LINGUIST List 31.53

Sat Jan 04 2020

Confs: Gen Ling, Ling Theories, Morphology, Semantics, Syntax/Germany

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 27-Dec-2019
From: Doreen Georgi <>
Subject: Structural Asymmetries in African Languages
E-mail this message to a friend

Structural Asymmetries in African Languages
Short Title: SAIAL

Date: 27-Apr-2020 - 28-Apr-2020
Location: Potsdam, Germany
Contact: Doreen Georgi
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax

Meeting Description:

The study of asymmetries in grammatical systems has played a central role in grammar-theoretical approaches to human language. For instance, extraction-asymmetries between subjects and non-subjects have played an important role in the development of generative models of grammar from the early beginnings in Chomsky (1965). The same holds, for instance, for reorderings to the left or to the right, or for the question of whether external arguments (subjects) stand in a fundamentally different structural, and hence semantic relation to the verbal predicate than internal arguments (objects). Often, theoretical approaches differ precisely in whether or not they assume such asymmetries in human language. For instance, the framework of Categorial Grammar allows for the local composition of subjects and verbs, whereas many other syntactic frameworks assume strict configurationality in the VP, and hence do not.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers from different frameworks working on the structural aspects of grammar in African languages, and in particular on structural asymmetries. Apart from contributing novel data to the discussion, we are particularly interested in the consequences of the empirical observations for our understanding of the grammar of human language: Do the data support or falsify existing theoretical approaches to structural asymmetries? Do the data make the existence of asymmetries in the grammatical architecture of languages mandatory, or do they allow for less restricted approaches? Do they allow us to refine less well understood aspects of previous approaches? What can we learn about the cause of the observed asymmetries? What do the findings tell us about the overall architecture of grammar and the interfaces between (morpho)syntax, phonology/phonetics and semantics/pragmatics?
We are thus especially interested in papers that present new empirical data, also from understudied languages, and which discuss their implications for formal theories of structural aspects of the grammar of human language.

Phenomena of interest include (but are not limited to) the following:

- extraction asymmetries (subjects vs. non-subjects, arguments vs. adjuncts, referential vs. non-referential elements) e.g. concerning the distribution of resumptive pronouns vs. gaps, cross-referencing of arguments (case, agreement), that-trace effects, ...

- reordering asymmetries (left- vs (no) right-disclocation, subject inversion, ...)

- asymmetries between matrix and embedded questions (e.g. the lack of embedded questions with relative clauses being used instead; choice of operator elements, differences in tense-aspect-mood, ...)

- asymmetries in clausal complementation (infinitival vs finite; differences in tense-aspect-mood; selection asymmetries (Y/N-questions, wh-questions, declaratives, DPs) with different embedding predicates, ...)

- structurally different types of serial verb constructions / clefts / copula clauses / ...

- asymmetries in focus marking (position: in situ / ex situ focus & wh, category-based: predicate focus vs argument focus)

- asymmetries between the vP- and TP-periphery

- asymmetries between DPs (D-elements in the extended nominal projection) and clausal determiners (D-elements attached to clauses)

- asymmetries in tense-aspect-mood marking (e.g. structural realization of future vs non-future; tense vs. aspect-marking)

Invited speakers:
Jenneke van der Wal (LUCL, Leiden) & Enoch Oladé Aboh (UvA, Amsterdam)

Doreen Georgi (University of Potsdam), Katharina Hartmann (Goethe University Frankfurt), Malte Zimmermann (University of Potsdam)

Page Updated: 04-Jan-2020