JUNE 10-11 2022, 9am-12:30pm PDT, synchronous zoom. 

Talks will be 30 minutes + 15 minute for discussion.


June 10th, 2022

9:00-9:45Syncretism as a tool for probing syntactic structure: the case of =
Pavel Caha (Masaryk University)
9:45-10:30Perfective allomorphy and negative neutralisation in Bambara:
a (nano) syntactic account

Karen de Clercq (CNRS/LLF/Université de Paris)
11:00-11:45On the syntactic (de)composition of (Dutch) temporal “adverbs”
Norbert Corver (Utrecht University)
11:45-12:30Word formation: What is Syntax, what is Phonology?
Heather Newell (Université du Québec á Montréal)

June 11th, 2022

9:00-9:45Nominalization as Relativization
Dimitrios Ntelitheos (United Arab Emirates University)
9:45-10:30Nominal paradigms in North Sámi
Marit Julien (Lund University)
11:00-11:45The Opacity of Compounds and the Generic Vocabulary
Edwin Williams (Princeton University)
11:45-12:30Panel: Antonio Fábregas (The Arctic University of Norway), Isabel Oltra-Massuet (Universitat Rovira i Virgili)[Fábregas slides] [Oltra-Massuet slides]
12:30-13:00General discussion


(in alphabetical order by speaker)

Syncretism as a tool for probing syntactic structure: the case of =

Pavel Caha, Masaryk University,

The talk investigates a curious instance of morphological syncretism between the genitive singular and the nominative plural. The syncretism is found in Czech and a couple of other languages. The traditional approach considers this homophony a prototypical instance of an accidental syncretism and accounts for it by a rule of referral or similar. In contrast, Nanosyntax (as well as other syntax-oriented theories) provides tight constraints on syncretism. One specific idea is that syncretism reveals structural containment (an effect of the Superset Principle). If we adopt this syntax-centered perspective on syncretism, we must apparently adopt the surprising conclusion that either the syntactic structure of the nominative plural contains the syntactic structure of the genitive singular or vice versa. The talk argues that this conclusion is, in fact, correct, and moreover, it represents a specific instance of a general constraint on syncretism between mass nouns, count nouns and plurals.

On the syntactic (de)composition of (Dutch) temporal “adverbs”

Norbert Corver, Urtrecht University,


Perfective allomorphy and negative neutralisation in Bambara: a (nano) syntactic account

Karen de Clercq, CNRS/LLF/Université de Paris,


Nominal paradigms in North Sámi

Marit Julien, Lund University,


Word formation: What is Syntax, what is Phonology?

Heather Newell, Université du Québec á Montréal,

What is the relationship between morphology and syntax? To answer this question, we need to define what we mean by morphology. At its core, morphology is generally considered to deal with word formation. Given that there is no agreed-upon definition of word, we need to look more deeply into what we are really examining when we look at word formation. Some recent syntactic work inserts part of the work of word-formation directly into the structural derivation (Spanning: Svenonius 2016, 2019; Nanosyntax: Baunaz et al (eds.) 2018), and other syntactic research evicts word-formation from the syntax altogether, proposing to put operations like head-movement (Head Movement, Lowering, Local Dislocation) into the phonology (or at least into the post-syntax) (ex. Chomsky 1995; Embick & Noyer 2001; Platzack 2013). Both options appear to confound modularity in ways that are non-optimal.

One aspect of word formation that is generally not considered in the morphosyntactic literature is the effect of the phonological derivation itself. This talk will examine how the underlying phonological/lexical representations of morphemes play into word formation in ways that remove the work of word-formation from the syntax (and the syntactic aspects of morphology). It will focus on the autosegmental aspects of affixation, as well as on determiner-preposition and pronominal cliticization. If some of the work can be relegated to the phonology proper, this aids in simplifying and focusing the tasks required of the morpho-syntax with regards to word-formation.

Nominalization as Relativization

Dimitrios Ntelitheos, United Arab Emirates University,

This talk supports a syntactic analysis of agentive nominalizations (e.g. player) and agentive synthetic compounds (e.g. tobacco-grower), based on data from Malagasy, Greek, and English. The analysis follows work in Ntelitheos (2006, 2012) and assumes that these nominals involve a process of relativization where the category-assigning affix (e.g. the nominalizer -er in English) is either a relativizer in a reduced headless relative clause or a realization of the (relativized) highest argument of the root/verbal predicate (see similar ideas in Collins 2006; Kayne 2010; Fábregas 2012; Harley 2020; and Koopman 2005 for Maasai common nouns). The proposed analysis derives the semantics of these nominals straightforwardly (player = ‘one who plays’ c.f. early transformational grammar insights in Lees 1960), captures their relative-clause-like properties in languages like Malagasy and English, and provides a preliminary account for expected crosslinguistic parallelisms (and polysemy) between relative/participial clauses and participant nominalizations (Dékány & Georgieva 2020, as discussed in MaS1; see also Harley 2020). In addition, the analysis supports syntactic accounts of nominalizations which assume “mixed extended projections” (Borsley and Kornfilt 2020; see also earlier work in Distributed Morphology in Harley 2009) and argues against recent approaches (Marantz 2021 and especially Wood 2021) where category-assigning heads (n, v, a, etc.) always merge below argument structure and higher functional projections and do not interact directly with them.

The Opacity of Compounds and the Generic Vocabulary

Edwin Williams, Princeton University,

I will suggest that the principal limitation on compounds is a limit on the occurrence of free variables, not a limitation on internal or external syntax; call it the “Compound Opacity Condition”.  Relevant sources of free variables are pronouns, tense, quantifiers, contextually varying expressions like “girlfriend”, “nearby”, “now”, “today”, “next”, etc.   For example, *”the today report” is ungrammatical because “today” has a variable that must be bound in the utterance context, but it is free within the compound.  

I will demonstrate that the restricted behavior of these items cannot be made to follow from the syntax of compound formation itself, but must be imposed as a filter on output.   Within compounds, full phrasal syntax occurs up to the limit set by the opacity condition.   It is speculated that the opacity condition exists to provide a source of novel generic terms.