Wed - September 6, 2006

Zwart: Uncharted territory? Towards a non-cartographic account of Germanic syntax

New paper by Jan-Wouter Zwart: Uncharted territory? Towards a non-cartographic account of Germanic syntax.

This article discusses the consequences of a strict derivational approach—where syntactic relations are construed dynamically as the derivation proceeds—to the analysis of key areas of Germanic syntax. It discusses the nature of syntactic positions from a non-cartographic point of view. Evidence supporting a non-cartographic approach is found in word order transitivity failures in various domains (the left periphery, the order of adverbs, the adjective-noun construction). The implications of a non-cartographic approach are discussed in four key areas of Germanic syntax (the fine structure of the left periphery, topicalization/focalization, subject placement and object placement).


GLAC 13 will be held at Penn State from April 13-15, 2007. Deadline for abstracts is January 3rd, 2007.

Call for papers:
GLAC 13 will be held at Penn State. Papers may deal with any aspect of the Germanic languages (including English to 1500), synchronic or diachronic.

Faculty, graduate students, and independent scholars are invited to submit abstracts for 20- or 30-minute papers (plus 10 minutes of discussion) on any linguistic or philological aspect of any historical or modern Germanic language or dialect, including English (to 1500) and the extra-territorial varieties. Papers from a range of linguistic subfields, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, contact, and change, as well as differing theoretical approaches, are welcome.

Please submit a single-spaced one-page abstract (in .pdf, .doc or .rtf format) online at our website: Include only a title but no author information in the abstract itself. All abstracts will undergo anonymous review. Submissions should be in pdf format if any specialized fonts are used. The deadline for submissions is January 3, 2007. Notifications of acceptance will be distributed by February 1, 2007. Further information can be found on the conference website:

Tue - August 29, 2006


The web site for CGSW 22 is

Fri - August 25, 2006

Sapp (2006)

Sapp, Christopher D. 2006 .Verb Order in Subordinate Clauses from Early New High German to Modern German. Indiana University.


This dissertation investigates the change from the nearly free relative order of verbs in subordinate clauses in Early New High German (1350-1650) to the more fixed order of Modern Standard German. Chapter 2 presents a corpus study of nearly 3,000 subordinate clauses from 30 texts from a broad range of dialects from the 14th to the 16th century, the most comprehensive overview of ENHG verb clusters to date. Several factors that influence verb order are identified: syntagm type, prefix type, extraposition, focus, and sociolinguistic factors. Chapter 3 breaks this data down by dialect and individual text, showing that most of these factors have similar effects across the dialects and tracing the decline of particular orders and favoring factors over time. Chapter 4 examines these orders in contemporary German, concentrating on the effect of focus on verb order. A survey with speakers of Austrian dialects and Swabian shows that although the Standard German orders are preferred, the non-standard orders may occur under the appropriate focus conditions. A magnitude estimation experiment demonstrates that variation in the Standard German werden-modal-infinitive construction is also sensitive to focus. In Chapter 5, the data from the previous chapters are used to demonstrate that the more traditional SOV approach to the structure of German is slightly preferable to the SVO hypothesis and that non-SOV surface orders are derived by rightward movement. Additionally, a principle is proposed to account for the relationship between focus and word order: a non-normal word order indicates a marked focus interpretation. Chapter 6 discusses the implications of this research for the history of the German language and for language change in general.

Fri - July 28, 2006


From Artemis Alexiadou:

CGSW 22 will be held at the Institute of English Linguistics, University of Stuttgart, June 8-9, 2007.

We are pleased to announce the following invited speakers:

Anna Cardinaletti, University of Venice Gisbert Fanselow, University of Potsdam

The deadline for abstracts will be February 1, 2007.

More info will be appearing here shortly. If you have any questions, you can contact us at:

Graeme: Comparative Syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic

Graeme, Davis. 2006. Comparative Syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic. Berlin: Peter Lang. [Studies in Historical Linguistics 1]

Study of the syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic has for long been dominated by the impressions of early philologists. Their assertions that these languages were "free" in their word-order were for many years unchallenged. Only within the last two decades has it been demonstrated that the word-order of each shows regular patterns which approach the status of rules, and which may be precisely described.

This book takes the subject one step further by offering a comparison of the syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic, the two best-preserved Old Germanic languages. Overwhelmingly, the two languages show the same word-order patterns - as do the other Old Germanic languages, at least as far as can be determined from the fragments which have survived. It has long been recognised that Old English and Old Icelandic have a high proportion of common lexis and very similar morphology, yet the convention has been to emphasise the differences between the two as representatives respectively of the West and North sub-families of Germanic.

The argument of this book is that the similar word-order of the two should instead lead us to stress the similarities between the two languages. Old English and Old Icelandic were sufficiently close to be mutually comprehensible. This thesis receives copious support from historical and literary texts. Our understanding of the Old Germanic world should be modified by the concept of a common "Northern Speech" which provided a common Germanic ethnic identity and a platform for the free flow of cultural ideas.

Abraham (ed.): Focus on Germanic Typology

Abraham, Werner (ed.). 2005. Focus on Germanic Typology. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. [Studia typologica 6]

The papers contained in this issue feature specific phenomena characteristic of one Germanic language in question and set these phenomena off against functional or structural equivalents in one or more other Germanic languages.

The collection pursues this course in great detail for specific aspects of the following languages: Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, English, Faeroese, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, and Yiddish. To some extent also regiolects and dialectal phenomena (such as South German, i.e. Austrian, Bavarian, Swiss German) were incorporated.

There are two large domains which are looked into in great detail: morphology and its syntactic functions; and syntax proper and its relation to semantics. Diachronic perspectives are included, but are not the focus of the contribution.

TIGER Corpus

From the TIGER project:

The TIGER project is pleased to announce the second release of the TIGER Corpus. The treebank consists of app. 900,000 tokens (50,000 sentences) of German newspaper text. It was semi-automatically tagged with part-of-speech, syntactic structures and - in addition to the first release - morphological information.

For details about the TIGER Corpus (download, documentation etc.), see:

We provide the corpus for scientific use for free.

Wiklund (2005)

Wiklund, Anna-Lena (2005, Umeå University). The Syntax of Tenselessness: On copying constructions in Swedish.

This thesis investigates three construction types in Swedish where two (or more) verbs display identical inflectional morphology (COPYING) and share one overt subject. The constructions are referred to as (i) T(ENSE)M(OOD)A(SPECT)-COPYING complements, of the form John started and wrote (John started writing), (ii) PARTICIPLE COPYING complements, of the form John had been-able written (John had been able to write), and (iii) PSEUDOCOORDINATIONS, of the form John sat and wrote (John was writing). (i) and (ii) differ from (iii) in alternating with infinitives. (ii) differs from (i) and (iii) in restricting copying to participial form and in being incompatible with a linking element (corresponding to 'and'). The main claim is that the construction types are three surface variants of one and the same phenomenon, involving complementation and semantically vacuous inflection on the embedded verb(s). The differences between them are argued to be derivable from independent factors. (i) and (iii) are shown to differ from (ii) w.r.t. amount of functional structure present in the embedded clause. Matrix verbs in (iii) are shown to instantiate light verb uses of otherwise lexical verbs. Copying complements are argued to instantiate subtypes of 'tenseless' infinitivals (infinitivals whose tense orientation fully overlaps with that of the matrix clause), characterized by an underspecified functional domain. Copying is assumed to be a surface reflection of (Agree-type) dependencies between functional heads of the same label; features of the embedded functional heads copy values from the corresponding functional heads in the matrix clause. Arguments for treating copying complements as instantiating restructuring are presented. It is proposed that copying complements differ from non-copying infinitival complements in being subject to valuation from the matrix functional domain. This suggests that an important aspect of (possibility of) restructuring is alternation between unmarked (negatively specified) and unvalued varieties of the same features.

Leiden Working Papers in Linguistics 3.2

The Leiden Working Papers in Linguistics vol. 3.2 (special issue on agreement) is available online. Here is the table of contents:

Jonathan David Bobaljik (University of Connecticut): Where’s Φ? Agreement as a post-syntactic operation.
Marjo van Koppen (Utrecht University): One Probe, Multiple Goals: the case of First Conjunct Agreement.
Jan-Wouter Zwart (University of Groningen): Complementizer agreement and dependency marking typology.

Thu - May 4, 2006

Hole, Meinunger & Abraham: Datives and other cases

Hole, Daniel, André Meinunger and Werner Abraham. 2006. Datives and other cases: Between argument structure and event structure. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. [Studies in Language Companion Series 75]
This volume provides a state-of-the-art account of research into datives and other morphological cases. The contributors, among them leading scholars in the field, present fresh insights into traditional issues such as the dichotomy between lexical and structural case, and open up fascinating new areas of research. A recurrent feature of the majority of contributions is their combined syntax-semantics perspective. Germanic varieties, Serbian, Albanian and other Balkan languages alongside Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog are discussed from various theoretical angles such as mainstream generativism, lexical-functional grammar, and functional typology. Despite the broad range of facts spanning the distance between acquisition data and dialectology, the papers are connected by a renewed interest in form-function correspondencies. This volume will be welcomed by theoretical linguists and typologists with an interest in argument and event structure, linguists studying the case systems of individual languages and researchers in search for up-to-date discussion of Germanic datives.

Wed - April 12, 2006

Eide: Norwegian modals

Eide, Kristin Melum. 2006. Norwegian modals. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. [Studies in Generative Grammar 74.]
"Norwegian Modals" is a detailed description of the syntactic and semantic properties of modals in Norwegian. Modal verbs in Mainland Scandinavian languages have received much less attention than their English and German counterparts, hence this book seizes the opportunity to present a range of new data and generalizations relevant for the study of Scandinavian languages, but also for the study of modality in Germanic and other languages.

The book critically evaluates a range of proposals from the modality literature, focusing on the Theta-properties and the scopal properties of Modals in Germanic languages, and concludes that none of these previous proposals are able to account for the syntax of modals in Norwegian. The Theta-properties of modals are shown to depend on the construction in which the modal occurs, hence neither a raising analysis, a control analysis, nor a raising-versus-control analysis in fact suffices to exhaust these properties of Norwegian modals.

The interplay of modals with tense and aspect is likewise thoroughly investigated, presenting a range of data revealing that existing universalist proposals are insufficient to account for even quite regular patterns. Instead, a new analysis is presented, building on a new compositional tense system which exploits aspectual features of predicates and selectional preferences of modal classes.

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Thu - March 16, 2006

Dutch Dialect Syntax Database

The Meertens Institute has now made available their impressive Dutch dialect syntax database DynaSAND.

From the posting:
At you find data of 267 dialects of Dutch collected between 2000 and 2003 in the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. The data include the original sound files and transcriptions of oral interviews, as well as the results of a postal and telephone survey. The database comes with a search engine and a cartographic tool that enables the researcher to visualize search results on maps. The database is particularly relevant for linguists interested in the left periphery of the clause (e.g., complementizers, complementizer agreement, relative clauses, Wh-clauses, subject pronouns and subject pronoun doubling), the reflexive system, the verbal system and negation.

Thu - February 16, 2006

Bader & Bayer: Case and Linking in Language Comprehension

Tue - February 14, 2006


The program for the 21st Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop (to be held at UC Santa Cruz from Mar 31 to Apr 2, 2006) has been posted at the CGSW21 web site.

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Thu - February 9, 2006

Julien: Nominal Phrases from a Scandinavian Perspective

Julien, Marit. 2005. Nominal Phrases from a Scandinavian Perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. [Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 87]
This monograph presents a new model of the internal syntax of nominal phrases. The model is mainly based on Scandinavian, since with the wide range of variation that Scandinavian displays in the nominal domain, despite the close genetic relationship between the different varieties, Scandinavian is particularly well-suited for explorations into nominal syntax. Among the topics covered are the basic syntactic structure of nominal phrases, definiteness, adjective phrases, possessors, relative clauses, and nominal predicates. The model is however meant to be a tool for analysing the nominal phrases of any language. While the base-generated structure is taken to be universally uniform, the model allows for variation in the feature makeup of individual elements, in the phonological realisation of the features, and in the movements that may or may not apply. Hence, as shown in the final chapter, patterns found in languages outside of Scandinavian can also be accounted for within the model.

te Velde: Deriving Coordinate Symmetries

This monograph proposes a minimalist, phase-based approach to the derivation of coordinate structures, utilizing the operations Copy and Match to account for both the symmetries and asymmetries of coordination. Data are drawn primarily from English, German and Dutch. The basic assumptions are that all coordinate structures are symmetric to some degree (in contrast to parasitic gap and many verb phrase ellipsis constructions), and these symmetries, especially with ellipsis, allow syntactic derivations to utilize Copy and Match in interface with active memory for economizing with gaps and assuring clarity of interpretation. With derivations operating at the feature level, troublesome properties of coordinate structures such as cross-categorial and non-constituent coordination, violations of the Coordinate Structure Constraint, as well as coordinate ellipsis (Gapping, RNR, Left-Edge Ellipsis) are accounted for without separate mechanisms or conditions applicable only to coordinate structures. The proposal provides support for central assumptions about the structure of West Germanic.

Mohr: Clausal architecture and subject positions

This book offers a comparative study of the Germanic languages. It promotes a new approach to the OV vs. VO classification, according to which all clauses have a universal base where the internal argument is always merged in SpecVP. Word order differences and their correlates result from an interaction of checking conditions, the EPP and different types of verb movement, and from parametric variation concerning the location of the subject of predication in the I- or in the C-system. In the discussion of a range of impersonal constructions in German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Icelandic, the Mainland Scandinavian languages and English, it is shown that crosslinguistic variation as regards, e.g., the distribution of the expletive in impersonal passives and the occurrence of a Definiteness Effect in Transitive Expletive Constructions is mainly due to the choice of different kinds of 'expletive' elements (each associated with different featural make-ups which force them to show up in different positions), namely true expletives, event arguments and quasi-arguments, whereas expletive pro is shown not to exist.

Schmid: Infinitival syntax

This monograph offers a new analysis of West Germanic ‘Infinitivus Pro Participio’ (IPP) constructions, within the framework of Optimality Theory. IPP constructions have long been problematic for syntactic theory, because a bare infinitive is preferred over the expected past participle. The book shows how the substitution of the past participle by the infinitive in IPP constructions can be captured straightforwardly if constraints are assumed to be violable. The basic idea is that IPP constructions are exceptional because they violate otherwise valid rules of the language. Thus, IPP is a ‘last resort’ or repair strategy, which is only visible in cases in which the past participle would be ‘even worse’ . Furthermore, as the choice of Optimality Theory naturally leads to a crosslinguistic account, the book systematically examines and compares infinitival constructions from seven West Germanic languages including Afrikaans, Dutch, German, West Flemish, and three Swiss German dialects.

22nd Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics

The call for papers for the 22nd Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics (June 19-22, 2006 in Aalborg, Denmakr) has been posted at the SCL22 web site. The theme of the conference will be 'Brain, Mind and Language'.

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