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 MarĂ­a 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)

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