Generative Syntax


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Title Generative Syntax
Period 01 / 2006 - unknown
Status Completed
Research number OND1319774
Data Supplier Website UL


Syntactic research in ULCL involves the following two central areas: 'comparative syntax' and 'the relation between structure and interpretation'. Research on syntax within the principles and parameters theory of generative grammar aims at uncovering sets of properties of language that are determined by Universal Grammar. From this perspective the study of language variation is fundamentally important to the extent that variation is determined by single parameters of UG. Empirically, the area of comparative syntax can roughly be divided into 'Germanic syntax', 'Romance syntax', 'syntax of non,Indo,European languages', and 'historical syntax and language change'. A second central line of ULCL research on syntax is concerned with the relation between syntactic configuration and its interpretation. Recent research in this area has given support to the idea that syntax and semantics are not independent modules of the grammar, but rather that syntactic structure conveys a substantial amount of information about interpretive properties often delegated to the lexicon or the semantic component. 1. The study of 'comparative syntax' has two goals: first, to uncover the properties of individual languages or groups of languages and the micro,variation within these languages or groups of languages, and, secondly, to compare characteristics of (groups of) languages with those of unrelated languages (macro,variation). 1a. Adequate descriptions of 'Germanic languages' and dialect provide a testing ground for studying the parameters determining the variation within the Germanic languages, and between the Germanic and the non,Germanic languages. Various domains of syntactic research exhibiting such variation are identified as research areas in ULCL. Some of the more central research topics are: the syntax of verbs, the variation found in the so,called 'Vorfeld' of main and subordinate clauses, the antisymmetry hypothesis (Kayne) applied to OV,type Germanic languages such as Dutch and German, the ordering of major constituents, which exhibits a relative freedom in what is called the 'Mittelfeld', and the properties of nominal phrases (DPs). 1b. ULCL research on 'Romance syntax' focuses on French, although Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish are also taken into account. The comparative nature ,, in particular comparing Romance syntax to Germanic syntax, and more specifically to Dutch syntax ,, is an important aspect of the following research topics: the internal structure of nominal and adjectival constituents, the nature of subject and object clitics, inversion, variation in binding, Romance,internal variation (northern Italian dialects, Quebecois) on the properties of subject clitics, and the structure of causative constructions. 1c. ULCL is well suited to contribute to the study of 'non,Indo,European languages', as Leiden University has a concentration of departments for these languages. The study of typologically different languages serves a dual function: data from less well,known languages are presented in the analytical terms of the general framework, and such studies provide an adequate testing ground for existing theories of language and language variation. A wide variety of non,Indo,European languages is currently being studied: Basque, Chinese, Indonesian, Ancient Egyptian, Hungarian, Arabic, Quechua, Nama. 1d. The study of 'historical syntax' from a generative perspective takes as its starting point the view that the theory of syntax formulated on the basis of contemporary languages provides the framework in which the syntax of synchronic historical stages and diachronic developments are to be interpreted. Conversely, historical syntax and language change provide a testing ground for the theory. Areas of research include the process of grammaticalisation, the properties of negation in the development of the Germanic languages, the development of verb movement in Germanic and Romance, verbal clusters in Germanic, infinitival complementation in Old and Middle English, the properties of clitics in the development of French and English, and the passive in Older Egyptian and Coptic. 2. The 'relation between structure and interpretation' is a research area that aims at uncovering the close and subtle relations between the structural properties of a constituent and the meaning assigned to that constituent as a function of its configurational properties. For example, differences in type of quantification can be understood as resulting from the interaction of the underspecified lexical properties of a constituent and its surface position. Research in this area includes quantification, predication, coordination, negation and polarity, temporal and aspectual structure, argument structure, and directional vs. locative adpositions. The idea that structure and interpretation are related also gives rise to the idea that lexicalised structures are syntactically complex. Such an approach results in the morphosemantic decomposition of complex lexical elements. Research in this area includes causative, resultative, and particle constructions.

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