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Generative Linguistics in the Old World 34
April 28-30, 2011


Workshop: Identity in grammar (program)
Sunday, May 1 2011

Invited speakers: Jonathan Bobaljik (University of Connecticut)
Martin Hackl (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, NYU)
Moira Yip (University College London)
Edwin Williams (Princeton)

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 relation.
Some examples in which sensitivity to identity 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 (''X''): insertion of an epenthetical element (XX &rarr XeX), dissimilation (XX &rarr XY), creating distance (XX &rarr XX) or fusion (AA &rarr A). 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 distinctive 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 in- dividual 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 considered to 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.

Call for papers
6 papers will be selected for 30 minute presentations. 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 (i.e., 2 papers for the entire GLOW including the workshops), only 1 of which may be single-authored.

Submission
All abstracts must be submitted to the following e-mail address. 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 abstract.


deadline for submission: November 1, 2010
notification of acceptance: January 31, 2011
date of workshop: May 1, 2011