Seminaire: Conferences de Tom Wasow, Paris 7

Thierry Hamon thierry.hamon at LIPN.UNIV-PARIS13.FR
Fri Mar 24 17:18:08 UTC 2006

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 11:25:35 +0100
From: ANNE ABEILLE <anne.abeille at>
Message-Id: <a0600201cc04826d09f1f@[]>

dans le cadre de l'ED Sciences du Langage

UFR de Linguistique,
Université Paris 7

			     Thomas Wasow
			 Stanford University

donnera une serie de conferences
sur le theme

Syntactic Alternations:
Empirical Investigations and Theoretical Implications

Lieu: 75013 paris,  30 rue du chateau des rentiers,
1er etage, salle 134

28 avril  : 14h-16h

5 mai : 10-12h

12 mai : 14h-16h

19 mai: 10-12h


Natural languages often make available multiple ways of expressing the
same proposition.  What leads speakers to select one way of saying
something over another way of expressing the same thought?  These
lectures summarize a number of studies that address this question.
They also address methodological issues surrounding the investigation
of such choices, and the implications of these studies for
psycholinguistics and grammatical theory.

The phenomena considered are five alternations in English:
  - Heavy NP Shift:  "They take too many dubious assumptions for
    granted" vs. "They take for granted too many dubious assumptions"
  - Dative Alternation: "We gave a bone to a dog" vs. "We gave a dog a

  - Verb Particle Placement:  "You figured out the problem" vs. "You
    figured the problem out"

  - Relativizer Optionality:  "This is the book that I was reading"
    vs. "This is the book I was reading"

  - Complementizer Optionality:  "I think that it is raining" vs. "I
    think it is raining"

Corpus studies and psycholinguistic experiments on all of these
alternations have shown correlations between construction choice and
various syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and discourse factors (see,
inter alia, Arnold, et al 2000, Arnold, et al 2004, Ferreira & Dell
2000, Hawkins 1994, 2004, Jaeger 2005, Lohse, et al 2004, Race &
MacDonald 2003, Wasow 1997, 2002, Wasow & Jaeger 2005).  Many of these
correlations receive natural explanations in terms of the
contingencies of utterance production.  These are summarized in a set
of proposed production strategies.

This entire line of investigation is called into question by
Bolinger's (1968) dictum, "A difference in form always spells a
difference in meaning", for, on this view, the choice of one
construction over another would be dictated by the speaker's intended
meaning.  A completely different kind of objection was raised by
Chomsky in his early work and continues to be widely accepted:
probabilistic models, he claimed, bear "no useful relation to the
intuitive scale of grammaticalness on which all linguistic description
is based" (Chomsky 1965).  These lectures will respond to the
fundamental methodological objections raised by Bolinger and Chomsky.

What are the implications of corpus and psycholinguistic studies of
syntactic alternations for theories of grammar?  Accepting Bresnan and
Kaplan's (1982) Strong Competence Hypothesis (that the grammar should
be a component of a performance model), such studies argue for a
theory like HPSG -- involving direct generation of surface structures
and simultaneous satisfaction of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic
constraints -- over any kind of transformational approach.


Arnold, J., T. Wasow, A. Losongco, & R. Ginstrom (2000) "Heaviness
vs. Newness: The Effects of Complexity and Information Structure on
Constituent Ordering," Language 76, 28-55.

Arnold, J., T. Wasow, A. Asudeh, & P. Alrenga (2004) "Avoiding
Attachment Ambiguities: the role of Constituent Ordering".  Journal of
Memory and Language 55.1, 55-70.

Bolinger, D. (1968) "Entailment and The Meaning of Structures". Glossa
2.2, 119-127.

Bresnan, J. & R. M. Kaplan (1982) Introduction: Grammars as Mental
Representations of Language". In J. Bresnan (ed) The Mental
Representation of Grammatical Relations Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.  Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press.

Ferreira, V. S. & G.S. Dell (2000) "Effect of Ambiguity and Lexical
Availability on Syntactic and Lexical Production".  Cognitive
Psychology 40, 296-340.

Hawkins, J. A. (1994) A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency.
Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

Hawkins, J. A. (2004) Efficiency and Complexity in Grammars.  Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Jaeger, T. F. (2005) Optional That Indicates Production Difficulty:
Evidence From Disfluencies. Proceedings of DiSS '05, Disfluency in
Spontaneous Speech Workshop. Aix-en-Provence, France, pp. 103-109.

Lohse, B. , J. Hawkins, & T. Wasow (2004) "Processing Domains in
English Verb-Particle Constructions".  Language 80.2, 238-261.

Race, D. S. & M.C. MacDonald (2003) "The Use of 'that' in the
Production and Comprehension of Object Relative Clauses".  Paper
presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.

Wasow, T. (1997)  "Remarks on Grammatical Weight" Language Variation and
Change. 9, 81-105.

Wasow, T. (2002)  Postverbal Behavior.  Stanford:  CSLI Publications.

Wasow, T. & T. F. Jaeger (2005) "Lexical Variation in Relativizer
Frequency" Invited talk at the Workshop on Exceptions at the 26th
Annual Meeting of the German Society for Linguistics.  Cologne.

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