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Sat Aug 14 2010
Calls: General Ling/Austria
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Workshop on Identity in Grammar
Message 1: Workshop on Identity in Grammar
From: Viola Schmitt <vs.violaschmittgmail.com>
Subject: Workshop on Identity in Grammar
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Full Title: Workshop on Identity in Grammar
Date: 01-May-2011 - 01-May-2011
Location: Vienna, Austria
Contact Person: Henk van Riemsdijk
Meeting Email: villasalmigmail.com
Web Site: http://glow.univie.ac.at/
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Call Deadline: 01-Nov-2010
This workshop addresses the topic of identity in grammar within different
domains of grammatical theory.
Call For Papers
We invite submissions for the Workshop on Identity in Grammar, which is
part of GLOW 34, Vienna
Organizers: Martin Prinzhorn, Henk van Riemsdijk, Viola Schmitt
Few concepts are as ubiquitous in the natural world of humans as that of
identity, a relation between two objects that both have all the properties of
the other. In linguistics, this concept is often appealed to, yet, in many
cases, a much looser understanding of it is employed: Two objects will be
considered identical at some level of linguistic representation, if they share
all, most or the crucial features relevant at this level.
It is within this understanding of identity, that some grammatical processed
have been argued to be - or seemingly are - sensitive to this particular
Some examples in which sensitivity to indentity in this sense manifests itself
are fairly easy to find. For example, reduplication (cf. Raimy, 2000 and
many others) in morpho-phonology creates sequences of identical syllables
or morphemes. Similarly, copying constructions in syntax create an identical
copy of a word or phrase in some distant position. This is typically true, for
example, of verb topicalizations frequently found in African languages such
as Vata (cf. Koopman, 1984), often referred to as 'predicate clefts' in which
the verb is fronted, but is again pronounced in its source position, (cf.
Kandybowicz, 2006 and references cited there). Such constructions as well
as the observation that wh-copy constructions are frequently found in child
language (see for example McDaniel et al., 1995), have also contributed to
the so-called copy theory of movement according to which a chain of
identical copies is created whose (non-)pronunciation is determined by
principles of spell-out.
In many cases, however, what is at stake is not the coexistence of identical
elements in grammatical structure but rather its opposite, the avoidance of
identity, a term due to Yip (1998). Haplology, the deletion of one of two
identical syllables or morphemes, is a case in point. In addition to deletion,
there are other ways to avoid sequences of two identical elements ('XX'):
insertion of an epenthetical element(XX?XeX), dissimilation (XX?XY),
creating distance (XX?X?X) or fusion (AA??). In phonology and
morphology, there is an abundance of identity avoidance phenomena, and
some major principles such as the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP, cf.
McCarthy, 1986) are instrumental in accounting for them. But OCP-like
principles have also been argued to be operative in syntax (cf. Van
Riemsdijk, 2008 and references cited there).
Another identity avoidance effect that immediately comes to mind is Principle
C of the Binding Theory (Chomsky, 1981): a referential expression can
never co-refer with a c-commanding element. Principle C may thus be
interpreted as a principle that avoids identity in some way and at some
level. Still, while referential identity is clearly a necessary condition in order
for Principle C to kick in, why does it apply in some cases but not in others?
In the examples alluded to above, questions immediately arise as to what
exactly we mean by identity. And when we think about these issues a bit
more, things are indeed far from obvious. It suffices to look at dinstinctive
features in phonology. /i/ and /u/ are identical in that both are vowels, but
they are different in that one is a front vowel and the other a back vowel.
What counts for the calculus of identity, full feature matrices or subsets of
features, and if the latter which subsets? Take a difficult problem from
syntax. The so called 'Doubly Filled Comp Filter' (DFC, cf. Chomsky and
Lasnik, 1977 and much subsequent research) ostensibly excludes two
positions that are close to one another (the complementizer head and its
specifier position) if both are phonetically realized. Typically, the
complementizer is an element such as that, while the specifier contains
some wh-phrase, i.e. a DP, a PP, an AP or a CP, excluding such cases as *I
wonder who that you saw? Note however that many languages have a
process whereby a finite verb is moved into the complementizer position,
such as Subject Auxiliary Inversion in English. But whenever this happens,
the DFC does not apply: who did you see? Could the relative identity
between a wh-phrase and a 'nominal' complementizer such as that as
opposed to the relative non-identity between the wh-phrase and a finite
verb be responsible? Clearly, identity as understood in various places of
grammatical research is a very problematic concept, and invoking it is never
a trivial matter.
Similar issues arise in the domain of intervention constraints. Minimality, and
in particular Relativized Minimality (Rizzi, 1990), involves the relative
identity of the intervening element with the element that crosses past it. But
again, what are the relevant properties? In Rizzi's book, it is proposed that
the crucial property is A vs. ?. But there are many indications that what
counts as an intervener is tied to "lower" level features. In Dutch, for
example, the [+R] feature creates an intervention effect (cf. Van Riemsdijk,
1978) where the [+wh] feature does not.
In all of the examples given above, the notion of identity is used in a rather
loose sense. The linguistic objects that are taken to stand in this relation
merely share some features, but not all of them. Further, they only share
features at a given level. To allow for a fruitful and more precise
investigation of the phenomenon of identity sensitivity, the following issues
and questions ought to be addressed:
First, we usually talk about identity on one level of linguistic representation:
For instance, two morphemes can be phonologically identical but can be
realized in different syntactic positions in the syntactic structure (as in wh-
copying constructions). Similarly, in reduplication, two morphemes can be
identical on a segmental level, but not on a prosodic level -- or regarding
their truth-conditional impact. If we talk about processes that are sensitive to
identity, they will be sensitive to identity at one particular level. In (some
types of) ellipsis, for instance, what is required is semantic identity, but not
identity of formal (i.e. morphosyntactic) features. Processes that are
sensitive to identity on a level L can either themselves be part of that level
(like dissimilation in phonology) or part of a different level L' (Such as ellipsis
which, if taken to be phonological deletion).
Further, if we refer to identity of objects on a particular level of linguistic
representation, the question is whether grammatical processes such as
those mentioned above are sensitive to identity in the strict sense (where
the objects have all the properties in common) or in a much loser sense,
where they only share some, apparently relevant, properties. In addition,
are we considering individuals or classes?
Moreover, at least for some of the levels of linguistic representation, we
have to define what types of objects we are talking about. In order to
answer this question, it is crucial to investigate which type of information is
transparent at this level. Take for instance the copy theory of movement: Do
the individual copies count as identical, even though they appear in different
positions in the tree, i.e. does it suffice for them to share all the features to
be treated as identical? If so, it could be argued that the requirement that all
copies but one have to be deleted phonologically could be treated as an
instance of identity avoidance - i.e. syntactically identical elements have to
be dissociated on a phonological level. Note, however, that Gärtner(2002)
points out that the copies under the copy theory of movement cannot be
consideredto be identical - each copy has a different position in the tree
and, accordingly, different features will be unchecked.
Finally, assume that there are indeed processes that are sensitive to
identity at a particular level: Then the question is, what is the domain of
application? For instance, the DFC-filter only applies to elements in the
same projection, specifically in a Spec,Head relation. Condition C, on the
other hand, applies to a much larger domain.
If some progress can be made in answering at least some of these
problems, the core question of this workshop can be made more precise:
Are there grammatical processes that are sensitive to identity, do they
operate across linguistic levels, and why do they not apply in all cases?
It is our hope that the workshop will contribute to a better understanding of
at least some of these questions and perhaps even help to bring a few
among the many puzzles nearer to a solution. Needless to say, bringing
together linguists from all domains of grammatical theory is a bold and
perhaps risky experiment. Participants are called upon to step out of their
specialisms, listen to and learn from colleagues who they rarely if ever talk
to and to whose talks they would not normally go. We trust that open minds
and keen alertness for interesting ideas will bring about an enriching
experience for all.
Chomsky, Noam, and Lasnik, Howard. 1977. Filters and control. Linguistic
Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht:
Kandybowicz, Jason. 2006. Conditions on multiple spell-out and the
syntax-phonology interface, Doctoral dissertation, University of California,
Koopman, Hilda. 1984. The Syntax of Verbs Dordrecht: Foris Publications.
McCarthy, John. 1986. OCP effects: gemination and anti-gemination.
Linguistic Inquiry 17:207-263.
McDaniel, Dana, Chiu, Bonnie, and Maxfield, Thomas. 1995. Parameters for
Wh-Movement Types: Evidence from Child Language. Natural language
and linguistic theory 13:709-754.
Raimy, Eric. 2000. The Phonology and Morphology of Reduplication. Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter.
Riemsdijk, Henk C. van. 1978. A case study in syntactic markedness: the
binding nature of prepositional phrases. Lisse: The Peter de Ridder Press,
later published by Foris Publications Dordrecht and currently by Mouton de
Riemsdijk, Henk C. van (2008). Identity Avoidance: OCP-effects in Swiss
Relatives. In Robert Freidin, Carlos P. Otero and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta
eds.Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory. Essays in Honor of Jean-
Roger Vergnaud, 227-250. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Rizzi, Luigi. 1990. Relativized Minimality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Yip, Moira (1998). Identity avoidance in phonology and morphology. In
Stephen G. Lapointe, Diane K. Brentari and Patrick M. Farrell eds.
Morphology and its relation to phonology and syntax, 216-246. Stanford,
6 papers will be selected for 30 minute presentations. Authors will be
notified by the end of January, 2011 whether their paper got accepted.
Abstracts (both for oral presentations and posters) must not exceed 2
pages in length (A4 or letter-sized). This includes data and references.
Abstracts must have the following format: font not smaller than 12pt., single
spacing, 1-inch/2,5-cm margins on all sides. Submissions must be in pdf-
format. Submissions are limited to 2 papers per author, only 1 of which may
All abstracts must be submitted to following e-mail address until November
Please attach an anonymous pdf-copy of the abstract. Nothing in the
abstract, the title, or the name of the document should identify the author.
In the e-mail, please give you full name, your affiliation and the title of the
Contact: University of Vienna
Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
Stiege 2, 3. Stock
phone: +43-1-4277-417 21
workshop email: glow34.workshop.identitaetgmail.com
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