Departmental talk, 2/14 – Zheng Shen

Please join us for a talk by Zheng Shen (Goethe University Frankfurt).
Coordinates: Thursday 2/14 at 3:30pm in Peterson Hall, room 116
Title: What we can learn from Multi-valuation

Abstract: One of the major goals of syntax is to understand its basic building blocks and how they interact. Taking features to constitute one of these basic building blocks of syntax, I investigate how different agreement patterns can be derived from the nature of different types of features.

In this talk I use Multi-valuation as a tool to address such issues. Multi-valuation involves a probe acquiring multiple values. I will argue that multi-valued Ns can be observed in nominal Right Node Raising constructions (1), and multi-valued Ts in TP Right Node Raising constructions (2). In English, the noun valued by two singular features must be singular while the T head valued by two singular subjects can be singular or plural.
(1) This tall and that short student/*students are a couple.
(2) Sue’s proud that Bill, and Mary’s glad that John, has/have traveled to Cameroon.
A cross-linguistic survey reveals that three out of the four logically possible patterns of multi-valued Ns and Ts are attested as in (3), parallel to the Agreement Hierarchy observed for hybrid noun agreement (Corbett 1979). I argue that this pattern in Multi-valuation is also an instantiation of the Agreement Hierarchy.
a. Multi-valued Ns – singular, Multi-valued Ts – singular: Slovenian.
b. Multi-valued Ns – plural, Multi-valued Ts – plural: Russian.
c. Multi-valued Ns – singular, Multi-valued Ts – plural: English.
d. Multi-valued Ns – plural, Multi-valued Ts – singular: unattested.
Furthermore, I argue that the plural pattern in Multi-valuation results from agreeing with semantic features while the singular pattern results from agreeing with morphological features. I show that this mapping falls out naturally if we assume a referential index theory of semantic features (Grosz 2015). Multi-valuation thus motivates two types of number features with distinct properties, shedding light on the inventory of the basic building blocks of syntax.

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