February 3, 2016

Guest speaker: Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University)

We are very pleased to welcome back alumnus Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University) for a guest talk. Keir received his MA from our department in 2002, and then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. He has since been a postdoc at SSHRC and a faculty member at UCLA, the University of Vienna, and SFU. He is primarily interested in syntax, semantics, and their interface, particularly when it comes to subordination.

Keir's talk will be at 3 PM on Friday the 5th in SS 560A: "Ingredients of embedding: Complementizers, clausal determiners, and mediated AGREE." A reception will follow in the departmental lounge (SS 4065).

In both traditional and generative syntax, a long-standing question is what role complementizers play in allowing clauses to serve as arguments of predicates. Building on ideas about parallelism between clauses and noun phrases (Szabolcsi 1987, Abney 1987), one view treats complementizers in Romance and Germanic as analogous to the determiners of noun phrases (Roberts and Roussou 2003, Manzini and Savoia 2003, 2011). On this approach, both C and D are there to give a phrase argument status. In this talk, I argue against such parallelism. Instead, I argue that all CPs are predicates — even complement CPs (Kratzer 2006, Moulton 2009, Moulton 2015, Arsenijevic 2009). I begin by presenting distributional evidence about CP complementation and the theory of Moulton (2015). I then turn to an interesting case study of an understudied type of CP in Romance — the Pseudo-Relative (PR) (Radford 1977, Kayne 1975, Cinque 1992), illustrated by the bracketed string in (1) in Italian. These constructions speak against DP-CP parallelism because, as I argue in joint work with Nino Grillo (Humboldt), they show that Ds and Cs co-occur in this construction, both bearing distinct morpho-syntactic and semantic signatures.

(1) [Io che fumo per strada] è uno spettacolo che non raccomando a nussuno.
[I.NOM that smokes in street] is a sight that not recommend.I to anyone.
'Me smoking in the street is a sight I don't recommend to anyone.' (Cinque 1992 (66))

We argue that PRs contain a predicate CP that is converted to an argument by a null determiner heading the CP. We further show how this null determiner facilities an AGREE relation between the matrix clause and the PR-internal subject (e.g. Io above), in a fashion similar to suggestions in Preminger (2009) and Bjorkman and Zeijlstra (2015) for Long-Distance Agreement in Basque and Tsez. The results add to a growing body of literature arguing for determiners on clauses (Davies and Dubinsky (2002, 2010), Hartman (2012) and others).

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