Current students:


“Morphology” (graduate, LING 625) – fall 2017, University of Maryland

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This course is a graduate-level introduction to morphology. We will ponder the question of what morphology *is*: Is it merely an 'interface', the point where syntax ends and phonology begins? Or is it a computational module unto itself, with its own proprietary grammatical primitives and computations? And if it is the latter, what distinguishes morphological computations from syntactic and/or phonological ones?

Next, we will critically examine the notions of 'word' (in anything but the phonological sense) and of a unitary 'lexicon', and explore the reasons why many modern morphologists eschew both of these notions.

We will then acquaint ourselves with two major approaches to morphology in contemporary generative linguistics: Distributed Morphology (Halle & Marantz 1993, Noyer 1992, 1997, Embick 1997, i.a.) and Spanning (Starke 2009, Svenonius 2012, 2016, i.a.). We will examine what architectural assumptions each framework rests on, how they differ from one another, what each approach does well (and what it does poorly).

Finally, I hope to take a step back and examine the consequences of these (very powerful) morphological frameworks for the mapping from syntactic structure to phoneme strings, with an eye towards the fact that the looser this mapping, the harder the job is for both the linguist and the language learner.

Course materials and information will be distributed by email and/or via the "LING625" folder in the PDF locker.

“Violently Multidisciplinary Linguistics Seminar” (graduate, LING 848, w/Philip Resnik) – fall 2017, University of Maryland

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The idea of this seminar is to take a single linguistic phenomenon (or a very small number of them), and explore different ways of looking at that phenomenon. How does a theoretical syntactician think about it? A computational linguist? A psycho-/neuro-linguist? Students of all persuasions will get familiar with how one approaches research questions from all three perspectives, an endeavor which – before long – will have us rooting around in foundational assumptions and concepts that each perspective takes for granted. By the time we're done, you'll know how to think about scientific questions about language like a syntactician, a computational linguist, an experimentalist. Gather up your machetes: we plan to cut ruthlessly through jargon and other barriers that divide us.

“Issues in Syntax” (graduate, LING 611, w/Norbert Hornstein) – spring 2017, University of Maryland   [Previously: spring 2015, University of Maryland]

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This course is a continuation of LING 610: Syntactic Theory. The course will have two main (and interrelated) prongs. First, we will examine the analytical approaches, techniques, and new emphases that emerged in the wake of Chomsky's "Minimalist Program" (Chomsky 1993, 1995). Second, we will examine how crosslinguistic variation simultaneously informs and restricts the theory of syntax, and to what extent (if at all) there is a tension between such variation and the aims of minimalism.

As we survey these more recent proposals, we will be revisiting some of their predecessors (broadly speaking, those that fall within the Government & Binding framework), and consider what gains have been made.

A provisional list of topics:
  • the elimination of "levels" (D‑Structure, S‑Structure)
  • Bare Phrase Structure
  • models of generation: "generate-and-filter" vs. "crash-proof"
  • phases
    • island effects
    • cyclicity
    • domains of derivation
    • spellout
  • A-chain dependencies, minimality effects and feature interactions (checking and/or valuation and/or sharing)
    • case
    • agreement
    • Fixed Subject effects
    • control
  • more minimality effects
    • wh-superiority
    • dative intervention
    • the Head Movement Constraint
  • head movement & anti-locality: two sides of the same coin...?
  • linearization
    • Holmberg's Generalization
    • islands redux
Course materials and information will be distributed by email and/or via the "LING611" folder in the PDF locker.

“Linguistic Field Methods” (graduate, LING 678, w/Maria Polinsky) – spring 2017, University of Maryland

[Previously: “Linguistic Field Methods” (graduate, LING 678, w/Maria Polinsky) – fall 2016, University of Maryland; “Linguistic Field Methods” (graduate, LING 659F) – fall 2014, University of Maryland; “Field Methods” (graduate/undergraduate, LIN 400/600) – spring 2013 & 2014, Syracuse University]

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How does one discover the properties of a language about which very little is known beforehand? This course is a practical introduction to the methods used to accomplish this task. A native speaker of a language that is relatively unknown (to the students) will be working with us throughout the semester; this semester, we will be working with a speaker of Georgian (Kartvelian). After a few introductory sessions, and every week thereafter, a different student will be in charge of running an in-class elicitation session with the speaker, supervised by the course instructors, to uncover facts about the grammar of this language.
  • the website for the course can be accessed here (note: access is currently restricted to course participants only)

“Agreement: a crash-course” – University of Bucharest / Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy, October 2016

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This two day seminar will be a fast-paced introduction to agreement in generative grammar: key data, theoretical foundations, and current issues.

“Head movement, noun incorporation, and clitic doubling” (graduate seminar in syntactic theory, LING 819Q, w/Theodore Levin) – fall 2016, University of Maryland

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Work on syntactic movement has recognized at least two major movement types: phrasal movement (movement of an entire syntactic phrase) and head movement (movement of a single syntactic term, stranding the rest of its phrase). The two differ in a number of important respects:
  1. head movement forms atomic syntactic units, phrasal movement does not
  2. head movement is more local than phrasal movement
  3. head movement feeds affixation; phrasal movement does not
  4. head movement seems to have no semantic effects, but phrasal movement does
In this course, we will investigate the syntax of head movement, arguably the less well-understood of the two movement types. We will see that the distinction between head movement and phrasal movement is more muddled than (1-4) would suggest. Long Head Movement (e.g. Borsley, Rivero & Stephens 1996, Embick & Izvorski 1995, Harizanov 2016, Lema & Rivero 1990) calls (2) into question. The existence of phrasal affixes (e.g. the Saxon genitive marker 's; Giorgi & Longobardi 1991) presents a challenge to (3). Finally, a growing body of research argues that contra (4), head movement does have semantic consequences (e.g. Hartman 2011, Lechner 2006).

More generally, it remains an outstanding question why the grammar should permit two distinct types of movement in the first place. This concern, among other considerations, has led to proposals that exclude head movement from the narrow syntax, and relegate it to PF (e.g. Adger, Harbour & Watkins 2011, Chomsky 2000, Harley 2004), re‑analyzing it as remnant movement (e.g. Koopman & Szabolcsi 2000, Mahajan 2000), or treating it as the interleaving of syntactic phrasal movement and morphological constituent-formation (e.g. Matushansky 2006).

These issues are only exacerbated in light of the existence of cross-categorial head movement processes – namely, noun incorporation (e.g. Baker 1988 et seq.), and clitic doubling (Anagnostopoulou 2003, 2006, and references therein). These phenomena are often ignored in proposals concerning the correct treatment of head movement proper, and a theory of noun incorporation and/or clitic doubling is left for a time when canonical head movement has been fully understood. In this course, we will try turning this logic on its head: we will employ insights from noun incorporation and clitic doubling to better inform the treatment of even the more canonical instances of head movement.

“Structure of a Language: Mayan Languages” (graduate, LING 659M, w/Maria Polinsky) – spring 2016, University of Maryland

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This course is an in-depth investigation of the structure of languages of the Mayan family. The family comprises over forty languages, and the goal is to build the foundation for independent analytical work on these languages; such future work could include an investigation of a particular language, a micro-comparative study within Mayan, a comparison of Mayan with unrelated but structurally similar languages, a processing study, a computational modeling study, or work on acquisition of Mayan languages.

We will address the basics of language documentation and work on understudied languages, and then cover a range of topics in the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Mayan languages, as well as a sampling of experimental and acquisition work on these languages.

The course is a good "springboard" for students wishing to participate in a trip to the new field station in Guatemala. The first such trip will take place quite soon after the semester's end, in May/June 2016.

The website for the course can be accessed here. (note: access is currently restricted to course participants only; if you would like access, please get in touch with me by email)

“Syntax II” (undergraduate, LING 312) – spring 2016, University of Maryland

[Previously: spring 2015, University of Maryland]

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This course is a continuation of LING 311: Syntax I. We will examine various syntactic patterns found in natural language (in English, as well as in other languages), and develop a model of the speaker's grammatical knowledge to account for these patterns. As in LING 311, the goal of learning the details of a particular theory of syntax is important, but secondary; the primary goal is to master the fundamentals of how to theorize in syntax: how to formulate precise syntactic hypotheses; how to use those hypothesis to guide your search for interesting data; how to separate relevant data from "noise" that your data may contain; and how to develop (and critique) syntactic argumentation.

Topics we will examine include: case and its effects; different types of movement dependencies, and how to diagnose them; the interaction of movement with binding & quantification; and arguments for the existence of unpronounced syntactic structure.

The website for the course can be accessed through ELMS.

“Languages of the World: An Introduction to Linguistics” (undergraduate, LIN 202) – spring 2014, Syracuse University

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This course is an introduction to linguistics and linguistic theory. The central theme of the course is linguistic diversity; the challenge it poses for a rational, universalist view of linguistic competence; and how that challenge is met. We will consider this issue from the perspectives of phonology, morphology, and syntax. The students will attain basic familiarity with these linguistic sub-fields, and with issues of theory building and theory development more generally.
  • the website for the course can be accessed through Blackboard

“Advanced Syntax” (graduate, LIN 741) – fall 2013, Syracuse University

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This course explores advanced topics in contemporary syntactic theory. Topics include: the A-vs.-A' distinction in syntactic movement, and the interaction of syntactic movement with binding; syntactic islands and the locality of movement; nominal licensing and case; and argument structure and valence-changing verb alternations. One of the primary goals of this class is to have the students practice looking at linguistic data from a theoretically informed perspective – i.e., using syntactic hypotheses to guide their search for interesting data, and separating relevant data and generalizations from "noise" that the data may contain – as well as honing their skills at developing (and critiquing) syntactic argumentation.
  • the website for the course can be accessed through Blackboard

“English Words” (undergraduate, LIN 251) – fall 2013, Syracuse University

[Previously: “English Words” (undergraduate, LIN 251) – fall 2012, Syracuse University]

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This course is about the words of the English language: their sound patterns, their structure, their meanings, and their history. These issues are approached from a formal linguistic perspective.

Throughout the course, the study of words serves as both a means and an end. On the one hand, words serve as a prism through which the students will encounter and familiarize themselves with the fundamental concepts and methodologies used in modern linguistics. On the other hand, by applying these concepts and skills to the words of English, the students will gain a much deeper understanding of the words that make up the vocabulary of English, and of what exactly it means to know the words of a language, in the first place.

No previous knowledge of linguistics is required or assumed; as such, the course can serve as an introduction to modern linguistics for students that may or may not take another linguistics course in the future. The students will be introduced, as needed, to tools from different sub-disciplines of modern linguistics: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and historical linguistics.

Finally, please note that the goal of this course is *not* to teach you a lot of English words; there are dictionaries for that. You might end up learning some new terms in the course of the semester, but many of them will probably be specific to linguistics.
  • the website for the course can be accessed through Blackboard

“The Syntax of Phi” – ACTL Summer School, University College London, June 2013

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Does the syntax of phi-features (person, number, gender/noun-class) differ in significant ways from the syntax of other features? What is the proper representation of phi-features in syntax, and does it differ from their representation in morphology and/or in semantics? Does phi-feature agreement give rise to case-marking on nominals, or do structural cases (nominative, absolutive) arise even in the absence of agreement relations? Is there evidence for PF playing a role in agreement relations, and if so, what is the nature of this evidence? These questions are addressed in this one-week seminar.
  • class notes can be downloaded here

“Comparative morphosyntax” (graduate/undergraduate, LIN 400/600) – fall 2012, Syracuse University

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In this course, we explore issues in the theory and typology of case-marking and agreement systems. Some of the issues discussed include: head-marking vs. dependent-marking; ergativity and split ergativity; quirky case, and the relation between morphologically overt case marking and so-called "abstract case"; the adequacy or inadequacy of recruiting case as the licensor of noun phrases in linguistic theory; and the oft-misconstrued relationship between case and agreement.
  • the website for the course can be accessed through Blackboard

“Introduction to Linguistics” (undergraduate, 24.900) – spring 2012, MIT

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In the spring of 2012, I taught the undergraduate "Introduction to Linguistics" course at MIT. In this course, we tried to provide some answers to basic questions about the nature of human language. Throughout the course, we examined a number of ways in which human language proves to be a complex but law-governed mental system.

In the first two thirds of the class, we studied some core aspects of this system in detail. In the final part of the class, we used what we had learned to address a variety of other questions – including how language is acquired, how dialects arise, how languages change over time, and others.
  • the website for the course can be accessed here (note: most of the site is currently accessible to MIT students only)

“Syntactic Models” (graduate, 24.960) – fall 2011, MIT

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In the fall of 2011, I taught a graduate course at MIT called "Syntactic Models." In this course, we examined competing syntactic frameworks, both synchronically (GB/minimalism vs. HPSG vs. LFG) and historically (Generative Semantics vs. the "Conditions" framework vs. GB vs. minimalism), with the twin goals of (i) achieving literacy in the formalisms of these various frameworks; and (ii) understanding where the differences between these frameworks amount to actual differences in expressive power and empirical coverage, and where they do not.
  • you can download the syllabus here
  • the website for the course can be accessed here

LUCL (Leiden) Syntax Seminar, 2011

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In the spring of 2011, I taught a 3-day seminar at LUCL (Leiden), called "Agreement and case: Patterns, interactions, and implications."
  • the handout for this course can be downloaded here

EGG 2010 – Constanța

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In the summer of 2010, I taught two courses at the EGG summer-school in Constanţa, Romania. I co-taught "Intro to Syntax" with Michal Starke, and taught a topics class on "Recent developments in (the theory of) ergativity."
  • handouts/slide-sheets from the Ergativity course can be downloaded here

EGG 2009 – Poznań

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In the summer of 2009, I taught two courses at the EGG summer-school in Poznań, Poland. One was "Intro to Syntax"; the other was a course called "Agreement and its failures"  – which incorporated, among other things, some of my own research on Basque and on Hebrew.
  • handouts/slide-sheets from both courses can be downloaded here