There are also a LAVA-specific events page and a LAVA calendar.

Regular events, fall 2018

Every Monday 12.00-12.15: CASTL Coffee at the Espresso Bar in Teorifagbygget

Every Tuesday, 12.15-14.00: CASTLFish seminar, led by Gillian Ramchand, in C1003.

Every Thursday, 12.00-13.00: LAVA Lunch, check the LAVA Lunch page for details and updates.

Every Thursday, 14.15-16.00: Advanced syntax PhD seminar (LIN-8004), led by Peter Svenonius.

Some Fridays 14.15-16.00 CASTL Colloquium, as announced, often in E0105, organized by Craig Sailor. See below under one-off events for specifics as they emerge.

One-off events

Spring 2019 Event calendar to be announced

Previous events

Fall 2018

November 21-22:  Conference on Baltic Linguistics: New Perspectives and Methods (BLing), organized by Olga Urek

conference blurb

CASTL (Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway is pleased to announce the conference Baltic Linguistics: New Perspectives and Methods to be held in Tromsø on November 21-22, 2018. The main goal of the conference is to bring together researchers from around the world working on the Baltic languages within various theoretical frameworks and methodological perspectives. We welcome submissions in the following areas:

  •  Syntax
  • Phonology
  •  Morphology
  • L1/L2/Ln Acquisition
  • Historical linguistics
  • Experimental linguistics
  • Development of language resources

Keynote speakers:

Ineta Dabašinskienė (Vytautas Magnus University)
Juris Grigorjevs (Latvian Language Institute, University of Latvia)
Axel Holvoet (Vytautas Magnus University)


Wednesday, November 21: Colloquium talk by Gary Thoms, NYU, 13.00 in E0105 — this colloquium talk is scheduled to coincide with a break in the program for the Baltic Linguistics conference


Title: Variation and the amnt gap

This talk is concerned with “the amnt gap,” which refers to the absence of a negated form for the finite auxiliary am in most varieties of English. Bresnan (2001) notes that while the gap is persistent in the varieties of North America and England, things are interestingly different in Irish and Scots: in Irish English, amnt may be used in all syntactic contexts, and in Scots it may be used in inversion contexts (“amnt I coming with you”) but not in declaratives (“I amnt coming with you”). Using new data from the Scots Syntax Atlas, I show that the empirical picture in Scotland is more complex and develop an account of dialectal variation with amnt in terms of Yang’s (2016, 2017) Tolerance Principle, where it is the productivity of the negative affixation rule which is crucial.


Lectures by Prof. Kjell Johan Sæbø (UiO and UiT)

Monday 19th November 1015-1200  in E 1004

Recent developments in formal pragmatics, I and II: Optimality theory and the Grammatical theory, part 1

Tuesday 20th November 1215-1400 in B1003

Recent developments in formal pragmatics, II and III: The Grammatical theory, part 2, and Game and Decision theory

Wednesday 21st November 0915-1200 E1004

Subjunctives in extensional contexts


Friday, November 16: Colloquium talk by Andrew Weir, NTNU, 14.15 in E0105

Verbal that-anaphora in Norwegian and (dialects of) English


Many Germanic languages use demonstrative pronouns as (what appears to be) verbal anaphora, such as German das (López & Winkler 2000 a.o.) and mainland Scandinavian det (Lødrup 1994, 2012, Houser et al. 2007, Bentzen et al. 2013 a.o.): Har du sunget? – Jeg har det ‘Have you sung? I have that’. English seems like the odd man out in Germanic in not making such free use of demonstratives as verbal anaphora; the closest equivalent to e.g. Norwegian det in English seems to be verb phrase ellipsis (‘Have you sung? I have.’).

This talk places a spotlight on data from English varieties which do appear to have verbal that-anaphora. Many speakers allow what appears to be a verbal-anaphoric use of that – but only if that is fronted: John can make curry really well – That he can. And a few dialects of English allow that to appear in post-auxiliary position: John can make curry really well. – He can that! These structures make English look like less of an odd man out among Germanic varieties; however, it turns out that they show subtle differences from each other, and from Norwegian det, in terms of syntax, semantics, and prosody. The talk aims to give an overview of how variation between the different English thats, and between English that and Norwegian det, might be accounted for – in the process trying to answer some mysterious lingering questions about the distribution and interpretation of det.


October 26th: Workshop in UB 244 featuring talks by Prince, Alber, Trotzke, and Schumacher from the two minicourses. The workshop schedule is as follows:

10.00-11.00: Alan Prince, Rutgers. ‘Why patterns? From microstructure to macrostructure in OT’ Abstract

11.00-12.00: Birgit Alber, Verona. ‘Typological analysis in OT: A basic typology of truncation’ Abstract

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-14.00: Andreas Trotzke, Konstanz. ‘The syntax-emotion interface: A new approach to exclamatives’


In this talk, I propose a new approach to exclamative sentences (i.e., sentences such as “What a nice city Tromsø is!”). I claim that exclamatives can denote both truth-conditional and expressive content, and that they should therefore be analyzed as multidimensional semantic objects. According to many current approaches, the descriptive content that ‘Tromsø is a nice city’ is presupposed and not asserted; the exclamative thus contributes merely an emotive stance and lacks assertive force. I will first present and discuss recent experimental evidence contradicting this view and supporting the idea that the descriptive content of exclamatives is ‘at-issue’. In particular, I will demonstrate that the often-cited infelicity of certain reactions to particular exclamation forms (e.g., strong denial in the context of wh-exclamatives) is actually a very subtle matter. I will then turn to the issue to what extent exclamatives can serve as responses to questions, and I will discuss cases that suggest that some of the response uses can in fact count as assertion speech acts.

14.00-15.00: Petra Schumacher, Köln. ‘The dynamic construction of prominence in discourse: Insights from personal and demonstrative pronouns’


In this talk I will first present the notion of “prominence” as an organizational principle of language (Himmelmann & Primus 2015) and then illustrate how this applies to reference. In the following the discourse functions of personal and demonstrative pronouns will be investigated. These pronouns are used to convey different discourse functions and thus shape the ‘prominence profile’ that organizes referents in discourse representation in particular ways. First, they refer to different entities available in discourse; second, they contribute to discourse progression by indicating maintenance or shifting of the prominence profile. The talk presents experimental data on the comprehension of personal pronouns and two types of demonstrative pronouns in German that illustrate how prominence profiles are dynamically constructed.

October 23-25 LingPhil minicourse on The Syntax-Pragmatics Interface: Bridging Theory and Experiment, featuring Andreas Trotzke and Petra Schumacher; organized by Tanja Kupisch and Jason Rothman.

October 22-24 LingPhil minicourse on Analyzing Linguistic Typologies with OTWorkplace and Property Theory, featuring Alan Prince, Birgit Alber, and Nazarré Merchant; organized by Martin Krämer

October 12, 14.15: Colloquium talk by  Aditi Lahiri, ‘Journey of Words.’ NB: Room B1003.

October 5: Colloquium talk by Coppe van Urk (QMUL); from 14:15 in E0105


VP-fronting in Imere and the stranding problem

Coppe van Urk (QMUL)

It has been argued for a number of languages that basic word order is derived through an operation of VP-fronting (e.g. Kayne 1994; Massam 2001). However, many such analyses face an overgeneration problem: not all VP-internal material can appear in the fronted VP and must apparently always be stranded (Chung 2005; Massam 2010). This paper first provides novel evidence for VP-fronting in an SVO language, the understudied Polynesian outlier Imere (Vanuatu), also known as Mele-Fila. This VP-fronting analysis is motivated by the placement of postverbal adverbial particles, which appear between the verb and its objects but take scope right-to-left. VP-fronting of a phrase containing the verb and all particles provides a constituent within which these particles can be right-attached, accounting for inverse order. But this analysis too suffers from the stranding problem: VP-fronting cannot drag along any DPs, PPs, and CPs. At the same time, Imere otherwise has a familiar SVO VP, with no evidence of vacating movements or an unorthodox base-generated structure. Instead, I propose that VP-fronting is accompanied by an operation of distributed deletion (Fanselow and Cavar 2000), giving rise to the appearance of stranding. I suggest that distributed deletion is driven by a constraint that favors realizing only the verb, since it contributes the feature driving movement  (e.g. Massam and Smallwood 1997; Coon 2010). Evidence for this approach comes from the observation that adverbial particles have a discontinuous scopal domain, exactly as predicted by distributed deletion: particles scope over other particles to the left, but over all objects to the right. To answer the question of why some material can appear in the fronted VP alongside the verb, I examine the stranding problem in seven other VP-fronting languages, from four different language families. In all of these languages, dependents that front with the verb are always either a structurally reduced noun or an adverbial particle. Building on Clemens (2014), I argue for a constraint that requires elements that are in a selectional relationship and are spelled out in the same phase to form a prosodic phrase.

September 28: Workshop on Second Language Acquisition: Linguistic and Pedagogical Practices, featuring Roumyana Slabakova, Kira Gor, Heather Marsden, and Tomas Shaw Rankin; organized by Yulia Rodina and others.

Monday, September 10, Colloquium talk by Byron Ahn, Princeton: Mapping OUT- argument structure, 14.15 in E0105


In this talk, I explore the productive ‘out-PRED’ phenomenon in English (e.g. out-sing, out-do, out-run, out-smart), in which a prefix ‘out-‘ can affix to (a sub-class of) predicates (‘PRED’s), interacting with PRED’s argument structure in a surprising way.  I draw the following novel generalizations about this phenomenon:

(1) out-PRED inherits all of PRED’s morphophonological irregularities
(2) none of PRED’s internal arguments can surface in out-PRED
(3) if the interpretation of PRED depends on its internal argument, out-PRED is impossible
(4) out-PRED can always be passivized, even when PRED cannot be

Together, these indicate that out– prefixation creates an argument structure that is syntactically distinct from that of PRED. I pursue an analysis in which out– merges with PRED before any of its internal argument(s) can merge, and the newly formed out-PRED projects its own argument structure with its own Voice-related properties such as passivizability. A core component of this analysis is that internal arguments of PRED-type predicates must be severed from the lexical predicate (i.e., introduced in a syntactic position outside of √P/VP). This adds to a growing literature that converges on the result that syntax transparently encodes Neo-Davidsonian semantic argument structure; i.e., all arguments in a predicate are introduced by individual semantic functions, which each in turn map onto individual functional projections in the syntax.

August 24, 14.15: Colloquium talk by Shigenori Wakabayashi, Chuo University, in room E0105.

Second language acquisition and use of grammatical rules: What underlies certain morphosyntactic asymmetries.

In this talk, we will see data from second language research concerning asymmetries between free and bound morphemes, between infinitive forms to V and gerund forms V-ing, and between small causes and tensed clauses; and also the effect of a lack of L1 transfer in certain properties of psych verbs. Based on the Minimalist Program (Chomsky, 1995) and on Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz, 1993), I will explain how interlanguage grammars are structured and used: First and second languages are both based on innate linguistic knowledge, but an L2-specific ‘economy principle’ is likely to operate in second language grammar.


August 23, 12.00: LAVA Lunch talk by Shigenori Wakabayashi, Chuo University

Multiple causes for missing -s and a single cause for overused be and do in L2 English

Many studies have tried to specify the right answer to a persistent epistemological inquiry for L2 learner behavior: Why do very advanced L2 learners have difficulty in using inflectional morphemes, typically substituting bare forms for inflected forms? Based on data from a series of studies by Wakabayashi and colleagues concerning 3rd person singular -s, it will be shown that the causes lie at multiple steps, namely, in feature selection in the Lexicon, derivation in Syntax, and mapping syntactic structure onto morphological forms in Morphology. In addition, data of overused be with unaccusative verbs (Oshita, 2000) and do in subject wh-questions (Fujii, 2017) will also be shown and discussed. Based on the description and explanation for these phenomena, it will be argued that L2 researchers should always refer to a general model of morpho-syntactic knowledge and its use when seeking to explain and describe L2 learners’ behavior.

Events in Spring 2018

Events in 2017

Events in 2016