LINGUIST List 7.493

Mon Apr 1 1996

Calls: LINGUIST Conf, Geometric & Thematic Structure in Binding

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  1. The LINGUIST List, On-Line LINGUIST Conference: Geometric & Thematic Structure in Binding

Message 1: On-Line LINGUIST Conference: Geometric & Thematic Structure in Binding

Date: Mon, 01 Apr 1996 23:41:18 CST
From: The LINGUIST List <>
Subject: On-Line LINGUIST Conference: Geometric & Thematic Structure in Binding




LINGUIST is pleased to announce its first electronic linguistics
conference, "Geometric and Thematic Structure in Binding," to be held
October 21 - Nov 10, 1996. We are looking forward to this meeting and we 
hope that electronic conferencing will become a regular feature of
LINGUIST. If this conference is successful, we will solicit proposals
from subscribers and support the organization of electronic conferences 
on other linguistic topics.

Conference Organizer: Daniel Seely

Technical Support: Anthony Aristar
	 Helen Dry


With this conference, we hope to further develop the impressive 
potential of the internet to encourage interchange among 
geographically-distant scholars. 

Advantages of an electronic conference include:

	Linguists can be actively involved just by turning
	on the computer; this minimizes temporal, locational,
	and financial constraints on conference participation. 

	Immediate archiving allows easy and permanent
	access to conference procedings.

	There are unique opportunites to foster public discussion
	by specialists within and across subdisciplines.

Disadvantages: no restaurant guide

The goals of this first conference are serious linguistically but
modest technically. It is intended as a pilot study which will give
us valuable experience in determining how things can and should work
in the future. Details of the technical organization of the
conference can be found at the end of this Call for Papers.


 Within the generative tradition, two major approaches to binding theory 
can be identified: theta-based accounts and structure-based accounts.
The former defines the binding domain of some target element in
terms of co-argumenthood and often employs a theta hierarchy. 
The latter exploits the geometry of a phrase marker
appealing to such purely structural notions as c-command, government,
or spec-head agreement. Many mixed approaches exist, for Chomsky (1986)
_Knowledge of Language_, for instance, the binding domain of an anaphor
is stated in terms of argument structure while the relation between an
anaphor and its antecedent requires c-command, but there are pure forms 
on both sides.

 The working goal of this conference is to explore the empirical and 
theoretical advantages and disadvantages of theta-based vs structure-based 
binding theories with the ultimate task of assessing where the
preponderance of current evidence falls. Below we present a sampling 
of the issues that might be further addressed:


 Theta-based accounts define the binding domain of anaphoric 
elements using some notion of coargumenthood; the strong version 
attempts to eliminate all structural relations such as c-command, 
m-command, government, etc in favor of relations such as x is or is 
not a coargument of y, and x is or is not asymmetrically related 
to y relative to a theta hierarchy. These analyses are claimed to 

(i) allow for a strong version of the autonomy thesis. 
As Wilkins (1988) points out [in "Thematic Structure and Reflexivization" 
in Syntax & Semantics, vol 21, p.192]: "... reflexivization 
necessarily involves semantic interpretation (often discussed as 
"coreference"), [and thus] an explanation in terms of semantic 
notions would be more parsimonious, and thus more highly valued, 
than one that relies on the syntactic order or hierarchical 
arrangement of constituents." (See also Reinhart & Reuland (1993)
"Reflexivity" LI, 24.4 pp 657-720, among others.)

(ii) account for certain data better than structural accounts, 
specifically cases where there is a thematic asymmetry between 
elements x and y but not a structural asymmetry between them.
Thus, "Mary talked to Bill about himself" is troublesome for 
structural binding since "himself" is not c-commanded by its antecedent 
"Bill" and yet the sentence is fine; but this is straightforward for 
theta accounts since "Bill" is higher on the theta hierarchy than 
"himself" and hence can bind it. 

(iii) And finally, as pointed out by many linguists, they allow binding 
theory to be sensitive to semantic properties of theta roles that are 
inaccessible to purely structural accounts. 


 On the other hand, analyses for which structural relations are 
paramount, including the classic BT of Chomsky (1981) and most recent 
versions of the movement analysis of anaphors, do a fine job in handling 

(i) long distance anaphors and 

(ii) in capturing the relation between the morphological form of 
reflexives and their binding potential, viz, long distance reflexives 
are monomorphemic while short distance reflexives are polymorphemic. 

(iii) They also give a satisfying account of such phenomena as 
subject orientation and the blocking effect.

We invite a one page, electronically submitted abstract, dealing
with the these and any other aspect of the theta vs structure
binding debate. 

	Deadline for abstracts: May 15, 1996

	Abstracts will be reviewed anonymously by the Review Board:

		Arild Hestvik
		James Higginbotham
		Howard Lasnik
		Robert May
		Pierre Pica
		Eric Reuland
		Wendy Wilkins

	Submit the abstract electronically to

	The first 3 lines of the message should consist of 
		Your name
		Your email address
		The title of the abstract

	Then leave at least 3 blank lines before beginning the abstract.
	The abstract itself should also begin with the title. But no
	other identifying information should be included. 

	The final program will be announced: June 21, 1996
	Final versions of papers must be submitted to the 
	conference organizer by:

		Sept 21, 1996
	Presentation of papers will be visual so
	"speakers" MUST have papers complete and 
	ready for public distribution by Sept. 30.
	For practical reasons, papers should be
	relatively short: approx. 10 pages.

	The conference will take place:

		Oct 14 to Nov 4, 1996

	Since abstracts and papers will be distributed via
	email, and many participants will not have MIME
	or unicode-compliant mailers, 
		All text must be in ASCII.


	LINGUIST subscribers sign up for the conference
	and can participate actively or passively. There
	will be an email list, separate from LINGUIST, 
	for conference participants.

 	Papers will be mounted on a Web site and also 
	sent via email to conference participants.
	Discussion of papers will take place on the 
	special conference email list.

	Because the electronic medium requires extra reading
	and discussion time, and because the participants
	will be in different times zones, this conference
	will last 3 weeks.


	We plan to have 3 sessions each with 3 - 4 papers,
	and all sessions will have a moderator drawn from
	the Review Board listed above.

	At the beginning of each week the session papers will
	be sent to participants and mounted on the Web site. 
	Then we will have (in order):

		a 2 day reading period 
		a 3 day discussion period, facilitated
			by the moderator

		a final statement by the moderator
	At the end of the conference, there will be general discussion 
	of all papers and comments, and a 
		Keynote Address by Howard Lasnik

	Conference URL:


Questions about the conference should be addressed to the conference 
organizer: Daniel Seely
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