LINGUIST List 14.1126

Wed Apr 16 2003

Confs: Syntax/Sociolinguistics/Sweden

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  1. leonie.cornips, Syntactic Variation

Message 1: Syntactic Variation

Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2003 03:58:13 +0000
From: leonie.cornips <leonie.cornipsmeertens.knaw.nl>
Subject: Syntactic Variation


Syntactic Variation 

Date: 13-Jun-2003 - 13-Jun-2003
Location: Uppsala, Sweden
Contact: Leonie Cornips
Contact Email: leonie.cornipsmeertens.knaw.nl 
Meeting URL: http://www.nordiska.uu.se/ICLaVE2/index.html

Linguistic Sub-field: Syntax, Sociolinguistics 

This is a session of the following conference: 2nd International
Conference on Language Variation in Europe

Meeting Description:

Sociolinguistic and generative research have recently flourished in
comparative isolation from one another. The planned workshop will be
significant in providing a timely opportunity to probe the extent to
which idealisations are necessary given our current understanding of
individual grammars. It will also be consequential in its exploration
of the socio-cultural correlates governing inherent variability with
respect to community grammars and its incorporation of insights from
both diachrony and sociolinguistics in doing so. The workshop will,
therefore, be important in developing the view that combining insights
from both generative and sociolinguistic models is essential if we are
to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of linguistic variation
and change and refine our analyses of it. 

Second International Conference on Language Variation in Europe
(ICLAVE2), Uppsala, Sweden, between 12th-14th June 2003
(cf. http://www.nordiska.uu.se/ICLaVE2/index.html).

Workshop SYNTACTIC VARIATION
Organizers: Leonie Cornips (Meertens Institute) & Karen Corrigan
(University of Newcastle)

ABSTRACTS

Friday, June 13 between 13:45 and 18:00 p.m:

13:45-14:05 Alison Henry to be confirmed University of Ulster

14:05-14:25		�ystein Vangsnes		
			University of Troms�	

Preliminary title: 
The wh-grammars they are a-changing: Lack of verb second effects in a
Western Norwegian dialect

Just like Northern Norwegian dialects (cf. Taraldsen 1985, Rice &
Svenonius 1998, Westergaard forthcoming) many Western Norwegian
dialects exhibit lack of verb second in main clause
wh-questions. However, whereas such lack of V2 is restricted to cases
with monosyllabic (or possibly mono-morphemic) wh-constituents in most
Northern Norwegian dialects (e.g. the Troms� dialect), certain Western
Norwegian dialects have been reported to not possess the same
restriction: the Sunndals�ra dialect in Nordm�re discussed by �farli
(1986) is a case in point.

In this paper I will report from an ongoing study of the dialect of
(Indre) Sogn further to the south in western Norway than Nordm�re
where there seems to be a change in progress concerning
wh-grammars. Prelimenary studies suggest that the older generation
tolerate lack of V2 only when the wh-constituent is monosyllabic on a
par with the Northern Norwegian dialects whereas the younger
generation has a wh-grammar of the Nordm�re type.

The change in the wh-grammar of the Sogn dialect is a promising object
of study with respect to the interaction of grammar internal and
grammar external mechanisms for language change. The mere fact that
Norwegian dialects may lack V2 in wh-questions but not in declaratives
(including topicalizations) raises a number of challenging problems
for syntactic theory, and the fact that the Sogn dialect does not
converge in the direction of Standard Norwegian may suggest that the
change is an effect of a linquistic regionalization tendency in
western Norway.

In order to possibly better understand the mechanisms behind the
change two municipalities with a different demographic status and
development is studied. The village Gaupne, a local centre, is
compared to the regional centre, Sogndal. Various methodological
issues and theory driven questions related to the setup of the study
will be discussed, and prelimenary findings will be presented.

References:
�farli, T. 1986. Some Syntactic Structures in a Dialect of
Norwegian. Working Papers in Linguistics 3, 93-111, University of
Trondheim.
Rice, C. and P. Svenonius 1998. Prosodic V2 in Northern
Norwegian. Ms., University of Troms�.
Taraldsen, K.T. 1986. On Verb Second and the Functional Content of
Syntactic Categories. In Haider, H. and Prinzhorn, M. (eds), Verb
Second Phenomena in Germanic Languages. Dordrecht: Foris, pp. 7-25.
Westergaard, Marit R. forthcoming. Word Order in WH-questions in a
North Norwegian Dialect: Some Evidence from an Acquisition Study. To
appear in Nordic Journal of Linguistics.

14:25-15:45		David Adger* & Jennifer Smith** 
			*Queen Mary, University of London &
**University of York
Variation and the functional lexicon: a case study in auxiliary
deletion.

Under a classical Chomskian conception, formal linguists are
interested in investigating I-language, the internal state of that
part of an individuals mind involved in computing syntactic structures
and relating them to meanings on the one hand and to concrete
expression using sounds or signs on the other. In recent years, the
notion of Economy has become important in characterizing I-language,
so that syntactic operations which are not triggered are assumed to be
barred (the principle of Last Resort Movement). This predicts the
absence of optionality for syntactic processes within an I-language
(or equivalently, it predicts the absence of variability). However,
variationist studies have clearly shown that optionality in language
is prevalent and structured, leading to an apparent paradox for the
I-language view, which is usually dealt with by assuming that
optionality in corpora is the result of 'performance factors'.

Aside from denying the existence of variability, there are other ways
to circumvent this apparent contradiction, including modifying the
grammatical rules so as to incorporate probabilistic factors (the
variable rules of Labov and others), or the adoption of competing
grammars within a single individual (as in the work of Kroch and his
associates). In this paper we argue for a particular view of
grammatical variation related to Krochs approach: we propose that such
variation is always a matter of lexical choice, (which can be
conditioned, as we know, by sociolinguistic, parsing or grammatical
factors), but we extend the choices made beyond standard lexical items
to the functional categories assumed to exist in clause structure by
many generative grammarians. Speakers do not, then, have different
grammars, per se, but rather a range of lexical items open to them,
some of which will have syntactic effects. Under this conception of a
grammar as just a specification of a lexicon of functional categories,
Krochs approach and the standard variationist approach become one:
there are competing grammars, but those grammars are reduced to just
specifications of lexical items, and choice of lexical items is
determined by the kinds of factors variationists have always argued
for. The crucial point is that you need to have an abstract enough
view of what constitutes a lexical item.

More concretely, a speaker has a repository of functional elements
which are differentially specified, with the specifications having
different syntactic effects (for example, choice of a particular
complementizer may trigger movement of T to C, while the choice of
another will not), or different phonological spellouts.

This theory predicts the possibility of variation within a single
clause, a kind of variation which is not naturally captured by the
idea that the individual possesses and uses different grammars, in the
traditional sense of grammar. Variation within a language, variation
across time, and codeswitching all reduce to choices, and the choices
then determine the structural makeup of the sentences used. In fact,
on our view, there is no coherent notion of a grammar. Particular
grammars are epiphenomena which derive from the interaction between
universal syntactic operations (Merge, Move and Agree within the
Minimalist Program), and the particular choices of functional elements
available to an individual and used in the computation of particular
syntactic structures. The limits of variation are then determined by
the availability of formal syntactic primitives, but how that
variation pans out in a particular sentence is simply a matter of what
the speaker chooses to do with these primitives. 

As a case study in this framework, we show how this approach makes
sense of the variable appearance, in a North Eastern Scottish Dialect
(Buckie), of the interactions between the presence of negation,
do-support and the related phenomenon of Perfect-Aux-Deletion.

15:45-16:15 		coffee


16:15-16:35		Ans van Kemenade 
			University of Nijmegen

Syntactic variation in 16th century English

This paper is about the nature of variation in the use of auxiliaries
in 16th century English. The best-studied case of auxiliary use in the
16th century is the story of the rapid rise of periphrastic do, for
which it is clear that both grammatical and social factors play a
role, although both these factors still need to be further
disentangled. Following on much research, I will motivate why
periphrastic do was grammatically necessary, and paved the way for the
rise of further verbal periphrases like have to, to be to, used to and
so on. I will then consider the interplay between grammatically
conditioned and non-grammatically conditioned variation in the use of
verbal periphrases.

 16:35-16:55		Sjef Barbiers 
			Meertens Institute

Provisional title: Variation at the End

The paper concentrates on syntactic variation in the right periphery
of the clause in the 260 varieties of Dutch investigated in the SAND
project (Syntactic Atlas of the Dutch Dialects). It provides an
overview of word order variation in 3-verb clusters, the Infinitivus
pro Participio effect and the Participium pro Infinitivo effect. It is
argued that the attested variation and in particular the optionality
of certain word orders is a problem for existing analyses. An
alternative analysis is proposed that captures the variation and also
explains the limits of variation in this domain.
		

16:55-17:15		Judit Gervain 
			University of Szeged,
			SISSA Neuroscience, Trieste, 

Microvariation and linguistic methodology: the case of Focus-raising
in Hungarian

Variation in empirical data has been a perseverant problem for
theoretical linguistics, especially syntax. Data inconsistencies among
authors allegedly analyzing the same phenomenon are ubiquitous in the
syntactic literature (e.g. empirical generalizations about
Focus-raising in Hungarian in �. Kiss 1987 vs. Lipt�k 1998), and
partly result from the highly informal methodology of data
collection. However, even if adequate controls are used to exclude
potential biases, variation might still remain. The general practice
in syntactic research has been to ignore these ''microvariations''
mainly in the lack of any systematic empirical method to detect
them. The present paper shows that this neglect leads to serious
theoretical problems (theories become incomparable and unfalsifiable
on empirical grounds). Therefore it proposes a new empirical method,
namely cluster analysis, to discover, explore and systematize these
variations. Finally, it illustrates how this richer empirical basis
gives rise to a more fine-grained theoretical analysis.

References

�. Kiss Katalin. 1987. Configurationality in Hungarian. Budapest:
Akad�miai Kiad�, 121-171. Lipt�k Anik�. 1998. ''A magyar
f�kuszemel�sek egy minimalista elemz�se''. In B�ky L., Maleczki
M. (eds.): Proceedings of ''A mai magyar nyelv le�r�s�nak �jabb
m�dszerei III.''. 23-24th April 1998, Szeged (Hungary), 93-115.


 17:15-17:35		Jenny Cheshire 
			Queen Mary, University of London

What is syntactic variation?

A problem for variationist research lies in identifying what counts as
syntactic variation. The analytical framework requires that syntactic
variants should differ in form but be semantically
equivalent. However, semantic equivalence is difficult to establish
for syntactic variants, and the condition is often relaxed to allow
syntactic variables to be set up on the basis of equivalence in
discourse function. Some researchers have argued that the choice of
variants is then motivated by factors such as information packaging,
politeness strategies, or, more loosely, communicative intent, such
that most so-called syntactic variation is better considered as
pragmatic variation.

It has less frequently been observed that pragmatic factors also need
to be taken into account when identifying the specific forms that are
the input to studies of syntactic variation. The problem will be
illustrated with two examples: right dislocation, or emphatic pronoun
tags, in working class speech in Hull, as in 1a; and when clauses with
no accompanying main clause, used by working class adolescents in
Reading, as in 2a:

(1)	a.	and he's got a real nice chest him
(2)	a.	when we went to the Isle of Wight
 
Previous analyses see these forms as varying with canonical clause
structures, as in (1b) and (2b).

(1)	b.	he's got a real nice chest
(2) b. when we went to the Isle of Wight he fell in the 
stinging nettles.

When the forms in (1a) and (2a) are analysed in their full discourse
context, however, it emerges that speakers use a wide range of forms
to fulfil the same discourse functions as these structures, These
include, for the emphatic pronoun tags, adverbials and prosodic
stress; and, for the unaccompanied when clauses, a set of structures
used as story openers in narratives of personal experience. For
speakers, then, the relevant variation does not involve the canonical
clause structures.
	
I will also consider a well-attested syntactic constraint on
lower-level variation: the effect of the existential clause
environment on was/were variation in vernacular varieties of
English. Here the way in which the variation is conventionally
conceived focuses on subject-verb concord rather than on discourse and
pragmatic factors, and here too we can question whether this is an
appropriate way of modelling what speakers do with their language.

The conclusion is that the way in which we conceptualise relations
between variants may be influenced by the conventional frameworks of
descriptive and theoretical syntax rather than by an analysis of the
discourse functions of the forms. This can have a profound effect on
the outcome of the analysis and therefore on our understanding of the
role of syntactic variation in language. If we take full account of
the social and communicative contexts in which speakers use language
we may be left with a smaller range of phenomena to count as syntactic
variation.

17:35-18:00		Open Discussion

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