Department of Linguistics

Morphological Voice and its Grammatical Interfaces: Theoretic Modelling and Psycholinguistic Validation

25-27 June 2010

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Call for Papers

We hereby invite abstracts for 45-minute oral presentations, including discussion, on any aspect of the morpho-syntax, semantics, pragmatics and acquisition of Voice across languages. Abstracts should be anonymous and no longer than two pages, including references and examples, with margins of at least 1 inch, in 12-point Times New Roman, single-spaced. Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author.

Anonymous abstracts should be submitted via email to: The deadline for submission of abstracts is Thursday 1 April 2010.

Notification of acceptance will be by 15 April 2010.

Topics include but are not limited to: voice syncretisms, voice gaps (including the synthetic/analytic dimension), variance of morphological realization of voice paradigms within and across languages, interaction of voice with other elements (e.g. tense, aspect, mood), voice and ellipsis, the role of voice in argument expression and interpretation (e.g. transitivity alternations, so-called "non-selected" arguments, etc.). Among others, the following are potential issues that could be considered by contributors.

Voice syncretisms

It is well-known that verbs appearing in different syntactic constructions such as the passive, reflexive, middle, unaccusative, etc. can share identical voice(-related) morphology, which can involve a pronoun (e.g. German), a clitic (e.g. Romance), or a verbal inflection (e.g. Albanian, Greek, Japanese, Latin). Such syncretisms remain a central topic in the research on verb alternations and the relationship between syntax and morphology. E.g. Embick (1997) argues that voice morphology does not bring about syntactic changes, but instead reflects syntactic configurations. In contrast, Reinhart & Siloni (2005) argue that syncretism between unaccusatives and reflexives is due to a morphological reduction applying to reflexives, taking place either in the lexicon or in the syntax, depending on the language. More generally, various competing linguistic theories are based on different methodological assumptions with respect to whether morphology reflects or affects syntactic structure. For instance, in Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar and Lexical Functional Grammar morphology in the lexicon actively affects syntax, in contrast to e.g. Distributed Morphology in which morphology simply realizes syntax. Furthermore, if syntactic derivation is by phase (Chomsky 2001), even if a realizational theory of morphology is assumed, a morpheme in one phase can influence syntactic structure in the next phase.

Voice gaps

While much research has focused on voice syncretisms, to date no theory accounts for what may be referred to as voice gaps, defined either along the synthetic/analytic dimension, or as cases where 'marked' voice morphology, e.g. non-active, fails to appear. Voice gaps are as highly relevant for morpho-syntax and hence grammatical theory as are voice syncretisms. Such gaps are familiar from better studied languages such as German or Italian (Grewendorf 1989, Steinbach 2002 for German, Sorace 2004), which despite lacking full voice paradigms, exhibit voice-related marking. Research on languages with full voice paradigms mentions such gaps but without full analyses (Haspelmath 1993, Embick 1997, Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 2004 for Greek; Gianollo 2000 for Latin). Basically, while passive verbs cannot appear in active voice, both alternating and non-alternating unaccusatives, sometimes within one language can, for given sets of verbs, either: (i) be exclusively non-active; (ii) exclusively active; (iii) (optionally) non-active or active; or (iv) have different paradigms for different tenses. In other words, voice gaps across languages appear to arise only with unaccusatives. This situation challenges even the most basic claims about non-active voice. For instance, the correlation between non-active voice and lack of an external argument is at best an imperfect one. What feature then distinguishes non-active from active voice?

(Non-)Blocking phenomena in the voice system

A long-standing idea is that a morphological component does not tolerate doublets for a given slot in a paradigm, a generalization that is usually modeled in terms of so-called blocking, whereby a more specific/marked form blocks the use of a less specific/less-marked form (Kiparsky 1973). Yet, the co-existence in anticausatives of both 'marked' and 'non-marked' forms for given verbs constitutes at first sight an instance of non-blocking. Alternatively, the different forms are competing for a certain meaning or paradigm slot. This kind of variation raises questions for any theories of voice and/or blocking. Which factors govern distributions of competing forms? Which factors determine the winner?

Variance of morphological realization

Alternations of inflections with clitics and periphrastic constructions have become increasingly important for models of the morpho-syntax of voice. What grammatical factors regulate this morphological variation? How do such marks for voice interact with Tense, Aspect, Mood and/or other morpho-syntactic elements? What is the role of economy constraints for such data? Do periphrastic forms only realize restricted feature combinations (Kiparsky 2005)? Can they be epiphenomenal and arise from the absence of features?


Deponent verbs (i.e. non-active/passive verbs lacking active counterparts) continue to be a major challenge for a theory of voice and voice alternations, especially in view of recent observations, such as the fact that V-V compounds in Greek are not attested with deponents while they are with transitives (Kiparsky 2009), or that deponents are largely denominal or deadjectival (Xu, Aronoff & Anshen 2007 for Latin). As this seems to be a one-way correlation, questions arise about the role of the nominal or adjectival source.

'Non-selected' datives

Much recent research has highlighted the existence of 'marked' voice(-related) morphology in constructions with so-called "non-selected" datives across a range of languages (Kallulli 1999, Rivero 2004, Marušic & Žaucer 2006, Schäfer 2008). However, the question what exactly the role of voice morphology is in such constructions remains an issue of debate, as do questions of implementation (e.g. flavors of v, applicative heads, etc.).

Psycholinguistic aspects

The passive construction develops late in many languages (Borer & Wexler 1987, Fox & Grodzinsky 1998, Terzi & Wexler 2002, i.a.). Given frequent passive / unaccusative syncretism in certain languages and their close relation in production (Kim 2007), unaccusatives should also develop relatively late (Babyonyshev, Ganger, Pesetsky & Wexler 2001). Nonetheless, Mauner & Koenig (2000) find asymmetries in adult processing of passives and anticausatives. Questions pertinent to the workshop concern the alleged difference in the processing among unaccusatives, adjectival passives and verbal passives both in typical and atypical populations, e.g. in different types of aphasia (Piņango 1999, Grodzinsky 2000). And if some or all adjectival passives are syntactically composed (Kratzer 1996, Emonds 2003), re-evaluation of processing differences between adjectival and verbal passives is in order. Finally, Foutiadou & Tsimpli (2009) find that developing L1 grammar shows evidence for multiple ambiguities in the interpretation of non-active and active morphology on the same verb, while the adult data show more unambiguous interpretations.

References cited:

Alexiadou, A. & E. Anagnostopoulou (2004) Voice morphology in the causative-inchoative alternation: evidence for a non-unified structural analysis of unaccusatives. In A. Alexiadou et al. (eds.) The Unaccusativity Puzzle 114-136. Oxford: OUP.

Babyonyshev, M., J. Ganger, D. Pesetsky & K. Wexler (2001) The maturation of grammatical principles: evidence from Russian unaccusatives. Linguistic Inquiry 32:1-44.

Borer, H. & K. Wexler (1987) The maturation of syntax. In T. Roeper & E. Williams (eds.) Parameter Setting 23-172. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Chomsky, N. (2001) Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.) Ken Hale: A life in language. 1-52. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Embick, D. (1997) Voice and the Interfaces of Syntax. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Pennsylvania.

Emonds, J. (2003) English indirect passives. S. Chiba et al. (eds) Facts and Explanations in Linguistic Theory: A Festschrift for Masaru Kajita 19-41. Kaitakusha Press.

Fotiadou, G. & I. Tsimpli (2009) On the L1 acquisition of passives and reflexives in Greek: Does frequency count? (To appear in Lingua)

Fox, D. & Y. Grodzinsky (1998) Children's passive: a view from the by-phrase. Linguistic Inquiry 29(2):311-332.

Gianollo, C. (2000) Il medio in latino e il fenomeno dell'intransitivitā scissa. Master Thesis. University of Pisa.

Grewendorf, G. (1989) Ergativity in German. Dordrecht: Foris.

Grodzinsky, Y. (2000) The neurology of syntax: language use without Broca's area. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23(1): 47-117.

Haspelmath, M. (1993) More on the typology of inchoative/causative verb alternations. In B. Comrie & M. Polinsky (eds.) Causatives and Transitivity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kallulli, D. (1999) Non-active morphology in Albanian and event (de)composition. In I. Kenesei (ed.) Crossing Boundaries 263-292. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Kim, C. (2007) Structural priming and non-surface representations. Proceedings of NELS 37. Amherst: GLSA.

Kiparsky, P. (1973) "Elsewhere" in Phonology. In S. Anderson & P. Kiparsky (eds) A Festschrift for Morris Halle 93-106. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Kiparsky, P. (2005) Blocking and periphrasis in inflectional paradigms. Yearbook of Morphology 2004.113-35.

Kiparsky, P. (2009) Verbal co-compounds and subcompounds in Greek. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 57.

Kratzer, A. (1996) Severing the external argument from its verb. In J. Rooryck & L. Zaring (eds.) Phrase Structure and the Lexicon.

Marušic, F. & R. Žaucer (2006) On the Intensional Feel-Like Construction in Slovenian: A Case of a Phonologically Null Verb. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 24(4): 1093-1159.

Mauner, G. & J-P. Koenig (2000) Linguistic vs. conceptual sources of implicit agents in sentence comprehenstion. Journal of Memory and Language 43:110-134.

Piņango, M. (1999) Syntactic displacement in Broca' s aphasia comprehension. In Y. Grodzinsky & R. Bastiaanse (eds.) Grammatical Disorders in Aphasia: A Neurolinguistic Perspective 75-87. London: Whurr.

Reinhart, T. & T. Siloni (2005) The lexicon-syntax parameter: reflexivization and other arity operations. Linguistic Inquiry 36(3): 389-436.

Rivero, M-L. (2004) Datives and the non-active voice/reflexive clitic in Balkan languages. In O. Tomic (ed.) Balkan Syntax and Semantics 237-267. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Schäfer, F. (2008) The Syntax of (Anti-)Causatives. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Sorace, A. (2004) Gradience at the lexicon-syntax interface: Evidence from auxiliary selection. In Alexiadou et al. (eds.), The Unaccusativity Puzzle 243-268. Oxford: OUP.

Steinbach, M. (2002) Middle Voice. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Terzi, A. & K. Wexler (2002) A-chains and S-homophones in children's grammar: evidence from Greek passives. Proceedings of NELS 32: 519-537.

Xu, Zh., M. Aronoff & F. Anshen (2007) Deponency in Latin. In Baerman et al. (eds.) Deponency and Morphological Mismatches 127 - 144. Oxford: OUP.

Last update: 28 January 2010