Regular events

Every Monday 14.15-16.00: Phonology seminar in C1002, organized by Martin Krämer. Monday March 27th: Demuth and Tomas 2016, ‘Understanding the contributions of prosodic phonology to morphological development: Implications for children with Specific Language Impairment.’

Every Tuesday 12.15-14.00: CASTL-FISH seminar in TEO 5.402. On Tuesday March 21st there will be a guest presentation by Kjell Johan Sæbø (see below).

Every Friday 12.00-13.00: LAVA Lunch in E2.004 (or another room, as announced). On Friday the 24th it will meet from 11.30–12.15, with special guest Roumyana Slabakova (see below).

Some Fridays 14.15-16.00 CASTL Colloquium, as announced, often in E0105. See below.

One-off events

Tuesday, March 21st, 12.15-14.00: Kjell Johan Sæbø will present on ‘Subjective Content at Sole Issue’ in the CASTL-FISH seminar. Room TEO 5.402.

Thursday, March 23rd, all day: Sergey Minor defends his PhD thesis Dependent Plurals and the Semantics of Multiplicity.

10.15-11.00: Trial lecture on ‘The dynamics of plural interpretation – cases when morphologically singular DPs antecede plural pronouns’

11.15–15.00: The defense. The first opponent is Dr. Jakub Dotlačil, University of Amsterdam, and the second opponent is Professor Donka Farkas, University of California at Santa Cruz.

Friday, March 2th, 11.30–12.15: A guest presentation at Lava Lunch by Roumyana Slabakova, University of Southampton, on Object pronoun reference in second language acquisition: Effects of computational complexity. Room E.2004.

Friday, March 24th: A workshop featuring talks by Jakub Dotlačil, University of Amsterdam, Donka Farkas, University of California at Santa Cruz, Kjell Johan Sæbø, UiO/UiT, and Alexander Pfaff, UiT.

  • 1215-1300  Donka Farkas (UCSC). The semantics and discourse effects of declaratives and interrogatives
  • 1300-1315  break
  • 1315-1400 Kjell Johan Sæbø (UIO/UiT). How verbs are conceived and born: three theories.
  • 1400-1415 Coffee break with waffles and fruit
  • 1415-1500 Jakub Dotlačil (University of Amsterdam). Cognitive modeling of syntax.
  • 1500-1515 break
  • 1515-1600 Alexander Pfaff (UiT). ​ When Strong Articles lose their Denotations – A Nanosemantic Exploration into Definite Description​

Early May: MSCA workshop (LAVA) – Savithry Namboodiripad, Gustavo Guajardo and Serkan Uygun.

Friday, May 12th: Colloquium talk by Naz Merchant

Previous events

Friday, March 17, 14.15–16.00: CASTL colloquium with Pavel Caha

Deriving Blansitt’s generalization: a case against the Subset Principle


In this paper, I provide a Nanosyntactic account for the so-called Blansitt’s generalization (Blansitt 1988). The generalization says that in the linear sequence dative-allative-locative, only adjacent functions may be marked the same. In previous work, such patterns have been taken as one of the hallmarks of feature cumulation. However, Blansitt observes that in the case of datives, allatives and locatives, the allative (which is in the middle) tends to be composed of the dative and the locative, so the classical account does not work.

The present paper thus argues for a different representation of the underlying categories, namely as containing (abstractly) the features A, AB and B respectively. I refer to this as the „overlapping“ decomposition. When such a decomposition is combined with the Superset Principle (Starke 2009), it yields both the *ABA restriction and the observed syncretism and containment patterns. I further show that the Subset Principle faces significant obstacles in deriving the *ABA. Thus, this non-canonical instance of a *ABA pattern provides evidence in favor of the Superset Principle (traditionally used in Nanosyntax) and against the Subset Principle (traditionally used in DM).


Tuesday, March 14th, 12.15–14.00 (CASTL-FISH seminar slot): Pavel Caha (joint work with Markéta Ziková):

Phonological processes in Czech prefixed verbs

The paper looks at the phonological processes that take place in prefixed verbs in Czech. Specifically, I look at vowel zero alternations and length alternations in order to determine the constituents of the verbal cluster over which such processes operate. The complete inventory of such processes leads to contradictions which are resolved by proposing that verbal prefixes move from a root attached position to a stem attached position, hence supporting the phrasal movement approach to Slavic prefixes proposed in Svenonius (2004).


Monday, March 13th, 11.00–12.00 in C-1004:
Pritty Patel-Grosz, Patrick Georg Grosz, ‘Revisiting pronominal typology: On the syntax and semantics of personal and demonstrative pronouns’

The goal of this talk is to shed new light on the debate of whether pronouns (she/he/it) generally have the syntax and semantics of definite descriptions (the woman/the man/the thing) or that of individual variables (see Elbourne 2013 for a recent discussion). As a case study, we investigate the differences between personal and demonstrative pronouns in German (e.g., Wiltschko 1998). We argue that the two types of pronouns have the same core make-up (both contain a null NP and a definite determiner), but demonstrative pronouns have additional functional structure that personal pronouns lack. This analysis is shown to derive both their commonalities and their differences, and it derives the distribution of demonstrative vs. personal pronouns by means of structural economy constraints (in line with Cardinaletti & Starke 1999 and Schlenker 2005).​ 


Friday, March 10th, 14.15-16.00, E0105: Colloquium presentation by Patrick Georg Grosz and Pritty Patel-Grosz of UiO, on “Exploring the semantics of dance,” joint work with Tejaswinee Kelkar, and Alexander Refsum Jensenius


Recent linguistic research has extended the application of formal syntactic and semantic methodology to non-linguistic phenomena such as music (Lerdahl & Jackendoff 1983, Katz & Pesetsky 2011, Schlenker 2016) and dance (Napoli & Kraus 2015, Charnavel 2016). The overarching goal of such research programs is to understand the underlying cognitive building blocks that language shares with other aspects of human cognition. Our own ongoing research on the semantics of dance focuses on Bharatanatyam, a narrative dance form. By virtue of video and motion capture recording, we explore the possibilities of encoding co-reference and disjoint reference in this dance form. We take as our point of departure recent work such as Abusch (2013), who explores co-reference outside of spoken language in comics without text. Our pilot production study shows that disjoint reference involves more complexity than co-reference, in the sense that a larger-level group boundary (cf. Charnavel 2016) is introduced. Furthermore, in addition to a manual gesture for “a different (man/woman)”, the dancer encodes disjoint reference by means of mirroring of orientation, direction and posture. We propose to account for this difference (between a manual gesture and global mirroring) in terms of an at-issue vs. non-at-issue distinction, which is reminiscent of phenomena such as speech-accompanying gestures (Ebert & Ebert 2014, Schlenker 2015).


Friday, March 3, 14.15-16.00 in E0105: Colloquium presentation by Alexandra Spalek, University of Oslo, presenting joint work with Louise McNally, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona): ‘The logical semantic underpinnings of cross-linguistic variation in ‘figurative’ uses of verbs’


Formally-oriented linguists have paid comparatively little attention to ‘figurative’ uses of verbs
(e.g. (1-b) or (1-c) in contrast to e.g. (1-a)).

a. […] the knife cut through the meat.
b. His words cut with the sting of an obsidian sliver.
c. a bipartisan plan to cut the deficit

Our ongoing contrastive study of English and Spanish shows that while examples like (1-b) may fall under familiar theories of conceptual metaphor that are independent of grammar (e.g. Lakoff and Johnson 1980), examples like (1-c) vary across languages in ways that reflect fundamental grammatical differences in lexical aspectual systems. In this talk we maintain that examples like (1-c) constitute evidence that should not be ignored in debates about the analysis of verb meaning and the grammar/meaning interface,  such as that concerning Manner/Result complementarity (Levin and Rappaport-Hovav 1991).