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LINGUIST List 22.2857

Tue Jul 12 2011

Calls: Syntax, Semantics, Historical Linguistics/Germany

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        1.     Agnès Schachermayer , DGfS 2012 Workshop: Definiteness Effects

Message 1: DGfS 2012 Workshop: Definiteness Effects
Date: 12-Jul-2011
From: Agnès Schachermayer <schachermayerem.uni-frankfurt.de>
Subject: DGfS 2012 Workshop: Definiteness Effects
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Full Title: DGfS 2012 Workshop: Definiteness Effects

Date: 06-Mar-2012 - 09-Mar-2012
Location: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Contact Person: Susann Fischer
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site: http://dgfs.de/cgi-bin/dgfs.pl/tagung?lang=en

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Semantics; Syntax

Call Deadline: 01-Sep-2011

Meeting Description:

The workshop on 'Definiteness Effects' is organized as part of the 34. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft / Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) ‘Language as a Complex System’, to be held at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany, March 6-9, 2012.

Organizers:

Susann Fischer - University of Hamburg
Tanja Kupisch - University of Hamburg
Esther Rinke - Goethe-University Frankfurt

This workshop aims at the description, analysis and explanation of definiteness effects across languages. Definiteness in DPs is typically realized by means of articles and other determiners (demonstratives, possessives, quantifiers and numerals); proper names and pronouns are also definite. In the English existential there-insertion construction indefinite DPs are permitted while definite expressions are excluded. This distinction applies to articles (1a), as well as to other determiners (1b). The restriction also applies in the case of negative existentials (1c).

(1)

a. There seems to be a cat in my garden./*There seems to be the cat in my garden.
b. There are some cats in my garden./*There is every cat in my garden.
c. There isn't a cat in my garden./*There isn't the cat in my garden.

Milsark (1977) distinguishes weak expressions from strong expressions and argues that this distinction lies at the heart of the restriction on definiteness: only weak expressions (i.e. indefinite DPs) can occur in the existential there-construction. Exceptions to the restriction against definite DPs are deictic uses of there that can be followed by definite and indefinite DPs (e.g. Look, there's the/a bus!), and the same is true for lists (even of a single item), e.g. How do we get home? Well, there's the bus or a taxi.

There have been a number of approaches to explaining the restriction on definiteness, including syntactic (e.g. Safir, 1987), semantic (e.g. Barwise & Cooper, 1981; Keenan, 1987; Milsark, 1977), and pragmatic (e.g. Abbott, 1993; Leonetti, 2008; Zucchi, 1995) accounts, as well as combinations thereof (e.g. Lumsden, 1988; McNally, in press), none being totally successful. Moreover, the DE has prominently been discussed with respect to English, while research on languages other than English has been rather sporadic. Based on Catalan and Spanish data it has been discussed whether null subject languages provide exceptions to the DE as they do allow definite DPs in some existentials (e.g. Leonetti, 2008). Turkish and Russian are also null subject languages and they show definiteness effects in positive but not in negative existentials (White et al., 2001). This raises the question whether the DE figures in all languages, and whether it can be traced to a common source. The absence of a successful explanatory account for the DE calls for systematic comparisons across languages and across linguistic levels.

Call for Papers:

The workshop invites empirical contributions investigating the DE across languages, as well as theoretical contributions discussing possible explanations (syntactic, semantic, pragmatic or prosodic and combinations thereof) of the DE-restriction. Papers adding a diachronic perspective or acquisition data are especially welcome.

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and should be sent to susann.fischeruni-hamburg.de no later than September 1, 2011.




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