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Topics in Syntax: Agree(-ment) and the nature of syntactic features

Thursdays 15.15-17.45, Seminarraum H1 5.16, GWZ


In this course, we will investigate the structure of syntactic features (e.g. phi-/Case/Tense features) and the nature of featural agreement. Some of the questions we will focus on with respect to features, are:

  • How are features organized? I.e. do they involve flat, set-like structures, or can they be ordered or have hierarchical structure? (Pollard/Sag 1994, Harley/Ritter 2002)

  • How complex are individual features? I.e. are features privative, binary, or attribute-value pairs? (Noyer 1992, Harbour 2011)

  • Do we need featural diacritics/second-order features, and if so, what are the empirical limits (if any) on featural complexity? (Starke 2010, Adger 2010, Adger/Svenonius 2011)

  • What sorts of featural distinctions are empirically motivated? E.g. valued/unvalued vs. interpretable/uninterpretable vs. something else. (Pesetsky/Torrego 2007).

  • Are the answers to these questions the same for all features, or can different features have different properties? E.g. some features are privative, others are binary, and yet others involve hierarchical structure?

  • Are there any purely formal features, or are all features ultimately relevant for the (LF/PF) interfaces? (Chomsky 2001)


We will test our theoretical predictions on the empirical domain of agreement (formalized as a dependency between features), paying particular attention to "unorthodox" agreement phenomena (conjunct agreement, the Anaphor Agreement Effect, long-distance agreement, anti- agreement, split agreement, "failed" agreement (in the sense of Preminger 2011), etc), in the hopes that these can help distinguish among different theoretical approaches to feature-structures and the grammatical operations that manipulate them.



Course Syllabus







































































REquired Readings






REcommended readings

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