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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Conference Information

Full Title: DGfS Workshop: Perspectives on Argument Alternations

Location: Potsdam, Germany
Start Date: 14-Mar-2013 - 15-Mar-2013
Contact: Ljudmila Geist
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL: http://peterdeswart.ruhosting.nl/perspectives
Meeting Description: Workshop at the 35th meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), Potsdam, Germany

Organizers: Ljudmila Geist (University of Stuttgart), Giorgos Spathas (University of Stuttgart), Peter de Swart (Radboud University Nijmegen)

The past few years have witnessed the rapid growth of literature explaining argument alternations such as dative alternation, locative alternation, conative alternation and antipassives. In such alternations semantic prominence is known to correlate with morphosyntactic prominence (Levin and Rappaport 1988: 25): the argument realized as a direct object is more semantically prominent than its oblique counterpart, which can be realized in a number of different ways depending on the type of alternation. The term ‘semantic prominence’ comprises different features such as topicality, discourse accessibility and affectedness. Following predicate-decompositional approaches (Jackendoff 1976, Koenig and Davis 2006, inter alia), morphosyntactic differences such as direct/oblique can be traced back to different underlying event structures and depth of the embedding of the argument. Alternative approaches such as entailment-based approaches (Dowty 1991, Ackerman and Moore 2001) derive morphosyntactic prominence of arguments from the prototypicality of the thematic role: oblique arguments are ‘less prototypical’ role fillers than direct objects. For Beavers (2010) ‘less prototypical’ corresponds directly to underspecification of the thematic role.

In this workshop we want to explore different perspectives for capturing the relative semantic prominence of arguments in constructions allowing semantically induced argument alternations in different languages. In particular, we want to discuss the following issues:

- What are the restrictions on the availability of particular alternations in terms of the verb classes and NP-types (e.g. animate, definite) that can be involved?
- What types of ‘semantic prominence’ are triggered by what alternations and why?
- What is the semantic contribution, if any, of the oblique marker?
- Are any of those alternations manifested also in nominalizations where internal arguments are already syntactically demoted?
- Do morphosyntactic alternatives always differ in meaning?

Invited Speaker:

Jean-Pierre Koenig (University of Buffalo)
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax; Typology
LL Issue: 23.3086

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