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Conference Information

Full Title: Non-canonical Postverbal Subjects

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Silvio Cruschina
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: In the last two decades, a great deal of progress in the understanding of the notion subject has been made by investigating non-canonical subjects, namely, predicate arguments of a given language that share some - but not all - patterns of grammatical coding and behaviour with the subject of that language (Aikhenvald et al. 2001, Barðdal & Eythórsson 2003, 2009, Bhaskararao & Subbarao 2004, Cennamo 2011, Seržant & Kulikov 2013). The narrowing down of the investigation to non-canonical subjects has led to the development of a number of useful criteria and tests for subjecthood.

Following this line of investigation, in this workshop we aim to bring together linguists working on a specific subclass of non-canonical subjects, namely postverbal ones. The goals of the workshop embrace the investigation of semantic, pragmatic and morpho-syntactic properties of postverbal subjects. Ultimately, we aim to contribute to the understanding of the notion subject, its cross-linguistic extent and its limitations.

The following questions will be addressed in the workshop:

- Which morpho-syntactic properties characterize clauses with non-canonical postverbal subjects?

A typologically-adequate theory of the relative significance of the variables influencing V-S agreement (e.g. presence of an expletive, definiteness of the postverbal DP, semantics of the predicate) is still a desideratum. The relationship between the postverbal DP and a non-nominative constituent in a preverbal subject position (e.g. the mechanisms that guarantee case marking) are also debated.

- Are there any general semantic and pragmatic constraints on postverbal subjects?

Preverbal subjects correlate with the discourse role of topic, whereas postverbal subjects are typically foci. Definiteness constraints and the semantics of the predicate also play a crucial role, as is evidenced by the investigation of unaccusativity and, more generally, of avalent and low-agentivity predicates.

- Does the postverbal DP of constructions that disallow preverbal subjects exhibit the same properties as non-canonical postverbal subjects?

Subject inversion is typical of sentence types that require a specific word order (e.g. interrogative sentences). Preverbal subjects are also disallowed in specific constructions such as existentials, or locative and negative inversion. The question of whether the postverbal DP of these constructions shares the same properties as postverbal subjects elsewhere is worth investigating.

- Does the acquisition of non-canonical postverbal subjects differ from that of preverbal subjects?

Several studies have suggested that certain subject properties are acquired earlier than others. More recently, the comparison between languages with rigid and flexible word order has led to the design of experiments targeting the production and interpretation of postverbal subjects in acquisition. Further work on the acquisition of non-canonical postverbal subjects is desirable.

- Is the non-canonicality of posteverbal subjects limited to languages with predominant SVO order?

A broader issue is whether the morphosyntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties are at all shared by postverbal subjects in languages with word-order typologies other than SVO, as well as by the postverbal argument in intransitive constructions of languages which offer little or no evidence for the subject.


Delia Bentley (The University of Manchester)
Silvio Cruschina (University of Vienna)
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Semantics; Syntax; Typology
LL Issue: 27.4062

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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