[Lingtyp] CfP: Typology of the syntax of articles (workshop at SWL 8 in Paris, September 2018)

Laura Becker laura.becker at uni-leipzig.de
Fri Jan 5 13:18:01 UTC 2018


Workshop on "Typology of the syntax of articles"

Adjacent to the "Syntax of the World's Languages 8" conference in Paris,
3-5 September 2018

conference website: https://swl8.sciencesconf.org/
workshop page: https://swl8.sciencesconf.org/resource/page/id/5


Laura Becker (Leipzig University, laura.becker at uni-leipzig.de)
Jingting Ye (Leipzig University, jingting.ye at studserv.uni-leipzig.de)


Abstract submission:

We invite submissions of abstracts for presentations of 20 minutes (plus 10
min discussion). Please follow the abstract submission guidelines on the
SWL 8 website https://swl8.sciencesconf.org/resource/page/id/1.
The submission deadline is 31 January 2018.


Workshop description:

In the functional literature, articles are predominantly addressed with
respect to their semantic function and referential contribution to meaning
(e.g. Hawkins 1978, Lyons 1999; Dryer 2014). A question that has received
considerably less attention (e.g. Himmelmann 1997) in functional
comparative and typological linguistics is the general syntactic and
morphosyntactic behaviour of elements that we lump together under the label
of “article” or “(in)definite determiner” and it seems we still lack an
understanding of the cross-linguistic syntax of articles. Moreover,
although formal approaches such as minimalist syntax attribute articles to
a universal syntactic position (the head of determiner phrases), those are
not based on systematically observed cross-linguistic syntactic properties
of articles, especially taking into account articles from Non-European
languages. For this reason, we propose a workshop on a
functionally-oriented typology of syntactic properties of articles, which
will help us to know more about general typological trends, to identify
potential correlations or causes for the patterns we observe across
languages, and to find appropriate criteria for articles as
cross-linguistic category.

In order to investigate the syntactic and morphosyntactic properties of
articles from a functional cross-linguistic perspective, the topics of the
workshop include:

(i) Articles as cross-linguistic category: Although we might have clear
concepts for the syntactic properties of articles especially from European
languages, many elements from other languages have functions similar to
articles, but are somewhat different syntactically. Do we count in
classifiers that function as articles (e.g. in Chinese dialects, cf. Ye
forthc.), Rapanui “articles” that are in complementary syntactic
distribution with predicate markers, or Tagalog “articles” that could also
be analyzed as case markers, to give some examples?. What cross-linguistic
(and language-internal) criteria can we apply to consider elements as

(ii) Articles and other elements in the noun phrase: The distribution of
articles in the nominal domain is often conditioned by the presence of
other elements in the noun phrase, e.g. demonstratives, possessives, and
adjectives. As for demonstratives and possessives, one might argue that
their co-occurrence is functionally restricted for reasons of economy (c.f.
Haspelmath 1999). However, results from Becker (forthc.) show that the
co-occurrence of articles and demonstratives is rather conditioned by the
nominal syntax: there is a correlation between the relative position of the
article and the demonstrative and their co-occurrence: if they occupy the
same slot in the noun phrase, they tend to not co-occur, if they do
co-occur, they tend to be in different positions with respect to the noun.
As for possessives and articles, there seems to be no such syntactic
restriction, and co-occurrence with articles is found independently of the
relative positions of article and possessive marker. This suggests that
syntactically, articles are closer to demonstratives than possessive
markers. Is this a robust cross-linguistic pattern? What other kinds of
interactions between articles and other elements in the noun phrase do we
find in the languages of the world?

(iii) The distribution of articles in certain syntactic positions: As Lyons
(1999: 51) noted for a number of European languages, adpositional phrases,
and certain case markers can restrict the applicability of articles.
Looking at the languages of the world, we find this blocking as a recurring
pattern often with locative, instrumental cases and spatial adpositions
(e.g. in Gaahmg, Rapanui, Mokpe, Armenian, Basque, Ch’ol). Are those
effects of synchronic functional nature, are they due to the diachronic
development of articles, or can they be accounted by frequency? Topic and
focus phrases are also found to condition the absence (e.g. the indefinite
article in the topic position in Malayalam) or presence of certain
articles. Are those cross-linguistically robust patterns?

(iv) Article inflection: Articles can agree with the noun in different
categories, i.e. they often for number, gender (or noun class), and case.
The form and the position of the article or the geographical area do not
seem to be correlated to the inflection of articles (Becker forthc.).
Rather, the inflectional behaviour of the noun can be correlated to the
inflection of the article. There is a clear cross-linguistic trend for the
article to show inflection if the noun does not. However, the categories
seem to behave differently: number is frequently marked on both noun and
article, while gender tends to be marked on the article only, and case is
preferably marked on the noun only. Is this an effect of synchronic
functional pressure, or result of the diachronic development? What about
other the agreement behaviour of other elements in the noun phrase? Can we
find an agreement hierarchy for the noun phrase in analogy to the one
proposed for the clause (Corbett 2006: 224ff)? Another category articles
can inflect for is person (e.g. in Biak). However, the use of 1, 2 person
marked articles seems to be restricted to certain constructions. Is this a
cross-linguistically recurrent pattern? What other (nominal) categories can
articles agree for?

Other questions that can also be relevant to the overall topic of the
workshop include the grammaticalization of articles from less common
sources and into other syntactic markers (e.g. classifiers, nominal
markers, case markers, etc.), language contact and borrowing of syntactic
constructions involving the use of articles, or areal properties that
influence the behaviour of articles or the availability of articles.

Contributions: We invite contributions that explore syntactic and
morphosyntactic properties of articles, such as comparative studies but
also work on less documented single languages. We are interested in both
synchronic and diachronic approaches, and we are open to different
frameworks and linguistic theories, as long as their contribution has
general and empirical relevance.


Becker, L. (forthc.): Articles across the world’s languages. PhD thesis,
Leipzig University.
Corbett, G. (2006): Agreement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dryer, M. S. (2014): ‘Competing Methods for Uncovering Linguistic
Diversity: The Case of Definite and Indefinite Articles (Commentary on
Davis, Gillon, and Matthewson)’, Language 90(4), 232–249.
Haspelmath, M. (1999): Explaining article-possessor complementarity:
Economic motivation in noun phrase syntax. Language 75(2): 227-43.
Hawkins, J. A. (1978): Definiteness and Indefiniteness: A Study in
Reference and Grammaticality Prediction. Croom Helm; Humanities Press,
London; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
Himmelmann, N. P. (1997): Deiktikon, Artikel, Nominalphrase: Zur Emergenz
Syntaktischer Struktur. Niemeyer, Tübingen.
Lyons, C. (1999): Definiteness. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; New
Ye, J. (forthc.) Definite article in Southwest Mandarin Chinese. In
Definite Classifier-Noun constructions in Chinese dialects. Zhongxishuju
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