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LINGUIST List 22.4252

Fri Oct 28 2011

Calls: Syntax, Typology/Sweden

Editor for this issue: Alison Zaharee <alisonlinguistlist.org>

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        1.     Alena Witzlack-Makarevich , Grammatical Relations beyond Subjects and Objects

Message 1: Grammatical Relations beyond Subjects and Objects
Date: 27-Oct-2011
From: Alena Witzlack-Makarevich <witzlackspw.uzh.ch>
Subject: Grammatical Relations beyond Subjects and Objects
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Full Title: Grammatical Relations beyond Subjects and Objects

Date: 29-Aug-2012 - 01-Sep-2012
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Contact Person: Alena Witzlack-Makarevich
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax; Typology

Call Deadline: 13-Nov-2011

Meeting Description:

Grammatical Relations beyond Subjects and Objects: 40 Years Later

Proposal to be submitted to the 45th Annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE2012), Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University Stockholm (Sweden), 29 August-1 September 2012

Convenors: Alena Witzlack-Makarevich, Balthasar Bickel and Fernando Zúñiga (University of Zurich)

The term grammatical relations denotes the relations between a clause or a predicate and its arguments, such as subject, direct object, and indirect object. These categories are among the most basic concepts of many models of grammar and are often regarded, either explicitly or implicitly, as universal. Moreover, they belong to the fundamental concepts in descriptions of most languages.

The 1970s saw a fundamental change in the discussion of grammatical relations triggered by an increasing interest in languages in which grammatical relations are organized in a different way than in the familiar European languages, as, for instance, in languages exhibiting ergative traits (e.g. Dixon 1972 on Dyirbal, Comrie 1973, 1979 on Chukchi; Blake 1976 on some Australian languages; Woodbury 1977 on West Greenlandic Eskimo), the Philippine-type languages (cf. Schachter 1976). Since in these languages, morphological criteria do not identify grammatical relations in the same way as what is known from European languages, it became common to extend the inventory of grammatical relation tests beyond morphological marking and word order and to include syntactic processes as diagnostics of grammatical relations (e.g. Equi-NP deletion, raising, conjunction reduction, passivization, the behavior of the reflexives, etc. cf. Li 1976 and Plank 1979).

In many cases various morphosyntactic constructions of a language provide conflicting evidence. In such cases, it became common to pick out one or a small set of particular construction(s) from a range of phenomena. This construction, or this selection of constructions, was then treated as providing the one diagnostic for 'real' or 'deep' grammatical relations (e.g. Anderson 1976). Typically, these grammatical relations were then equated with subjects and objects familiar from European languages. As a result, grammatical relations were identified by different criteria in different languages.

A natural response to this problem is to consider all morphosyntactic properties of arguments without prioritizing among them. Under this approach, the various morphosyntactic features and properties of arguments do not necessarily converge on a single set of grammatical relations (e.g. one subject and one object or one ergative and one absolutive) in a language. Instead, every single construction can, in principle, establish a different grammatical relation. Thus, instead of viewing grammatical relations as uniform categories, it became common to regard them as construction-specific categories (e.g. Comrie 1978; Moravcsik 1978; Van Valin 1981, Croft 2001; 2010, among many others).

The construction-specific and language-specific view of grammatical relations has become widely accepted in current typology. Also many recent grammatical descriptions aim to provide in-depth accounts of the morphosyntactic constructions defining grammatical relation. However in practice, this enterprise is not without difficulties. This workshop aims to address the challenges of a construction-specific approach to grammatical relations. The focus is entirely on such challenges in language description and typology; issues of formalization and the architecture of grammar (e.g. varieties of 'Construction Grammar') are not our primary concern here.

Call for Papers:

The main topics of the workshop will include, but are not limited to, the following:

- In-depth accounts of grammatical relations in less documented languages integrating all relevant constructions.

- As constructions are also language-specific, how does one first identify the relevant constructions and isolates them from similar ones (e.g. raising vs. control constructions)?

- How does the construction-specific approach to grammatical relations cope with noncanonically marked or non-canonically behaving arguments?

- How are demoted and promoted arguments of passives and antipassives integrated?

- Accounts of constructions defining grammatical relations not considered previously.

- What are the possible co-dependencies between individual constructions defining grammatical relations (e.g. agreement interacting with raising possibilities)?

- Can or should case assignment be treated on a par with purely syntactic evidence for grammatical relations? Is it something entirely different?

Potential participants should send us a provisional title, your name, affiliation and a short abstract (300 words) no later than November 13, 2011, so that we can submit the workshop proposal (including a preliminary list of participants) to the SLE Scientific Committee by November 15, 2011.

The abstracts (in plain text format) should be sent to the following address:



Anderson, Stephen R. 1976. On the notion of subject in ergative languages. In Subject and Topic, ed. Charles N. Li, 1-23. New York: Academic Press.

Bickel, Balthasar. 2010. Grammatical relations typology. In The Oxford Handbook of Language Typology, ed. Jae Jung Song, 399-444. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Blake, Barry J. 1976. On ergativity and the notion of subject: some Australian cases. Lingua 39:281-300.

Comrie, Bernard. 1973. The ergative: variations on a theme. Lingua 32:239-253.

Comrie, Bernard. 1978. Ergativity. In Syntactic Typology: Studies in the Phenomenology of Language, ed. Winfred Philipp Lehmann, 329-394. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Comrie, Bernard. 1979. Degrees of ergativity: some Chuckchee evidence. In Ergativity: Towards a Theory of Grammatical Relations, ed. Frans Plank, 219-240. London: Academic Press.

Croft, William. 2001. Radical Construction Grammar: Syntactic Theory in Typological Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dixon, Robert M. W. 1972. The Dyirbal Language of North Queensland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Li, Charles N., ed. 1976. Subject and Topic. New York: Academic Press.

Moravcsik, Edith. 1978. On the distribution of ergative and accusative patterns. Lingua 45:233-279.

Plank, Frans, ed. 1979. Ergativity. New York: Academic Press. Schachter, Paul. 1976. The subject in Philippine languages: topic, actor, actor-topic, or none of the above. In Subject and Topic, ed. Charles N. Li, 492-518. New York: Academic Press.

Van Valin, Robert D. 1981. Grammatical relations in ergative languages. Studies in Language 5:361-394.

Woodbury, Anthony. 1977. Greenlandic Eskimo, ergativity, and relational grammar. In Syntax and Semantics 8: Grammatical Relations, ed. Peter Cole and Jerrold M. Sadock, 307-336. New York: Academic Press.

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