Preliminary workshop cann - ICHL 20 - The diachrony of referential null arguments

Silvia Luraghi luraghi at
Mon Aug 30 09:06:46 UTC 2010


Workshop title: The diachrony of referential null arguments

Convenors:      Dag Haug (University of Oslo) / 
Silvia Luraghi (University of Pavia)
Contact:        d.t.t.haug at   /   silvia.luraghi at

Deadline for manifestation of interest: September 13, 2010
Deadline for abstract submission: November 15, 2010

Dear list members,
Dag Haug and I are trying to organize a workshop 
on the diachrony of referential null arguments at 
the 20th International Conference on Historical 
Linguistics, to be held in Osaka, Japan, from 
July 25 to 30, 2011. The organizer ask us to come 
up with an indication of possible participants by 
mid September. We'd like to received proposals on 
the topic described below in this email by 
September 13; abstracts must be submitted to the 
conference organizers by November 15.

Definite referential null arguments are 
apparently one of the distinctive features of 
non-configurational languges, see Baker (2001). 
Even though descriptions are available for 
various genetically unrelated languages (see e.g. 
Austin 2001, Hale 1983, Chung 1984, Huang 1984, 
Raposo 1986), there are little if any accounts of 
their diachrony. The occurrence of definite 
referential null arguments has been observed in 
many ancient Indo-European languages, examples can easily be listed:
(1)        sadyó j 
tá                                    ós adh bhir      vavaks e
             just plant(f) grow.prf.mid.3sg
         yád   várdhanti             prasvò               ghr8téna
             when increase.prs.3pl clarified.butter(n)
“Just born, (Agni) has grown by means of the 
plants, when the shoots increase (him) with 
clarified butter.” RV 3.5.8ab (Vedic Sanskrit);
(2)       dverginn 
mælti,           at    sá 
baugri    skyldi                 vera
             dwarf      say.prf.3sg that ring(m)  should.prf.3sg  be.inf
             hverjum                   hofuðsbani, er  atti               Øi
    death               rel have.prf.3sg
             “The dwarf said that that ring 
should bring death to anybody who possessed (it)”
             (Old Icelandic, from Sigurðsson, 1993, p. 248);
(3)        toîsi        dè deksiòn 
hêken             ero#diòni  eggùs hodoîo Pallàs 
Athe#naíe:#   toì            d’
             3pl.dat ptc right     send:aor.3sg 
heron:acc near road:gen P.:nom    A.:nom 3pl.nom 
ptc ouk ídon Øi        ophthalmoîsi 
núkta               di’       orphnaíe#n allà Øi klágksantos
         not  see:aor.3pl 
eyes:dat       night:acc   through dark:acc  but
             “Athena sent them an heron to the 
right of their route: they could not see it in 
the dark night, but heard it screaming.”, Hom. Il. 10.274-276 (Greek);
(4)        Caesar duas       legionesi         in 
citeriore  Gallia      novas          conscripsit      et
             C.:nom two:acc in 
hither:abl Gaul:abl enroll:prf.3sg and
aestate                    in interiorem Galliam    qui Ø­i      deduceret
         begin:part.prf.abl summer:abl in 
inner:acc    Gaul:acc who:nom lead:subj.impf.3sg
         Quintum Pedium legatum           misit
         Q.: acc  P. :acc   lieutenent:acc send:prf.3sg
“ Caesar enrolled two new legions in Hither Gaul 
and at the beginning of the summer he sent 
Quintus Pedius, lieutenant-general, to lead them 
into Inner Gaul ”, Caes. BG 2.2.1 (Latin).
In spite of this, and in spite of the long 
documented history of these languages, even in 
their case historical accounts are limited, as 
are detailed studies of the conditions licensing 
null arguments (but see Schäufele 1990 on 
Sanskrit; several studies have been devoted to 
null arguments in Old Icelandic, see e.g. 
Sigurðsson 1993 and Rögnvaldsson 1995). At least 
in Latin and possibly in Greek, null objects seem 
to be obligatory in coordinated sentences, unless 
emphasis or disambiguation are involved (see 
Luraghi 1997, 1998a, b, 2003, Sznayder 1998; 
frequent in non-Indo-European languages as well, 
see Harris Delisle 1978, Luraghi 2004), as well 
as in answers to yes/no questions (see van der 
Wurff  1997, Luraghi 1997, 2003). Descriptions of 
increasing use of overt arguments, and in 
particular objects, in Latin and Germanic point 
to increasing transitivity or emerging 
configurationality (see e.g. Johnson 1991, Luraghi 2010).
With our workshop we aim to bring together people 
working on different languages, Indo-European and 
of other language families, in order to assess
a) the relation between null arguments and other 
parameters of configurationality;
b) the relation of null realization and grammatical relation (subject, object);
c) the relation between null arguments and the 
parameter of head/dependent marking (cf. Baker 2001);
d) null direct objects (or other non-subject 
arguments) and the grammaticalization of valency.
Papers should have a diachronic orientation; 
research based on extensive corpora and 
quantitative approaches to language change are especially encouraged.

Austin, Peter K. 2001 Word order in a free word 
order language: the case of Jiwarli. In Jane 
Simpson, David Nash, Mary Laughren, Peter Austin 
and Barry Alpher (eds) Forty years on: Ken Hale 
and Australian languages, 305-324. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Baker, Mark (2001), ‘Configurationality and 
polysynthesis’, in M. Haspelmath, E. König, W. 
Oesterreicher, W. Raible (eds.),  Language 
Typology and Language Universals . An 
International Handbook. Berlin/New York: Mouton 
de Gruyter, vol. 2, pp. 1433-41.
Chung, S. 1984. ‘Identifiability and null objects in Chamorro.’ BLS 10: 116–30.
Hale, Kenneth. 1983. Warlpiri and the grammar of 
non­configurational languages. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1:5­74.
Harris Delisle, Helga 1978     Coordination 
reduction.  In Universals of Human Language, ed. 
J. Greenberg.  Stanford: UP. Pp. 515-583.
Huang, C-T. James. 1984. On the distribution and 
reference of empty pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry, 15, 531-574.
Johnson, Ruth Ann, 1991. The Direct Object 
Pronoun as a Marker of Transitivity in Latin.  Ph. D. Diss. UCLA.
Luraghi, Silvia 1997. Omission of the direct 
object in Classical Latin.  Indogermanische Forschungen 102, 239-257.
Luraghi, Silvia 1998a  Omissione dell’oggetto 
diretto in frasi coordinate: dal latino 
all’italiano. In Sintassi storica.  Atti del xxx 
Congresso SLI, ed. P. Ramat. Roma: Bulzoni, 183-196.
Luraghi, Silvia 1998b Participant tracking in 
Tacitus.  In Estudios de Lingüística Latina, ed. 
B. García-Hernandez. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 467-485.
Luraghi, Silvia 2003, ‘Definite referential null 
objects in Ancient Greek’. Indogermanische Forschungen 108, 169-196.
Luraghi, Silvia (2004), ‘Null Objects in Latin 
and Greek and the Relevance of Linguistic 
Typology for Language Reconstruction’, in 
Proceedings of the 15th Annual UCLA Indo-European 
Conference, JIES Monograph 49, pp.234-256.
Luraghi, Silvia 2010. “The rise (and possible 
downfall) of configurationality”. In S. Luraghi 
and V. Bubenik, eds.,  Continuum Companion to 
Historical Linguistics, London/New York, Continuum, 212-229
Raposo, Eduardo. 1986. On the null object in 
European Portuguese. Studies in Romance 
linguistics, ed. by Osvaldo Jaeggli and Carmen 
Silva-Corvalán, 373-90. Dordrecht: Foris.
Rögnvaldsson, Eiríkur (1995), ‘Old Icelandic: A 
Non-Configurational Language?’. North-Western 
European Language Evolution 26, 3-29.
Schäufele, Steven (1990), Free Word-Order Syntax: 
the Challenge from Vedic Sanskrit to Contemporary 
Formal Syntactic Theory. Ph. D. dissertation, 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Sigurðsson, Halldór A. (1993), ‘Argument-drop in 
Old Islandic’.  Lingua 89, 247-280.
Sznajder, Lyliane, 1998.  “Conditions 
d’effacement des compléments d’objet et 
agencement des propositions en latin”.  In 
Estudios de Lingüística Latina, ed. B. 
García-Hernandez. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas.

Dear Histling list members,

Silvia Luraghi
Dipartimento di Linguistica Teorica e Applicata
Università di Pavia
Strada Nuova 65
I-27100 Pavia
telef.: +39-0382-984685
fax: +39-0382-984487
silvia.luraghi at 
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