Workshop on Thirty Million Theories of Syntactic Features

May 27-28, Tromsø

This event is organized by Peter Svenonius and Craig Sailor

All talks will be held in E0105 in the east wing of the SV-HUM building on the Tromsø campus.

Preliminary program

Monday, May 27th
0930‑1045 Thomas Graf, Stony Brook University
Features: More trouble than they’re worth?
1045-1100 Coffee break
1100-1215 Daniel Harbour, Queen Mary University London
‘Maximal use of [±minimal]’
1215-1330 Lunch
1330-1445 Michelle Sheehan, Anglia Ruskin University
Why successive cyclic movement must be feature-driven, an indirect argument from the lack of successive cyclic A-movement
1445-1500 Coffee break
1500-1615 Susana Béjar, University of Toronto
‘How to be a picky probe’
Tuesday, May 28th
1000-1115 Peter Svenonius, University of Tromsø — The Arctic University of Norway
‘Structural case is the solution to a locality problem’
1115-1130 Coffee break
1130-1245 Omer Preminger, University of Maryland
What are φ-features supposed to do, and where?
1245-1400 Lunch
1400-1600 Plotting


Workshop description

Features are an indispensible part of any grammatical system, but there is little consensus on some of their essential properties. For this reason, it could be said that there are currently ‘thirty million theories of features’ in the same sense that Jim McCawley complained over thirty years ago that there were thirty million theories of grammar — he supposed that there were at least 25 independent unresolved issues such as whether deep structure encoded order or not and whether anaphors were full noun phrases at deep structure or not, giving something like 30 million viable combinations.

Today there are easily more than 25 independent unresolved issues concerning features, such as whether there are Edge features influencing Merge, whether there is an Activity condition restricting Agree to targets with unchecked features, whether valuation is independent of interpretability, whether all probes can search upward if they find no goals below, whether heads can bear more than one syntactically active feature, whether noun phrases require case licensing, and so on.

This workshop gathers people who have thought deeply about features from different perspectives to discuss some of these fundamental issues.