LINGUIST List 7.493

Mon Apr 1 1996

Calls: LINGUIST Conf, Geometric & Thematic Structure in Binding

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  • 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: 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