of Toronto is hosting "The End of Argument Structure?" Workshop. Invited speakers included Mark Baker, Heidi Harley, Lisa Travis and Grant Armstrong. The abstract booklet is available here. The workshop description is below. The workshop has been organized by María Cristina Cuervo and Yves Roberge.

This  workshop,  to  be  held  on  1‐2  October,  2010,  will  be  an  opportunity to  explore  current  issues  and  re‐assess  generally  accepted  premises  on  the relationship  between  lexical  meaning  and  the  morphosyntax  of  sentences.  A central  question  in  the  study  of  language  concerns  the  mechanisms  by  which the  participants  in  an  event  described  by  a  sentence  come  to  occupy  their positions  in  the  structure  and  acquire  their  interpretation.  A  long‐standing approach  is  based  on  the  assumption  that  it  is  the  lexical meaning  of  a  verb  that  determines,  albeit  indirectly,  the  basic  properties of  sentence  structure  at  the  level  of  verbal  meaning,  including asymmetric relations, thematic roles, case, and agreement.  An alternative approach claims  that  the  syntax  itself  greatly  restricts  possible  verbal meanings on the basis  of the legitimate relations that can exist between syntactic heads, complements, and specifiers.  

 If  we  think  that  all  systematic  aspects  of  verbal  meanings  (licensing  of external  argument,  number  and  type  of  ‘obligatory’  and  extra  arguments, agentivity,  causativity,  aksionsart,  etc.)  are  dependent  on  configurational properties,  what  is  left  for  lexical  entries?  Do  generalizations  such  as the
UTAH  and  other  prominence  hierarchies  need  to  be  stated  explicitly,  or are they  derived  from  more  general  principles  of  syntactic  operations  (and structures)  and  semantic  compositionality?  What  is  left  unexplained  by syntax‐driven approaches? 

In  order  to  promote  an  open  exchange  of  ideas,  we  have  in  mind  a  real workshop  format  rather  than  a  regular  conference  around  themes  that  will be  determined  in  consultation  with  the  invited  participants,  based  on  their contributions.  A  small  number  of  papers  will  be  selected  from  open submissions.  
Invited participants:  
Mark Baker (Rutgers University)
Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)  
Lisa Travis (McGill University)

Invited student participant:  
Grant Armstrong (Georgetown University)

September 24, 2010

Earthquake in NZ

Diane Massam is in New Zealand now. She sent this image of how things are after the recent earthquake. Our thoughts are with all our friends in NZ, with hopes for speedy recovery.

September 21, 2010

Summer fun w/ Faetar & Cellese

Sometimes friends wonder how we academic-types keep busy all summer, with all that "time off." This would be a great place to post what you did this summer. Especially if you have good photos to add.

I spent several days hanging out in Brantford (home of Wayne Gretsky!) and other parts of the Greater GTA. Turns out there are lots of speakers of Cellese, the Francoprovençal dialect "from across the valley" to Faetar, where I did fieldwork in the early '90s. These speakers came from Celle, in southern Italy, in the 1950's, mostly, and have been living in Ontario, and continuing to speak Faetar and Cellese ever since. So far, I've talked to over 30 people. Given that there are only about 600 left in Faeto and Celle, this is a pretty good sample! I went to their summer picnic (140+ people, a variety of sausages, and a great bocce tournament) and will be meeting the Rochester contingent at their Polenta Dinner (Migliazzate) next month.

Side benefits, besides getting to practice my Faetar and drink "real" Italian coffee, include tasting the fruits (and veges (?)) of their gardens, prosciutto from Faeto, and their homemade wine, as well as meeting race car drivers, artists, and shoemakers. And I keep busy during the non-interviewing days transcribing some of the highlights of these interviews. Sadly, I have no photos to post, but you can see some great pix of Faeto, taken by one of my favorite speakers, here.

Language and Cultural Expo

New PhD student Matt Gardner brings this to our attention:

Omni TV is sponsoring a Language and Cultural Expo Oct. 2-3, 2010 at Exhibition Place. Looks like a variety of events, and maybe a great place to recruit speakers for various research projects...

If you go, come back and blog about it!