LINGUIST List 14.291

Tue Jan 28 2003

Diss: Syntax: Soschen "On Subjects and Predicates..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. career2002, Syntax: Soschen "On Subjects and Predicates in Russian"

Message 1: Syntax: Soschen "On Subjects and Predicates in Russian"

Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2003 15:53:21 +0000
From: career2002 <>
Subject: Syntax: Soschen "On Subjects and Predicates in Russian"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Ottawa
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Alona Soschen 

Dissertation Title: 
On Subjects and Predicates in Russian

Linguistic Field:
Syntax, Semantics, Philosophy of Language 

Subject Language Family:
Slavic Subgroup (code: 9521)
Semitic (code: 9510)
Romance (code: 9520)
Germanic (code: 9517)

Dissertation Director 1: Maria-Luisa Rivero

Dissertation Abstract: 

This research integrates cognitively based lexical semantics and
formal syntactic analyses with relation to philosophy and logic of
language. It deals with a broad range of issues and contributes
relevant observations and analysis by offering a novel approach to
lexical and syntactic representations. Different theoretical
frameworks are employed within the compass of generative syntax/
semantics. Russian data and data from other languages (Ukrainian and
Bulgarian, Romance languages, English, and Hebrew) are analyzed to
bring out the nature of the categories each language possesses.

To answer the question of how semantically empty elements are
interpreted by the conceptual system, special attention is paid to
null categories in Russian (pro of impersonal sentences, pro of
existential sentences). Two subject positions on the verb's argument
grid are examined, and the conclusion is drawn concerning the existing
parallelism of lexical (micro-) and syntactic (macro-) models. The
'indirect', or 'null', subject position is considered more general and
encompassing in both cases (Soschen 2000, 2002 a).

According to the results of this investigation, the latter (macro-)
model associates semantic generic/ non-generic distinction of
sentences with two functional heads Tense and Agreement in English,
Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish. The notion of genericity now includes a
personal level, e.g. when a certain property holds in all (or most)
situations possible for an individual (Soschen 1999). The study
employs predication theory to relate semantic components to formal
syntactic descriptions; as an example, certain adjectival predicates
that do not participate in generic formation are represented as
unsaturated functions of states.

Following Chomsky 2000, 2001a, 2001 b, predication is viewed as an
operation of Merge on two syntactic elements, which supports the idea
of a direct connection between certain syntactic representations
(e.g. small clauses) and the initial stages of language acquisition
(Soschen 2002 b, 2003). Predication relations are re-examined as the
set of ordered functions where not only their number but their
direction is of importance, as they apply both on the sentence level
and within modified NPs.

The research closely relates the issue of syntactic predication to a
cognitive approach to lexical units as sets of categorial features, in
order to enhance our understanding of categorization and the way words
are combined in lexical units.

Lexical structures of transitive vs. intransitive verbs and their
arguments are investigated as a way of exploring the minimal links of
predication. According to the results of this research, these models,
analyzed as 'layered' in the sense that they can be projected into
syntax by parts, exhibit cross-linguistic consistency. The conclusion
is that lexical arguments must be assessed from the point of view of
their place in the hierarchy of events/ states. A detailed analysis of
the properties of the 'result' layer leads one to the issue of
reflexivity. The analysis of reflexive structures in Slavic and
Romance languages (Rivero 2001, 2002 a, 2002 b) is followed to
establish a link between the syntactic properties of reflexive verbs
and the cognitive notion of our access to ourselves (following
Chierchia 1989).

The goal of this research is to contribute to our knowledge and
perception of natural language universals, and to stimulate further
work towards the development of interdisciplinary approach to the
study of language.
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