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LINGUIST List 18.2582

Wed Sep 05 2007

Diss: Syntax/Semantics: Klein: 'Encoding of Argument Structure in R...'

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        1.    Udo Klein, Encoding of Argument Structure in Romanian and SiSwati

Message 1: Encoding of Argument Structure in Romanian and SiSwati
Date: 05-Sep-2007
From: Udo Klein <udo.kleinling.uni-stuttgart.de>
Subject: Encoding of Argument Structure in Romanian and SiSwati
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Institution: King's College, University of London
Program: Department of Philosophy
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Udo Klein

Dissertation Title: Encoding of Argument Structure in Romanian and SiSwati

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Subject Language(s): Romanian (ron)
Swati (ssw)

Dissertation Director(s):
Ruth Kempson
Wilfried Meyer-Viol

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation provides a comparative analysis of the function played by
Romanian weak (clitic) pronouns and Siswati object markers in the encoding
of argument structure. The central claim is that both weak pronouns in
Romanian as well as object (and subject) markers in Siswati are pronominal
signs which satisfy the syntactic as well as the semantic requirements of
the verbal sign they combine with.

The basic assumptions are that (i) formal rules operate on tuples of
strings, rather than strings, (ii) semantic rules identify predicate
placeholders by their restriction on the construal of the saturating
argument, and (iii) the relation between syntactic and semantic structure
is exhaustively characterised by pairing formal and semantic rules.

The structure of the Romanian verb cluster is analysed in terms of rules
which operate on the exponent, categorial and semantic levels
simultaneously. Preverbal and postverbal accusative weak pronouns are
generated by rules having the same category function (resulting in
identical phrase structures), but different exponent functions (resulting
in different word orders). The exponent and categorial functions correspond
to simple Literal Movement Grammar rules and are thus parsable in
polynomial time. The meaning of a weak pronoun can be saturated by the
meaning of a direct object sign with matching formal features. Non-local
direct object signs are combined with a verb before this verb is embedded
-- the argument combines with the predicate, while the concatenation of
their strings is deferred.

Following Cognitive Grammar, I assume that linguistic expressions encode
both conceptual content and the speaker's construal of this content. The
morphosyntactic realisation of an argument depends mainly on its construal.
Arguments are construed asymmetrically as figure, ground, background or
oblique. The various valency changing constructions in Siswati are analysed
in terms of modes which change not only the conceptual content, but also
the construal restrictions associated with the placeholders of the
predicate. Subject and object markers are analysed as pronominal signs
whose meanings saturate the placeholders restricted to figure and ground
arguments respectively.

The central claim is compared with and defended against (i) the claim that
weak pronouns are the phonological realisation of syntactic features (and
thus are not signs) and (ii) the claim that subject markers which co-occur
with a coreferent NP sign have lost their semantic value and are therefore
merely formal agreement devices.

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